Since the California Legislature returned from its summer recess, the web-surfing experience has taken on a political flavor.
“Create a new water supply that can serve up to 400,000 people a year – Stop AB 1000,” read a splashy online ad Tuesday by opponents of legislation that would require additional environmental review of the massive Cadiz Inc. water project in Southern California . “Close the housing affordability gap – support prevailing wage,” admonished a page-dominating web ad by unions that want any affordable housing package to increase construction workers’ paychecks.
Offline, a trunk-mounted electronic billboard parked on L Street across from the Capitol the past few days shows lawmakers’ Twitter handles and urges them to oppose Assembly Bill 1701, which would make contractors responsible for subcontractors’ failure to pay wages. “Don’t make housing more expensive,” it says.
The final weeks of the 2017 legislative session flood the Capitol with lobbyists. But special interests also are pressing their case through other types of advocacy, such as online ads, mobile billboards, PR campaigns, and activities covered by “other payments to influence.”
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Such expenses used to be a mystery, with lobbyist employers’ quarterly disclosures listing them as a lump sum that included everything from office rent to radio ads. Under rules that took effect last year, lobbyist employers must detail who else they paid to advocate their case.
Other payments to influence at the end of session won’t become public until the next disclosure filing deadline in October. But filings for the first six months of the year show a mix of public relations shops, advertising companies, web-targeting firms, and hundreds of other payees receiving more than $49 million.
For example, oil companies reported spending almost $9 million on TV advertising by Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy, an industry-backed group involved in the Capitol debate over extending the state’s cap-and-trade program.
The League of California Cities and kidney dialysis center company DaVita were among several lobbyist employers that reported $442,000 in payments to Sacramento firm Bicker Castillo and Fairbanks Public Affairs. It was part of the city-backed push to pass an April transportation funding package, as well as the ongoing effort to defeat SB 349, a dialysis center staffing bill opposed by DaVita.
And the California Nurses Association, which pushed lawmakers this year to support legislation creating government-funded universal healthcare, was among several groups that reported paying a total of $12,000 to Facebook for advertising.
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