68 Washington public agencies and municipalities fail to report lobbying expenses

Evergreen Freedom Foundation

July 28, 2010

OLYMPIA, WA—Today the Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission against 68 public entities for either improperly reporting lobbying expenses or failing to report them altogether, based on discrepancies between expenditure reports filed by lobbyists and those filed by public agencies. Most of the agencies are cities, counties, ports and utility districts.

The Freedom Foundation estimates that public entities have failed to disclose at least $4 million from 2001 to 2009. Of the agencies the foundation filed complaints against, Sound Transit was the largest violator, failing to report over $800,000 worth of lobbying expenditures over seven years until the Freedom Foundation requested an explanation earlier this month. The agency filed the backdated reports, but many of those still fail to properly disclose expenditures as required by law.


The complaints by the foundation are mostly against agencies that did not file legally-required lobbying reports. The foundation uncovered other reports filed by public agencies disclosing lower lobbying expenditures than their contract lobbyists reported.

“The biggest outrage is the failure of public agencies to disclose their lobbying activities. It’s bad enough that Sound Transit spent $800,000 of our money lobbying for even more of our money,” says Preston Mui, summer fellow at the Freedom Foundation. “It’s another thing altogether for them not to tell us about it.”

Mui, who prepared the official Public Disclosure Commission complaints, discovered the discrepancies while conducting research for a report examining taxpayer-funded lobbying in Washington State. The report, also released today, presents lawmakers with several policy recommendations for limiting taxpayer-funded lobbying and increasing transparency for public agencies engaged in taxpayer-funded lobbying.

One of Mui’s greatest concerns is his discovery of the amount of taxpayer dollars used to fund lobbying. Reported spending on taxpayer-funded lobbying has nearly doubled since 2000, but the true cost is far greater due to widespread agency failures to report their expenditures. In addition, the Freedom Foundation’s review of lobbying by public entities did not include substantial amounts spent to lobby the federal government.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying at the state level by public agencies amounted to $42.4 million between 2000 and 2009, and exceeded $6 million in 2009. Those figures do not include missing or underreported expenditures.

Mui suggests the relationship between public lobbying expenses and taxpayer burden is something that should concern citizens. “This is a time when people are desperate for jobs and struggling to pay the bills,” he says, “and public agencies are spending millions of dollars on lobbyists.”

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