More than $65 million was spent in 2019 to influence the actions of state legislators, agencies and metropolitan governments — similar to past years. Another $6.7 million was spent on the Public Utilities Commission, significantly less than 2018, as energy company Enbridge cut its lobbying. Here are some of the takeaways from annual lobbying expenditure reports submitted Monday.
Business groups spend big
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce spent more than any other single organization in 2019, clocking in at $2.1 million. The chamber is usually one of the biggest spenders. The chamber’s lobbying bill was more than twice that of the next biggest spender, the teachers union Education Minnesota, which spent $1 million. Also among the top five spenders were the Minnesota Business Partnership, League of Minnesota Cities and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.
Major spending jumps
Some of the organizations that increased their spending significantly were ranked-choice voting advocates FairVote, building and construction trades group LiUNA, progressive organization TakeAction, Conservation Minnesota and Marathon Petroleum.
PhRMA and insulin
PhRMA spending on lobbyists shot up over the past couple of years. Data from the past decade show the industry group’s lobbying expenses averaged $215,555 for eight years before jumping to $300,000 in 2018 and hitting $431,000 last year. Amid a raging debate on insulin affordability, spending by the three large insulin manufacturers more than tripled from the previous year, totaling about $264,000 in 2019.
Mining companies PolyMet and Twin Metals, looking to build in northern Minnesota, also increased their lobbying. PolyMet devoted $380,000, a 46% spending increase over 2018. Twin Metals raised its spending 54% to $120,000 — though the company doled out significantly more earlier this decade to influence legislators and the administration of then-Gov. Mark Dayton.
Gun control advocacy groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Protect Minnesota appear to have spent significantly more than gun rights groups. The two groups spent a combined $280,000 in 2019, up about $95,000 over the previous year. The National Rifle Association spent $40,000, the same as the previous year, and the collective spending of Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and Minnesota Gun Rights dropped from $60,000 to $0.
Housing a hot topic
Developers and property managers boosted their advocacy around the Capitol and other governments in the metropolitan area. The builders’ group Housing First upped their lobbying by $100,000 over last year to $360,000. The Minnesota Multi Housing Association was the top spender, nearly doubling its typical annual lobbying to $554,000. Affordable housing advocates spent comparatively little.