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Should Taxpayers Pay for Lobbyists?

by Countable | 8.10.17

Your local government collects your taxes, then spends your money on lobbyists who campaign other government officials to pass laws such as Airbnb restrictions, property tax increases, and countless other policies.

While the word "lobbyist" typically makes one think of businesses and unions influencing D.C. politicians. Congresspeople, in California, as the L.A. Times reported, it’s “local governments — cities, counties and scores of other agencies — that spend the most of any sector to influence the outcome of events at the state Capitol.”

Supporters of this local government lobbying, as the Victoria Advocate explained, "say they see value in local governments spending public money to hire lobbyists because local officials don't have the time or public policy expertise to lobby." For example, as the L.A. Times story noted, “No level of local government appears to be too small: Santa Monica’s rent control board paid $12,246 to have someone watching the Legislature this spring, while Sonoma County’s parks district has paid $13,500 this year to do the same.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the reasons for the lobbying include local officials trying to make sure they’re "getting a piece of the larger tax revenue pie," efforts to secure funds in the new state budget and locals feeling “they have to play defense, keeping state lawmakers from imposing too many onerous new rules.”

However, this trend is not isolated to just California: it’s happening across the country.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada spent $3.75 million on lobbying this year), explained that when it comes to this type of campaigning, "most of the expenses are for travel, lodging and the salaries of the lobbyists. Those who work directly for local governments would be paid their salaries whether they were lobbying the Legislature or performing other duties."

The Texas Municipal league collected tax-funded dues from 1,153 cities, then contracted, or employed, 13 registered lobbyists to pass laws regarding Airbnb and tax policy. In Arizona, various professional regulatory boards – which are funded through taxes and licensing fees – "spent roughly $1 million on professional lobbyists, who helped scuttle occupational licensing reform in the state," reported Reason.com.

In California, local cities and school boards spent $23.4 million hiring lobbyists during the first two quarters of 2017.

Washington state spent $2.5 million in 2013 to lobby state officials.

The issue, some say, is that the interests of the government, and lobbyists, may run contrary to those of the taxpayers bankrolling them.

"The challenge with taxpayers funding lobbyists is that they're being forced to pay for services that typically run contrary to their interests," said Chuck DeVore, VP of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. "[The lobbyists] invariably lobby for bigger government, more borrowing, higher spending, and more regulation."

While no states restrict local governments from hiring lobbyists, some states have tried to combat the practice. In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey banned the state agencies under his control from hiring outside lobbyists, saying the practice was "unnecessary and unjust." Eleven other states have similar restrictions.

Should taxpayer money go towards hiring lobbyists? Are lobbyists necessary given the limited time and resources of elected officials? Are there better ways for local legislatures to get a part of that "tax-revenue pie?" Should taxpayers be able to decide if taxes are used to lobby against their own best interests? Hit “Take Action” and let your reps know if you want them hiring lobbyists.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: mathisworks / iStock)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(121)
  • August
    08/10/2017
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    This is a result of the real issue. We need campaign finance reform and ban all lobbyists from giving anything to politicians. This is the root cause of our failing democracy.

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  • Tracey
    08/10/2017
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    There should not be lobbyists. These people are paid to essentially bribe our elected officials. No we do not want to pay for them. We want this practice abolished for the good of our country.

    Like (40)
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  • Leo
    08/10/2017
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    We pay taxes for public service and common defense, not lobbyists.

    Like (21)
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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    PACS and lobbyists need to go. Maybe then our elected officials will actually be more in tune with the average American voter who put them in office to represent THEM. - not special interests groups. So he'll no. Do not use tax $$$ to pay for lobbyists.

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  • Christopher
    08/11/2017
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    No, absolutely not. The only thing we should pay for is minimal airtime for candidates to present their platform and debate in front of the public. Eliminate lobbyists funded campaign financing in all its forms.

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  • RadicalModerate
    08/10/2017
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    No

    Like (12)
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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    When do the people who pay the taxes have a say in how they spend our money.Canno wait til midterm elections to vote you morons out of office. Stop wasting time and our money on bullshit like this

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  • Billy
    08/10/2017
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    Absolutely not! This is absurd to even be asked such a question.

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  • operaman
    08/11/2017
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    Does this mean that Lawyers are Lobbyists? Lobbyists are many types of people aiding others who lack specific knowledge seeking better understanding of complex issues. I surmise that if our nation instituted a Flat Tax, many of the "lobbyists" will disappear.

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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    No. Lobbyists don't represent anything but who pays them the highest dollar. Where are the people's representatives??

    Like (5)
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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    Not only "no", but "hell, no!". Their shouldn't be any lobbyist allowed since their intestines belongs ONLY to those rich enough to hire them.

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  • Judith
    08/11/2017
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    NO. TAX PAYERS SHOULD NOT PAY FOR LOBBYISTS !!! OH, BUT LAW MAKERS DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO LEARN ABOUT OR WRITE BILLS BECAUSE THE POOR PUT UPON LAW MAKERS ARE TO BUSSY GRUBBING FOR BIG CORRUPTED DOLLARS TO DO THEIR JOBS SO THE UNELECTED LOBBYISTS FROM GOLDMAN SACHS, MONSANTO AND THE OIL COMPANIES HAVE TO DO IT FOR THEM !!!! POOR BABIES !!!!!

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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
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    Hell No! Our representatives are bought and paid for! They represent the money, not us.

    Like (3)
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  • Bernice
    08/10/2017
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    Get rid of lobbyists and absolutely they should not be paid through taxes. Get them out of our politics. They are our down fall.

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  • Pego
    08/10/2017
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    As long as money buys elections, communities have a critical interest in lobbying for their own constituents.

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  • Tammy
    08/10/2017
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    No. Lobbyists don't represent anything but who pays them the highest dollar. Where are the people's representatives??

    Like (2)
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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
    ···

    This is a result of the real issue. We need campaign finance reform and ban all lobbyists from giving anything to politicians. This is the root cause of our failing democracy.

    Like (2)
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  • Skyelav
    08/11/2017
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    On of my best friends lobby's for the nurses and midwives in New Mexico among others. She is honest and hardworking and is a very necessary part of how government works. As far as I know she is paid by the groups she represents and is t complaining. This sounds rotten to me but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

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  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
    ···

    There should not be lobbyists. These people are paid to essentially bribe our elected officials. No we do not want to pay for them. We want this practice abolished for the good of our country.

    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
  • Cathy
    08/10/2017
    ···

    There should not be lobbyists. These people are paid to essentially bribe our elected officials. No we do not want to pay for them. We want this practice abolished for the good of our country.

    Like (2)
    Follow
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