Capitol Alert

Some California lobbyist employers cranked up spending this year

An unidentified SEIU worker hugs Gov. Jerry Brown after he signed a bill creating the highest statewide minimum wage at $15 an hour by 2022. The effort to pass the minimum wage bill was one reason why the California State Council of Service Employees reported a large increase in its payments to influence during the 1st quarter of 2016.
An unidentified SEIU worker hugs Gov. Jerry Brown after he signed a bill creating the highest statewide minimum wage at $15 an hour by 2022. The effort to pass the minimum wage bill was one reason why the California State Council of Service Employees reported a large increase in its payments to influence during the 1st quarter of 2016. AP

Trade associations, unions and other lobbyist employers spent more than $74.3 million during the first three months of 2016, recent state filings show, with some groups spending significantly more compared to the same period in the last legislative session.

The California State Council of Service Employees reported $1.97 million in lobbying-related expenses during the fifth quarter of the 2015-16 session, $600,000 more than what the SEIU umbrella union spent two years ago. The council spent $615,000 more on “other payments to influence,” a catch-all category that covers advertising, rallies and other costs related to lobbying.

“SEIU has taken on bigger battles and is applying more resources to major campaigns on behalf of working men and women,” said Mike Roth, a spokesman for SEIU, which played an active role in the recently approved minimum wage legislation as well as efforts to increase overtime for home care workers and a ballot measure to raise tobacco taxes.

eBay, Inc. had the second-highest spending increase from two years ago, a change linked to its “activity expense” of $600,000 for the StubHub Fan Fair before this year’s Super Bowl in Santa Clara. The eBay filing notes that an aide of Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, attended the fair.

The Western States Petroleum Association reported $1.9 million in influence payments the first three months of the year, $439,000 more than what the association spent during the same quarter in 2014. The change largely reflected an increase in how much the trade group spent on other payments to influence.

The group played a leading role last summer in opposing major environmental legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders.

“In any given session as legislative activity increases, it requires an increased response and lobbying presence, therefore spending will increase,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the association’s president, said in a statement. “Due to the political attacks we saw last session, WSPA efforts to educate lawmakers and the public required increased activity.”

Other lobbyist employers who reported spending a lot more were the California School Boards Association, AT&T, Inc. and Sempra Energy, the San Diego-based parent company of Southern California Gas Co. The gas company owns the Aliso Canyon storage facility, where a gas leak prompted the introduction of multiple bills.

Overall, the top-10 lobbyist spenders during the first three months of 2016 were the California State Council of Service Employees, Western States Petroleum Association, California Hospital Association, Chevron Corp., California Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Inc., Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Teachers Association, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and eBay, Inc.

Total lobbying expenses during the period last year reached $68.8 million.

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