Groups Spent $5.7 Million Lobbying Montana Lawmakers

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Businesses, advocacy groups and unions spent $5.7 million this legislative session trying to influence Montana lawmakers, down slightly from the 2009 session, according to reports filed with the commissioner of political practices.

Lobbyists’ pay accounted for $4.6 million, or nearly 80 percent of the total costs reported.

Montana Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association was the top spender this year at $160,367, according to Lee Newspapers State Bureau. Second was Altria Client Services and its Affiliates, the company formerly known as Phillip Morris USA tobacco company, which spent $154,326.

Rounding out the top five lobbying spenders were The Montana Association of Realtors, Compassion & Choices and PPL Montana. PPL was the top lobbying spender in the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions.

PPL purchased Montana Power Co.’s dams and coal-fired plants in 1999. David Hoffman, PPL Montana’s external affairs manager, said the company deals with a lot of matters before the Legislature, from taxation to energy and environmental issues.

“We want to protect a significant investment in Montana,” Hoffman said.

Companies spent more than $38,000 lobbying each lawmaker in 2011. But that amount was slightly less than the $5.96 million spent during the 2009 session and $6 million spent in the 2007 session, which included a five-day special session.

State law requires companies, unions or advocacy groups that hire lobbyists or use their own staff to lobby to report their expenditures to the political practices commissioner’s office.

Former Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth has said he didn’t have much faith in the accuracy of those reports. But new commissioner, Dave Gallik, said he has no reason to doubt their accuracy.

“I’m assuming the folks that are required to comply with the law are complying with the law,” said Gallik, a former legislator. “I take them at their word.”

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