The Potluck

Local government spending on lobbying reached $10 million in 2020, new report says

By: - July 30, 2021 8:31 am

Photo illustration by Getty Images

Local governments in Minnesota spent $10 million on lobbying in 2020, up 3% from 2019, according to a report released Tuesday by the Office of the State Auditor.

Big spenders included Minneapolis and Hennepin County, who spent a combined total of nearly $1 million as they pushed for favorable legislative decisions on issues including transportation and infrastructure.

Typically, governments spend less on lobbying in non-budget years, but 2020 was unusual, according to the report. The Legislature met for 97 days during the regular session, plus 26 days across seven special sessions in response to the pandemic and civil unrest, for a total of 123 days. Lawmakers met for 135 days in 2019, which was a budget year.

Still, remote hearings in 2020 may have mitigated governments’ spending on lobbying.

Hearings and committee meetings hosted via video call could have reduced travel costs, especially in rural Minnesota, State Auditor Julie Blaha said in a news release.

The bulk of the spending — $5.5 million — was from 115 local governments who directly employ lobbyists or hired contract lobbyists.

Associations that lobby on behalf of governments accounted for the remaining $4.5 million. That was a 2% decline from 2019, the report says. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spent the most, with more than $900,000 in lobbying expenditures, followed by the League of Minnesota Cities at $753,350.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

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