Money Spent On Lobbying Was Up In First Half Of 2015, Reports State

$18.5M Spent Between January, July Marks 9 Percent Increase From Same Period In 2013

Breann Schossow/WPR

The amount of money spent on lobbying Wisconsin’s state Legislature was up this budget cycle, according to a report released Friday by the state’s Government Accountability Board.

Lobbying groups spent $18.5 million in the first six months of this year — a total that’s 9 percent higher than what the GAB recorded during the first six months of 2013, but about 22 percent less than the 2011 budget cycle, when lawmakers were debating Act 10.

Most of the money was spent on paying lobbyists and researchers, since lawmakers are generally not allowed to take gifts.

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Government Accountability Board’s Reid Magney said a few work-related issues received the most attention — namely, right to work and prevailing wage. Right-to-work legislation was signed into law in March, banning mandatory union dues for business employees. A partial repeal of the prevailing wage was inserted into the budget that lawmakers passed in July.

“In this session, we saw the return of discussions and debate about labor issues — collective bargaining things, with right to work, with prevailing wage. Those are issues that a lot of people care about. So, we saw lobbying on those things by business groups, as well as by labor groups,” said Magney.

The money and time spent on right to work and prevailing wage by business groups hugely overshadowed efforts by labor lobbyists. Almost 6,500 lobbying hours were dedicated to the passage of the legislation.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim said that on the whole, lobbying efforts in the state remain relatively steady.

“I think now things are a little bit more predictable and probably in an overall level of significance, things are down a bit,” said Heim. “In other words, business and labor and other special interests in Wisconsin probably have a pretty good idea where things are going. As a result, you can focus your attention on some issues that are a little less significant than they might have been.”

The Milwaukee Bucks spent most money of any lobbying organization, more than $482,000.