"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Missouri Tax Dollars Should Not Be Spent On Lobbying

January 12th, 2009 by mopns · 5 Comments

By Carl Bearden

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt isn’t seeking a bailout from Washington, as opposed to many who are. However, the case may not remain for Missouri once Gov.-elect Jay Nixon takes office. Whether Nixon becomes another beggar in line or holds the line, one thing is for sure: Taxpayer dollars should be kept away from the incessant act of lobbying for more.

It’s called taxpayer-funded lobbying. A new study by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation found that the influence of lobbying by state and local governments and universities drives an enormous expansion of spending at the federal level. And Missouri’s public institutions are no slouches at this abuse of public funds.

From 1998 to the first half of 2008, the University of Missouri spent $3.48 million on lobbying the federal government. From $810,000 spent by Missouri State University, to the $2.5 million spent by the city of St. Louis, taxpayer-funded lobbying is a large and ceaseless epidemic. Nationally, federal lobbying expenditures by local governments skyrocketed 241 percent from 1998 to 2007, and don’t appear to be slowing down.

The argument for such shilling goes like this: If our county or city sat out this bonanza, others would simply get our share. The trouble is, when everyone thinks this way it results in a virtual feeding frenzy that breaks the bank at the federal level.

And frenzy is an accurate description.

Nationwide, state governments, local governments, public universities, transportation authorities, and public water utilities spent an astonishing $138 million on federal lobbying in 2007, up 151 percent from an already sizable $53 million in 1998. They spent another $78 million on lobbying in the first half of 2008, the most recent data available. From 1998 through the first-half 2008, taxpayer-funded lobbying totaled $1.09 billion.

Even though Gov. Blunt may have put a stop to taxpayer funding of Viagra by Medicaid and Medicare, taxpayer-funded lobbying by Missouri public bodies continues. The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission spent $40,000 of taxpayer funds to lobby for its issues in 2004. The Missouri State Office of Administration spent $25,000 on taxpayer-funded lobbying of the federal government in 2008.

And while we can get a pretty good accounting of how much lobbying Missouri’s public entities do in Washington, there’s no easy way to determine how much these school districts, cities and counties spend to influence legislation and lawmakers in Jefferson City. It’s even more difficult to track such spending because municipalities and school districts typically belong to associations that do lobbying for them. Of course, the association dues used to pay for the lobbying comes from taxpayers.

Public bodies, nationally and around the state are using our money to lobby for higher taxes and spending programs – and to oppose taxpayer protections. Higher government revenue provides greater funds to pay the lobbying fees. This is an expensive, vicious cycle. Furthermore, this process pits the tax spender against the taxpayer, which only leads to a distorted legislative process.

Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” In that spirit, our organization supported the Protect Missouri Employee Paychecks from Politics Act, which would have prohibited deductions from workers’ paychecks for political purposes. Unfortunately, the bill never made it on the state ballot for the 2008 election.

We need government policies that will limit the burden of government. We do not need a big government consensus that disagrees only on how the pie is sliced up by highly-paid taxpayer-funded lobbyists. An arms race of lobbyists trying to raid ever more tax dollars from the treasuries in Washington and Jefferson City ultimately will stick us all with higher tax bills, making government richer and us poorer.

Carl Bearden is the Missouri State Director of Americans for Prosperity, and is a registered, non-taxpayer funded lobbyist.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Stokes // Jan 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Terrific piece, Carl. Kudos to MOPNS for running it and getting the word out. This is a serious issue and something that taxpayers need to fight against.

  • 2 calle // Jan 15, 2009 at 10:44 am

    To think, all that money is available and legislators have the gall to want to increase taxes in response to budget shortfalls.

  • 3 Hey Missouri, where are your tax dollars now??? « Change$ Missouri needs… // Jan 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    […] There are multitudes of things that go on behind taxpayer’s backs from year to year, and so when the economy starts to do poorly, it’s hard for the citizens to understand what’s going on. Case in point: the major departments and groups in the state know the large amounts of taxpayer money that comes in, and they want to get their hands on it, and they can do this largely through lobbying. “From 1998 through the first-half 2008, taxpayer-funded lobbying totaled $1.09 billion.” Yes, I bet there’s quite a few people out their who had no idea that that chunk of change they pay to the state goes in part to groups of people trying to get more money. “Nationwide, state governments, local governments, public universities, transportation authorities, and public water utilities spent an astonishing $138 million on federal lobbying in 2007, up 151 percent from an already sizable $53 million in 1998.” READ MORE… […]

  • 4 Sen. Jane Cunningham // Jan 18, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Thank you to Carl Bearden for uncovering the astounding abuse of taxpayer money used to get even more funds from taxpayers. Not only are taxpayers being taken on a funding ride but they are paying for official policy influence by these same groups within the government.

    There are laws and department protocols that actually call for these same special interest lobby groups to serve on statutorily created government advisory boards. An example is the NEA (liberal National Education Association) that serves on boards that advise the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on teacher certification, school curriculum and professional development. Then they are paid to provide some of the professional development. Do I hear conflict of interest?

    And, in addition, some lobby groups like the School Superintendent’s Association (MASA) that lobbies for additional education funding and has been investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission for directly fundraising for candidates using school district equipment during a school day is funded by your tax dollars while they enjoy a tax exempt 501 (c) (3) status.

    It is amazing how many are turning a blind eye to this corruption that must be cleaned up.

  • 5 Sen. Jane Cunningham // Jan 18, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Thank you to Carl Bearden for uncovering the astounding abuse of taxpayer money used to get even more funds from taxpayers. Not only are taxpayers being taken on a funding ride but they are paying for official policy influence by these same groups within the government.

    There are laws and department protocols that actually call for these same special interest lobby groups to serve on statutorily created government advisory boards. An example is the NEA (liberal National Education Association) that serves on boards that advise the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on teacher certification, school curriculum and professional development. Then they are paid to provide some of the professional development. Do I hear conflict of interest?

    And, in addition, some lobby groups like the School Superintendent’s Association (MASA) that lobbies for additional education funding and has been investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission for directly fundraising for candidates using school district equipment during a school day is funded by your tax dollars while they enjoy a tax exempt 501 (c) (3) status.

    It is amazing how many are turning a blind eye to this corruption that must be cleaned up.

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