Spending taxpayer money to get more taxpayer money?
That’s what the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota makes of its findings today that local governments in Minnesota have spent at least $5.2 million lobbying in Washington since 2006.
The pro-business, limited government group found that federal lobbying expenditures by local governments and their associations have risen each year since 2006, and are on a pace to set a new record in 2010, with at least $729,000 spent in the first half of the year.
Of course, public sector lobbying still doesn’t come anywhere close to private sector lobbying. For example, Minnesota ag giant Cargill Inc. has spent $932,887 on lobbying so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s one company outspending every city, town and county in Minnesota put together.
On the public side, the Freedom Foundation says the biggest spenders this year are the City of Minneapolis ($90,000), the City of Moorhead ($80,000), and Scott County ($60,000).
Since 2006, the biggest spenders have been Scott County ($815,000), the City of Moorhead ($620,000), Hennepin County ($405,000), the North Metro Mayors Coalition ($375,000), and the Anoka County Regional Railroad Authority ($369,000).
Former TV journalist and Norm Coleman staffer Tom Steward
, the group's investigative director, says these numbers have never been reported previously. And unlike a lot of agenda-driven researchers, these guys actually give their targets a chance to respond.
Scott County Administrator Gary Shelton is quoted telling the Freedom Foundation, "I do believe that given the multitude of issues at the federal level that directly impact the cost of county government that it is important the county have a voice and be heard… I also believe it has been money well spent."
Freedom Foundation Vice President Jonathan Blake
takes a different view, particularly in regard to how government lobbying tends to fly under the radar.
The state law requiring local governments to report lobbying expenditures to the Office of the State Auditor apparently does not apply to federal lobbying.
“Local governments are spending millions of tax dollars to lobby for millions more,” Blake said. “When local governments use taxpayer money to lobby legislators in St. Paul, they are required to report those activities to the state. We should require the same level of transparency when local governments lobby policymakers in Washington.”