ST. PAUL, Minn. – More than $67 million was spent by hundreds of different groups in the course of lobbying government officials in 2016.
Two reports released by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board (MCFB) Thursday show that the total lobbying costs in the state decreased by more than $1.8 million compared to 2015 levels. This is the third consecutive year where lobbying expenditures have decreased in total. Total lobbying spending had a recent peak in 2013, totalling nearly $75 million.
In 2012, the MCFB started dividing lobbying reports in two. One report is specific to costs where the lobbying organization was targeting decision makers at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Lobbyists, in total, spent $6.3 million courting this organization’s decision makers.
The other report is regarding lobbying efforts targeting legislative and administrative actions, as well as actions of metropolitan governments. In total, lobbying groups spent $61 million lobbying these groups.
“I know that all you have to do is walk down the corridors here, you’ll see a lot of people here that are not volunteering,” Gov. Mark Dayton said, reports the Pioneer Press, “It’s a question of balance. Do people have the right to representation? Yes. But if the only people who are represented here are the people who have the money to pay somebody to do it for them, then that becomes a problem and it skews legislation.”
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce was the one group to spend the most money lobbying this year. In all, the group totalled $2.8 million, possibly the largest single-year total for one group ever in Minnesota, reports the Pioneer Press.
XCEL Energy’s spent $2.1 million in total lobbying efforts. About three-quarters of Xcel’s spending was targeting the PUC. Otter Tail Power Company spent nearly $1.3 million in total, with $1.1 million of this directed at the PUC.
Since PUC lobbying was broken out into a separate report in 2012, the total has increased every year except 2014. The 2012 total was nearly $2.75 million, but has increased 130 percent over the course of the last four years.