Lobbying in Sacramento, the state capital of California, has exploded in recent years. The Los Angeles times reports that, “State records show $551.9 million in lobbyist expenditures for all but the final two months of the 2015-16 legislative session. Two decades ago, total state government lobbying cost $266.9 million.” Moreover, there are currently 1,871 registered professional lobbyists, which is more than 15 per member of the state Senate and Assembly.
However, the biggest lobbying spenders in Sacramento may surprise you. Unlike in Washington D.C., where large national business interests, associations and corporations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and General Electric top the list of lobbying spending, in Sacramento the biggest spenders are local governments. According to the Los Angeles Times local governments lobbying the state government accounted for “more than $84 million in the last two-year legislative session. By comparison, oil and gas companies spent less than half that amount. Agriculture interests spent just 10 cents to every dollar spent by cities, counties and statewide government associations.”
The reason many local governments are turning to lobbyists is that “Local officials often feel they need more Sacramento muscle beyond their legislators. City council members in Glendale were told in a 2013 staff report that lobbyists would help “gain support from key public officials and policy makers on decisions that directly impact the city.” In the most recent legislative session, Glendale paid more than $166,000 for lobbyists. The city of Los Angeles spent about $1.6 million.”
In Washington D.C., state and local governments spent a combined total of $51,271,774 on lobbying efforts in 2016 according to The Center for Responsive Politics. 4 out of the top 10 state and local government spenders in Washington, D.C. were from California: Los Angeles County, CA – $707,000; Orange County, CA – $570,000; City & County of San Francisco, CA – $500,000; City of Los Angeles, CA – $470,000.