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A lobbyist at the Capitol

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Chamber, Vikings lobbyists among Capitol’s big spenders

  • Article by: BRAD SCHRADE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 18, 2012 - 11:51 PM

The Vikings spent more than $350,000 on lobbying in the second half of last year, most of it directed toward a media campaign to build support for a new stadium, according to state lobbying disbursement reports released Wednesday.

The team's disclosures show that it was one of the bigger spenders on lobbying at the Capitol during the second half of the year, based on reports released Wednesday by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

Nearly 2,000 lobbyist-spending disclosure reports are expected to be turned in this week to meet the board's deadline for reporting activity from June to December of last year.

Of the money the Vikings spent, more than $290,000 went to a television, print and radio advertising campaign promoting the team's value to Minnesota.

The team said it saw a spike in traffic to its website, which included a page directing supporters to e-mail Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers.

"We believe it was money well spent," said Lester Bagley, a vice president in charge of the football team's lobbying effort. "We were trying to get our information directly to the public. There was a lot of misinformation swirling."

The Vikings aren't the only ones spending big.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which represents 2,300 member businesses, is among the largest spenders on lobbying each year at the Capitol. During the second half of last year, the group spent $420,000, according to disbursement reports.

Almost half of that went to influence administrative and rulemaking actions, even though the legislative session ended in July and won't resume until next week.

Chamber President David Olson said much of the effort was aimed at ensuring that rate hike proposals before the state's Public Utilities Commission did not negatively affect businesses. He said he couldn't imagine not having his group's seven lobbyists at the Capitol.

"We would be nervous that bad things would happen," Olson said. "We need to look out for the interests of business. That's what our members pay us to do."

Gambling on lobbyists

Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee has 10 lobbyists registered that represent its interests, according to state records. For the period through December, six of those lobbyists were also registered to the group Racino Now, according to records, which has been pushing for video slots at tracks.

Canterbury's disbursement report showed it spent $131,600 during the latest reporting period, including $115,000 on public relations and fees.

Lobbyists on the opposing side are attempting to bend the system to their will, said Ron Rosenbaum, a Canterbury spokesman.

"The only way you have any chance is to have lobbyists do the same thing on your behalf," he said.

Tribal interests have as many as 30 lobbyists helping them on a variety of issues, with gambling at the forefront.

"Most of the time it's about the Legislature allocating resources. The Legislature is a referee among competing business interests; people can't come over here every day so they hire people who can," said Andrew Kozak, one of six lobbyists who represent the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

That group spent about $80,000 in the second half of last year.

The reports due this week give an incomplete picture of lobbying activity. A disclosure filing due in March will report a range of how much businesses and other special interests paid lobbyists to represent them.

Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777

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