- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

RICHMOND Special interests spent $10.1 million lobbying Virginia's legislators in 2000, the 13th largest such expenditure among 34 states, according to a report released by the Center for Public Integrity.
Lobbying groups in those states spent $570 million to influence state legislators and officials in the executive branches of state governments, according to "The Fourth Branch," an in-depth study the center made public last week in Washington.
Data were available on Virginia and 33 other states, but 15 states do not provide annual lobbying expenditures data, while Tennessee imposes no expenditure-reporting requirements on lobbyists or their employers.
Of the 34 states that provide annual spending data for lobbyists, 11 do not require the lobbyists or their employers to disclose their salaries.
Virginia is ranked 26th in the nation in the number of registered lobbying interests, with 603 registered in 2000, the last year for which complete figures are available.
Considering that most interests employ multiple lobbyists, that breaks down to a ratio of about six lobbyists for each of the General Assembly's 140 members.
The insurance industry employed the largest contingent of Virginia lobbyists at 39, followed closely by lobbyists for health professionals (36), local governments (35) and education (32). There were 27 lobbyists for health services and 22 each representing electrical utilities and business associations.
Steve Calos, executive director of the Center for Open, Ethical and Accountable Government in Richmond, said of the lobbyist report for Virginia: "This is pretty much business as usual.
"Again you will see that the well-heeled interests spend the most on these activities. The smart business people know that this thing works."
Spending in 2000 was down substantially from the $15.3 million special interests spent in 1999, the last time all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 40 Senate seats were up for grabs.
The expenditure that year stands out starkly compared with the spending of $9 million in 1998, $7.9 million in 1997, $7.5 million in 1996 and $3.8 million in 1995.
The increase in special-interest spending on legislatures reflects a "growth industry" in state lobbying because of the shift of many government responsibilities from the federal government to states, said University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato.
"It's a lucrative business. The fees that they pull in are just incredible," Mr. Sabato said.
Nationally, California registered the highest number of lobbying entities with 2,324, followed by Texas (2,119), Florida (1,665), Illinois (1,594) and Michigan (1,575). North Dakota registered the least at 179.
California was in a class of its own among the 34 states. Its $180.5 million spent in 2000 was more than double the amount spent by Pennsylvania, which ranked second with $73.1 million. California's spending alone amounted to nearly a third of the total spent in all the states the Center for Public Integrity surveyed.
The center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization known for its journalistic investigations of government and politics in Washington and the states.

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