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Local government lobbying expenses up

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Lobbying costs by local governments rose nearly 10 percent in 2008, an apparent signal that they want more from government -- or less done to them.

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Local governments spent a total of $8.55 million on lobbying activities in 2008, an increase of $732,398 or 9.4 percent over 2007, according to a report issued Wednesday by State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

"The operation and funding of local governments can be greatly affected by decisions made by the state Legislature. Therefore, it is understandable that those affected by these decisions would want to have representation during the legislative process," said a statement from Otto's office.

In addition to the $3.9 million paid directly to staff and contract lobbyists, local governments paid dues of $10.25 million in 2008 to local government associations that also represented their interests before the Legislature, the report states.

The associations spent $4.6 million on lobbyists and lobbying in 2008, representing an increase of 9.6 percent over 2007. Of the total, $4.29 million was funded exclusively through dues, the report states. It represents an increase of 10.1 percent over the $3.9 million in association dues that were spent on lobbying activities in 2007.

The report doesn't distinguish lobbying expenses between St. Paul and Washington, D.C., as it lists 2008 lobbying expenses for Beltrami County of $34,175, which includes $30,000 to David Turch & Associates as a contracted lobbyist for the county in Washington.

Beltrami County is a member of the Association of Minnesota Counties, paying dues of $13,917 or which 30 percent or $4,175 is attributed to lobbying expenses.

The city of Bemidji spent $31,666 in association dues, of which $22,869 is for lobbying expenses. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, with dues of $21,918, puts 99 percent or $21,694 to lobbying expenses. The League of Minnesota Cities' dues are $9,748, with 12 percent or $1,170 going to lobbying.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities was the state's top lobbyist in 2008, spending $1.03 million lobbying in St. Paul. Its primary lobbyists, Flaherty & Hood P.A., received $878,721, for its services.

The League of Minnesota Cities spent the second-most money on lobbying in 2008, $624,549, followed by the Minnesota School Board Association at $581,511 and the Association of Minnesota Counties at $335,845.

The Bemidji School District paid $9,789 in association dues, of which $3,919 is targeted for lobbying expenses. Minnesota School Board Association dues of $7,389 had 42 percent or $3,103 to lobbying. The Minnesota Rural Education Association's dues of $2,400 had 34 percent of $816 to lobbying.

David Turch & Associates received $132,000 in 2008 from Minnesota local governments.

The state auditor's report shows that most local government entities surveyed in Minnesota belonged to at least one association in 2008 -- 44.7 percent -- and that 48.1 percent belonged to two associations.

"Local governments more frequently use contract lobbyists than utilize their own staff to provide lobbying services," states the report. "Contract lobbyists accounted for $2,573,765, or 65.8 percent, of the total amount spent by those governments using contract or staff lobbyists. Local governments spent $1,243,890 on staff lobbyists to represent their interests before the Legislature and other governmental bodies. In addition, local governments reported an additional $92,446 in overhead costs related to lobbying services in 2008.

The Association of Minnesota Counties reported $1.1 million collected in dues, with 30 percent or $335,390 spent on lobbying. The League of Minnesota Cities collected $2.5 million in dues and spent 12 percent or $305,435 on lobbying. And the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities collected $1.04 million in dues and spent 99 percent or $1.03 million on lobbying.

The Minnesota Association of Small Cities collected $145,507 in dues and spent 74 percent or $107,675 on lobbying. The Minnesota School Board Association collected $1.4 million and spent 42 percent or $581,511 on lobbying.

In area lobbying expenses, Bena and Wilton spent the least -- $39 -- derived from $323 in membership dues each to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Most local governments in the Bemidji area lobbying through their association dues. Aside from Beltrami County contracting with David Turch & Associates, Koochiching County contracted with Federal Advocates ($12,000) and Flaherty & Hood PA ($3,104).

Lobbying expenses in the region for 2008 include:

- Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District -- Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, $1,375 dues, $509 for lobbying.

- Cass County -- Association of Minnesota Counties, $13,115, $3,934.

- Bagley -- Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, $603, $597; League of Minnesota Cities, $1,179, $141; Minnesota Association of Small Cities, $716, $530; total dues, $2,498, lobbying expenses, $1,208.

- Blackduck -- LMC, $727, $87; MASC, $451, $334; total dues, $1,178, $421.

- Cass Lake -- LMC, $808, $97.

- Walker -- LMC, $1,075, $129; MASC, $657, $486; total dues $1,732, lobbying $615.

- Clearwater County -- AMC, $5,051, $1,515.

- Hubbard County -- AMC, $9,826, $2,948.

- Blackduck School District -- Minnesota School Board Association, $2,736, $1,149.

- Kelliher School District -- MSBA, $1,856, $780; Minnesota Rural Education Association, $1,317, $448; total dues $3,173, $1,228.

- Red Lake School District -- MSBA, $3,692, $1,011.

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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