Ballotpedia:Template:TOCnestright (Sunshine Review)
Public entities, including counties, cities, state schools, and public facilities use money received from taxes for their lobbying activities. Taxpayer-funded lobbying is one government lobbying another. The lobbying can be explicit, such as membership in taxpayer-funded lobbying associations, or advocacy before a legislative body. The practice can be more subtle, such as school districts hosting legislators for a breakfast to create favorable relationships with legislators. The point is to influence or to gain the favor of legislative actors.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying has been described as a "circular and self-promoting cycle between government officials and so-called independent charities and non-profits that act to promote government policies while receiving federal aid." 
The number of companies hired to pursue earmarks has doubled since 2000, many of them retained by universities or cities to pursue federal dollars. Some lobbyists now approach local officials offering to get them an earmark provided the lobbyist gets a hefty fee. Americans for Prosperity estimates that governments spend nearly $1 trillion each year nationwide lobbying each other. 
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations
- Main article: Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations (TFLAs) are groups that use funds that come directly or indirectly from taxpayers for political lobbying purposes. Local entities—cities, counties, school district—use taxpayer funds to pay dues to belong to a group such as the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. That association then pays money directly to lobbyists to lobby for or against particular pieces of legislation.
A piece of legislation came to the Alaskan legislature floor for the 2008 ballot that would eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying donations to election campaigns, but it failed. Supporters of the bill resurrected it to have it apply to the 2010 ballot, but it was defeated.
State governments, local governments, public universities, transportation authorities, and public water utilities spent $138.1 million in 2007.
When local and state-based governments send lobbyists to Washington, D.C., they are typically lobbying for earmarks. Examples include Huntsville, Alabama, with a population of 170,000, which paid lobbyists $100,000 for their services. In FY 2008, Huntsville received $4,742,824 in earmarks. Another example is the Utah Transit Authority in Utah, the 41st most densely populated state. The office provides public transportation in the state and spent $1.6 million on federal lobbyists in 2003. 
- From 1998 to 2007, federal lobbying expenditures by local governments saw an increase of 240.9% to $138.1 million in 2007.
- Over the entire 1998 through first-half 2008 period, taxpayer-funded lobbying totaled a staggering $1.09 billion.
- Local governments spent another $77.8 million on lobbying in the first half of 2008. 
- Educational institutions as a whole spent at least $99 million to influence the federal government in 2009.
State and local lobbying
Cities and states
Lobbying by public school entities reached $102 million in 2008, up $10 million from 2007. 
Schools spend money on lobbying on a few things. First, schools contract out lobbying duties to outside firms. The contract itself commits the district to paying a set amount for the services of the firm. Once a lobbyist is before the legislature or other government body, travel and other expenses will be reported on lobbying activity reports, and either the school district or the lobbying firm itself covers these expenses.
In Florida, school districts spent more than $1,257,585.12 lobbying in 2009. In July 2009, Sunshine Review submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the 27 Florida school districts with lobbyists registered for 2009 with the Florida legislature.  The results of the information requests are included in Florida school districts lobbying totals. At least 52 school districts in Florida are members of the Florida School Boards Association, the main education taxpayer-funded lobbying organization.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations have lobbying priorities which center around issues that are close to the group. For schools, this can include school choice bills, property tax and mill issues, and policies relating to school grades, such as FCAT scores. Other school issues include class size and school calendar length.
In March 2010, Sunshine Review submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to Illinois counties. The process revealed over $6.2 million dollars in lobbying between 2005-2010, including lobbying the federal government and state government. The analysis that uncovered the $6.2 million only included the 10 most populous counties in the state. Specific legislation was not uncovered. However, Cook County's federal lobbying reports revealed that the type of lobbying the county does concerns getting money to the county, not promoting or opposing other sorts of legislation.
The counties overwhelmingly belonged to taxpayer-funded lobbying associations. In Illinois, these included the United Counties Council, Illinois Association of County Board Members, and nationally, the National Association of Counties.
- See also: American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
Money received by private entities through the stimulus package of 2009 has been spent to lobby.  The eight large banks that first received bailout funds in October 2008 spent more than $12.4 million on lobbying in the first half of 2009, and more than $20 million if including car companies.  Bank of America, which received $45 billion from the package and spent $800,000 in the April-June quarter on lobbying. This was a 21% increase from the $660,000 it spent in the first quarter. Other examples can be seen below:
|Company||Quarter 2 (Q2)
|% increase from Q1||Stimulus $ received|
|Bank of America||$800,000||21%||$45 billion|
|JPMorgan Chase||$1,800,000||38%||$25 billion (repayed)|
|Goldman Sachs Group||$630,000||-6%||-|
|General Motors||$2,800,000||approximately 0%||-|
Arguments for taxpayer-funded lobbying
One view of taxpayer-funded lobbying is that it is unavoidable: the system is created so that public entities need to lobby in order to receive requisite money. For example, director of a county agency in Michigan John O'Brien said the county deserves its share of federal funds for water and sewer projects. "I didn’t create the system in Washington, I just have to live by those rules. We’re competing with every other group for this funding." Another official stated that lobbyists have "been instrumental in bringing in money. [Spending on lobbyists] is what happens when you try to get your money back from Washington."
