Note to readers: This story has been reposted. Since the report was originally released, the Center for Public Integrity has changed the way it calculates lobbying expenditures to reflect a more stringent methodology for determining the total amounts. The change was made to correct the potential overstatement of totals. Figures or relevant text that have been changed are indicated with asterisks. (3/31/2006)
At a time of enormous budgetary constraints, states, cities and public schools have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists to plead their cases before legislators and regulators in the nation's capital.
During the last six years, in fact, roughly* 300 universities have spent in excess of $114 million*, while more than 1,400 local governments have doled out more than $343 million* to secure funding for everything from freeways to fire trucks, according to a study of lobbying disclosure records conducted by the Center for Public Integrity. Similarly, the 56 states and U.S. territories, many of them facing severe budget shortfalls, have spent well in excess of $55 million*.
"It's almost like the lobbyist 'tax,'" said Keith Ashdown, vice president for policy and communications at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a federal-budget watchdog organization. "If you're from a local entity and you're trying to get funded and you don't have a senior lawmaker on the right committee in Congress, you have to basically pay a tax to lobbyists to get recognized."
Still, public organizations have more to lose by not hiring an advocate on the federal level, said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a non-profit organization devoted to addressing social problems and researching policy changes for more effective governance.
"It would be penny-wise, pound-foolish for them not to have a presence in Washington," he said.