Labor unions, oil interests, utility companies and other outside groups spent $72.3 million to influence California officials from April through June.
The California State Council of Service Employees topped the list of lobbyist employers, forking out nearly $1.8 million on lobbyists and other payments to influence during a three-month period that lawmakers passed the state budget and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of tobacco regulations and a bill to raise minimum wage.
Western States Petroleum Association, which often spends more money than any other outside group, wrote checks totaling $1.1 million during the sixth quarter of the 2015-16 session.
AT&T paid lobbyists nearly the same amount while decision-makers struck deals to reform the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the company, and carved out the agency’s budget. Roughly $2,000 for three tickets and a parking pass to a Selena Gomez concert at Sleep Train Arena, given to Republican Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, were among payments the company reported.
About 3,055 lobbyist employers, best described as interest groups that pay lobbyists to influence officials, registered with the state during the quarter. Overall spending dropped by about $3 million compared to same quarter in the 2013-14 session.
So far, interest groups have spent $456 million during the 2015-16 session, an increase of about $30 million from the same period last session. About a quarter of the money is described as “other payments to influence,” a catch-all category that lobbyist employers are currently not required to explain and can include funds spent on things like advertising and grassroots campaigns.
The Fair Political Practices Commission recently voted to change the reporting requirements and force lobbyists to details spending in the “other payments” category. Lobbyists employers will have to adhere to the rule change in filings for the seventh quarter.