In one Michigan county, the rate of return to public agencies for federal grants, excluding pell grants and other grants routinely awarded to colleges and universities, is $164 for each dollar spent on lobbyists. Likewise, Mass Transportation Authority in Michigan points to nearly $30 million in capital grants since 2006 as evidence of the effectiveness of its lobbying. Therefore, this view sees lobbying as successful in routing resources to the agencies that spend on lobbying.
It is unnecessary
Taxpayer-funded lobbying is seen as unnecessary, as local governments already have effective lobbyists in senators and representatives.   One example of this view is Bishop Airport, a large taxpayer-supported group, which has not paid anything for lobbyists since 2006 but is in the midst of a $30 million project paid largely through state and federal grants. The Airport Director stated "We’ve just never really needed [lobbyists], we’ve been successful enough using our senators and congressman." There is also the question of the effectiveness of actual lobbyists. U.S. Representative Dale E. Kildee stated that he has seen lobbyists make the case to taxpayer-supported agencies that they are responsible for having secured funding for a special appropriation, when in fact they played little or no role. 
It is undemocratic
To use public funds for activities that may in fact run opposite to public interests is undemocratic, as is the unequal access to the political system that comes with taxpayer-funded lobbying. Peggy Venable, also of Americans for Prosperity, argues that government should not be in the business of providing funding to give voice to points of view that may not represent the views of the majority of the taxpayers. This removes the neutrality from the state. It also allows and breeds abuse, and protects public officials by "allowing them to hide behind the lobbying activities of organizations and other lobby-hired guns".  There is no mechanism for citizens to avoid paying taxes that finance services with which they disagree.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying groups are formed to maintain the interests of their members, not the interest of the public. The government supports groups and initiatives that support its own initiatives and goals. Private, government-friendly organizations, including taxpayer-funded lobbying associations, use taxpayer dollars to advance the interests of bureaucrats and politicians.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying projects do not need to express both sides of an issue because they exist to promote one side of the issue. Citizens are thus left with incomplete information about how their money is being spent, and are therefore excluded from the political process.
It expands government and hinders growthPhil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity wrote a paper in December 2008, arguing that although taxpayer-funded lobbying goes largely unnoticed, it hinders limited government and pro-growth policies:
"Taxpayer-funded groups descend on Washington and state capitals every time legislation to limit the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government is under consideration."According to the report, taxpayer-funded lobbying totaled $1.09 billion between 1998 and through the first-half 2008.  Similarly, a Tennessee Center for Policy Research report says public entities are spending an excessive amount of tax dollars lobbying for higher taxes and bigger government, which taxpayers frequently oppose.
It is the wrong priority
To others, spending on lobbyists seems to egregious when the government has other, more pressing priorities. “I don’t think the value is there,” said Genesee County, Michigan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Henry. “I really question laying off people while we still spend $60,000 (on a lobbyist). I think it needs to be re-evaluated.”
There is little accountability
Governments do not need to show results for their efforts because there is no immediate or direct feedback for poor performance. Governments do not face the resource and financial constraints under which private firms operate.
Disclosing lobbying activities
Main article: Taxpayer-funded lobbying disclosure
There are many obstacles to tracking taxpayer-funded lobbying. Available data is not coded to reflect whether entities are public, and many non-profit organizations that hire lobbyists receive taxpayer funding.   Information that is coded does not always represent the entirety of taxpayer funded lobbying. A 2010 study by the Pacific Research Institute attempted to analyze the amount of taxpayer-funded lobbying in the state of California. Researchers found the figure for lobbying reported as "government" of $92.6 million in 2007 and 2008 as inaccurate, with $131.4 million being a more accurate representation. That is a difference of $38.8 million not properly categorized as taxpayer-funded lobbying because of the way the funds were disclosed.
Reporting includes only lobbying expenditures that are subject to disclosure, which means anything falling under the threshold for reporting does not count. However, while private lobbyists have a limit of $50 for gifts to the Senate (and the practice is banned in the House), public entities are exempt and can gift without any limit or disclosure. Therefore, these activities are impossible to measure. 
In Texas, the House of Representatives produced a report on ethical matters and taxpayer-funded lobbying in 2006. The report found that there were glaring flaws in the disclosure and tracking of the spending of taxpayer funds. While not coming out explicitly against such activities, the House Committees recommended open, full, and consistent disclosure of lobbying expenditures be strictly enforced in order to fix the obvious inadequacies in the system. See Disclosure concerns in Texas
In New Jersey, county legislators in three counties (Morris County, Sussex County, and Warren) decided to withhold dues, in one case $10,000, until the New Jersey Association of Counties completes an audit. This is in response to concerns that the association was not being transparent about its spending.
- Taxpayer-funded lobbying, Ballotpedia
- State-Level Lobbying and Taxpayers: How Much Do We Really Know?", Pacific Research Institute
- Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying: Runaway Government Growth
- "Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Implications of Taxpayer-funded Lobbying", Goldwater Institute, January 23, 2007
Opinion & editorial
- "Washington should limit taxpayer-funded lobbying," Bellingham Herald, August 2, 2010
- "Opinion: Taxpayer-funded lobbying has got to go," The Seatle Times, May 6, 2011
- The Washington Times: "EDITORIAL: NPR’s taxpayer-funded lobbyists," May 6, 2011
- "Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Fuels Big Government", National Review Online, May 24, 2007
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