Capitol Alert

These 500 interests spent the most influencing California lawmakers this year

Lobbyists huddle around a television monitor in the hallway of the Capitol displaying the votes on a bill before the state Assembly during the final day of this year’s legislative session Sept. 15 in Sacramento.
Lobbyists huddle around a television monitor in the hallway of the Capitol displaying the votes on a bill before the state Assembly during the final day of this year’s legislative session Sept. 15 in Sacramento. The Associated Press

The end of California’s legislative session in September saw lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown make a deal on a housing stimulus package, extend California’s cap-and-trade program and hammer out legislation some say makes California a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants.

They also managed to pass – and kill – hundreds of lesser-known bills that were very important to at least some groups. None of it went down outside the watchful eye of Sacramento’s lobbying corps and the corporations, unions, local governments and other interest groups that employ them.

Those lobbyist employers spent $85.2 million trying to influence policy in the third quarter of the year, slightly less than the $86.4 million spent in the same period in the 2015-16 session, according to data from the California Secretary of State. Through the first nine months of the year, however, lobbyist employer spending stood at $253.6 million for 2017, nearly 8 percent more than the $235.5 million spent during the same period in 2015.

Much of the money was spent on things other than salaries for lobbyists. The petroleum association, for instance, spent $1.2 million in the three months on other non-overhead expenses, including political consultants, public relations firms and advertising companies. Alameda County wrote $662,000 in checks to two dozen statewide or regional government organizations, from welfare directors to election clerks.

Top third quarter spenders on state lobbying included oil companies, public employee unions and local governments.

  • Western State Petroleum Association – $2.3 million
  • Chevron – $1.1 million
  • California State Council of Service Employees – $870,675
  • California Chamber of Commerce – $769,919
  • Alameda County – $737,062
  • California Hospital Association/California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems – $686,500
  • NextGen Climate Action – $670,897
  • San Diego County – $625,369
  • City of Los Angeles – $616,207
  • California Teachers Association – $578,812

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WEED: One of the many loose ends for policymakers trying to get California ready to legally sell recreational pot by Jan. 1 is what to do about the banking situation. The federal government’s continued opposition to legal marijuana has made banks largely off limits to the industry, forcing it to deal weed the old-fashioned way – cash only. Big bags of cash are not a good look for safety or the government trying to rake in its share of taxes. State Treasurer John Chiang and members of his Cannabis Banking Working Group will release a report today outlining the problem and suggesting solutions. Things get rolling at 10 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol. The event will be webcast.

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