More than 3,200 businesses, unions, and trade groups spent almost a quarter-billion dollars on lobbying and other payments to influence during the 2015 legislative session, according to new state filings.
The $237 million in payments to influence during the first nine months of 2015 is about $20 million more than what lobbyist employers reported paying during the first three quarters of 2011 and 2013, the first halves of the past two legislative sessions.
Through Sept. 30, lobbyist employers paid in-house lobbyists and outside lobbying firms about $160 million. Meals for government officials and other so-called activity expenses totaled $3.1 million. And other payments to influence, a catch-all term that includes TV advertising, rent and other costs, exceeded $71 million, including millions spent by players in the fight over Senate Bill 350.
In addition, about 40 entities that deal with the state Public Utilities Commission reported about $3.1 million in payments linked to the regulatory agency.
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Leading the list of lobbying spenders this year was the Western States Petroleum Association, which reported reported $9.3 million in expenses. The California Hospital Association reported $8.15 million, the California State Council of Service Employees reported about $4.8 million. Chevron Corp., the California Chamber of Commerce, Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, and the California Teachers Association also ranked in the top-10.
Other big spenders included Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, which has a major stake in talks to craft a replacement for a tax on health plans that helps pay for Medi-Cal, and Los Angeles County, one of many local governments involved in a transportation special session.
Lobbying expenses topped $86.7 million in the third quarter, which overlapped the final weeks of this year’s session and the first half of Gov. Jerry Brown’s consideration of hundreds of bills that advanced to his desk. Lobbyist employers spent almost $69.2 million in the first quarter and $81.9 million million in the second.
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