MADISON, Wis. — Spending on lobbying by Wisconsin public employee unions has dropped dramatically since a new law was enacted limiting collective bargaining for most public workers.
Preliminary lobbying figures from the Government Accountability Board show the state's largest teacher's union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, spent about $2 million on lobbying in the first six months of 2011, just before the law was enacted, but just $84,000 in the first six months of 2013.
The council had been near the top on spending over the past four years. Its lobbying efforts kicked into high gear when labor leaders early in 2011 tried to block Act 10, the law that reduced the importance of the unions by prohibiting collective bargaining on anything but wage increases and allowed employees to opt out of paying dues to the union if they don't want to belong.
WEAC spokeswoman Christina Brey said the union is trying to do without costly professional lobbying by leveraging its members at the ballot box.
"Ultimately, legislators will be held accountable at election time when voters assess whether they have truly represented their constituents or are yielding to political pressure from out-of-state deep pockets that fund their campaigns," Brey said.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 11 saw its legislative spending drop from more than $1.2 million in the first half of 2011 to just under $100,000 in the first six months of 2013. The council does most of the lobbying for AFSCME groups representing workers in Milwaukee County, state government and other local governments,
For that same six-month period, the state AFL-CIO's spending dropped from $2.3 million in 2011 to $44,500 in 2013.
The new leaders in lobbying spending are business groups, according to the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1aZ5XBT ). The top five lobbying groups for the first half of 2013 are the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, spending $357,000; the Wisconsin Hospital Association, $324,000; Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, $295,000, the Wisconsin Counties Association, $292,000 and Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc., $233,000.