Columbus Dispatch: Lobbyists count on campaign donations

Written by admin on January 19th, 2011

Ohio is a key influence state for those politicians with national aspirations.  Here’s a look at how campaign contributions are working on a state level.

Columbus Dispatch

It’s not the $200,000-plus lobbyists shelled out in the past two years to influence Ohio legislators that’s so bad, a new study contends.

It’s the almost $740,000 in campaign contributions.

But wait, there’s more!

The study “Lobbyists – Affluence & Influence,” conducted by the nonpartisan watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action, found:

“There are more than 90 lobbying firms active in Ohio. Together these firms contributed $138,235 to statewide and legislative candidates. Contract lobbyists associated with these firms contributed an additional $776,287. Law firms that specialize in government relations contributed $1,047,661, and contract lobbyists associated with these firms contributed an additional $383,854.

“All together these ‘hired guns’ contributed $2,346,037.

“What rules the day are not the gifts. What rules the day are campaign contributions,” said Catherine Turcer, director of Citizen Action’s money-in-politics project – who readily acknowledges that she herself is a registered lobbyist.

While such giving likely cannot be stopped, Turcer said she would like to see a ban on hiring lobbyists to raise money for a candidate and on lobbyists hosting a fundraiser.

She also sees a problem with a lack of transparency.

The state only tracks the “wining and dining” outlays by lobbyists. Getting their campaign contributions requires plugging in their names and firms individually in the secretary of state’s database – an undertaking that took Citizen Action two months.

“No matter what, we want to be able to follow the money,” Turcer said. “We want a process that’s open.”

The study found that the top 50 lobbyists together attended 725 candidate fundraisers in 2009-10, contributing a combined total of almost $500,000. Twenty-two lobbyists took in at least a dozen fundraisers. One, independent lobbyist Sean Dunn, hit 54.

Lobbyists do well at picking legislative winners. Of the $398,000 given to House candidates for last year’s election, $358,000 went to those who eventually prevailed, researchers discovered. Of $96,000 for Senate hopefuls, about $75,000 wound up in the pockets of the victors’ campaigns.

 

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