Lobbying Money in Sacramento: Business Groups and Governments Outspend Unions

In their never ending quest to expose the “evils” of unions, the Register’s Brian Calle has this post about the amount of money unions spend lobby state legislators in Sacramento.  It’s a telling piece about how much is spent by the California Teacher’s Association and what that money is spent on. Given the Register’s editorial position that public schools are government schools and government shouldn’t be in the business of education, it’s an extremely self-serving piece that ignores the fact that without a well educated workforce, California will not be able to compete effectively in the world market.  The piece comes off as though education is an expense instead of what it really is — an investment.  Even the highest paid teacher trails middle managers in the private sector in terms of compensation.

From Calle’s piece:

In Sacramento, the California Teachers Association, the state’s behemoth education union, spent more money on lobbying in 2011 than any other group in the Golden State, according a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the California Secretary of State’s Office.  

The CTA, boasting 340,000 members, spent $6,574,257 last year, a lobbying tab more than $1.5 million greater than the second-place spender (unsurprisingly, another union), the California State Council of Service Employees, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest and most powerful labor outfits in North America.   Overall expenditures for lobbying state legislators hit an all-time high in 2011 of $286.6 million—that’s a 6.8 percent jump from 2010. It seems lobbyists saw an opportunity to refill the trough of tax money with Gov. Jerry Brown once again at the helm of the state.  

Lobbyists are so influential in Sacramento and elsewhere they deserve to be called the “Third House” – a nickname describing lobbyists as an unelected chamber of the Legislature beyond the Assembly and state Senate. It’s not uncommon for legislators and their staff, looking for guidance on a pending bill, to “to run it by the Third House.”   In off-year elections, lobbying expenditures are highlighted but those who lobby the most are usually also the same who spend the most on campaigns. In 2010, many will remember the spending spree of unions to help Gov. Brown win election and the millions spent by unions on California ballot initiatives.

Allow us to drop the other shoe.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which runs the website “Follow the Money”, union lobbying expenditures trail that of business interests and local and county governments by about 40 percent.  Of the top 20 lobbying  groups identified by the site in 2011, four union organizatons spent a total of $9.4 million (with the CTA making up $5.3 million of that total which is at odds with numbers reported by Calle and the study he cites in the LA Times).  of the top 20, 16 business groups and city and county government entities spent a total of $15.5 million.

These business organizations among the top 20 in lobbying expenditures include the Western States Pedtroleum Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron Corporation, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Sempra Energy, AT&T and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan among others.

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters reports that the California Chamber of Commerce, a pro business organization that spent nearly $1.6 million in 2011 lobbying legislators, was effective iin killing 26 of 30 bills they viewed as “job killers.”

From his story:

Each year, the chamber, backed by other business and employer groups, labels several dozen pending bills as “job killers,” saying they impose costs or regulatory burdens that discourage business investment.

This year, 30 bills made the list, although business also opposes a wider array of bills. And when the gavel fell on the 2011 session early Saturday morning, just four of the 30 had survived.

A fifth, granting “card check” organizing rights to the United Farm Workers Union, also made it through the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who later negotiated a package of farm labor reforms that was enacted.

Democrat Brown must now decide whether to sign the four survivors or follow Republican predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s practice of vetoing virtually all bills wearing the “job killer” label that reached him. Brown has close ties to the groups supporting the four bills, but also has been cultivating business support for new taxes to balance the state budget.

So before we criticize the amount of money unions spent on Lobbying, let’s acknowledge that business organizations and city/county governments and governmental entities also spend a lot of money to influence legislators.  The deeper pockets of big business seem to have the upper hand.



  3 comments for “Lobbying Money in Sacramento: Business Groups and Governments Outspend Unions

  1. Jon
    March 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Well said.

  2. Jon
    March 21, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I just went back and read the article in question, I can’t stand the OCR. Calle, Joseph and Greenhut drive me nuts since their agenda can’t be bothered by facts. Thank you Liberal OC. I’m a recovering conservative by the way.

  3. Mearl Hinckley
    March 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    A confusing piece. Or maybe I’m just dim. How much did the unions spend in 2011, and how much did the business interests spend? (Just wondering.)

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