Federal Lobbying by Minnesota's Local Governments Flies Under the Radar

Local governments in Minnesota have already spent at least $729,000 of taxpayer money this year to lobby policymakers in Washington, DC.

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If federal lobbying records are any indication, Minnesota’s local governments are increasingly turning to our nation’s capital in search of funding for local programs. A Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis of Lobbying Disclosure Act filings finds that Minnesota’s local governments and their associations spent at least $5.217 million lobbying the federal government from 2006 through the first half of 2010.[i] Annual lobbying expenditures have risen each year and are on pace to set a new record in 2010, with at least $729,000 spent the first half of the year.

So far in 2010, the biggest spenders have been the City of Minneapolis ($90,000), the City of Moorhead ($80,000), and Scott County ($60,000).

Overall, the biggest spenders since 2006 have been Scott County ($815,000), the City of Moorhead ($620,000), Hennepin County ($405,000), the North Metro Mayors Coalition ($375,000), and the Anoka County Regional Railroad Authority ($369,000).

"I do believe that given the multitude of issues at the federal level that directly impact the cost of county government that it is important the county have a voice and be heard,” said Gary Shelton, Scott County Administrator. “I also believe it has been money well spent."

The controversial practice of using taxpayer money to lobby for additional taxpayer money is nothing new in Minnesota. In fact, local governments and their associations are required to report lobbying expenditures to the Office of the State Auditor (OSA), which prepares an annual report on local government lobbying activities. However, the state law requiring local governments to report lobbying expenditures to the OSA does not apply to federal lobbying.



Consequently, Minnesota’s local governments are able to spend a great deal of taxpayer money on Washington lobbyists, largely out of public view.

“Local governments are spending millions of tax dollars to lobby for millions more,” said Freedom Foundation of Minnesota Vice President Jonathan Blake.“At a time when people are demanding accountability in government and an end to reckless spending, that just doesn’t make sense.”

Blake continued: “When local governments use taxpayer money to lobby legislators in St. Paul, they are required to report those activities to the state. We should require the same level of transparency when local governments lobby policymakers in Washington.”

Click here to view annual totals for each local government.

Local Government Rankings: Total Federal Lobbying Expenditures (2006-2010*)

# 1 Scott County $815,000
# 2 City of Moorhead $620,000
# 3 Hennepin County[ii] $405,000
# 4 North Metro Mayors Coalition $375,000
# 5 Anoka County Regional Railroad Authority $369,000
# 6 Northstar Corridor Development Authority $363,000
# 7 City of Minneapolis $310,000
# 8 Anoka County $280,000
# 9 Metropolitan Airports Commission $220,000
# 10 City of St. Cloud $180,000
# 11 City of Willmar $180,000
# 12 St. Cloud Planning Organization $180,000
# 13 Duluth Airport Authority $180,000
# 14 Stearns County $140,000
# 15 Bemidji Regional Airport $140,000
# 16 Beltrami County $120,000
# 17 Minnesota Association of Small Cities $80,000
# 18 Minneapolis/Duluth Superior Passenger Rail Alliance $50,000
# 19 Association of Minnesota Counties $40,000
# 20 City of St. Paul $30,000
# 21 Dakota County $30,000
# 22 Ramsey County $30,000
# 23 Marshall Transportation Group $20,000
# 24 St. Louis County $20,000
# 25 Olmsted County $20,000
# 26 Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority $20,000
* Q1 and Q2 expenditures only

[i]Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, federal lobbyists file quarterly reports with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Secretary of the State detailing their lobbying activities on behalf of clients. Filers are instructed to “a good faith estimate of all income received from the client, other than payments for matters unrelated to lobbying activities.”
[ii]Lobbying Disclosure Act records indicate that Hennepin County’s lobbying expenditures have never exceeded $40,000 in any year covered by this report. However, officials with the Hennepin County Public Affairs Department have informed FFM that the county has had a $90,000 annual federal lobbying contract with an outside firm throughout the years covered, and advised FFM to use this annual figure as a more accurate reflection of the county’s federal lobbying expenses.

Tips, comments, or suggestions? Contact Tom Steward, FFM Investigative Director (952-451-3684).

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