Lobbyists Spent $6.1 Million During Legislative Session

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — Lobbyists for corporations, trade associations, unions and advocacy groups reported spending nearly $6.1 million to influence Montana lawmakers during the 2013 state legislative session.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reported that lobbyists spent the equivalent of about $40,500 per lawmaker in the 150-member body.

State law requires groups that hire lobbyists, use their own staff for lobbying purposes, or both, to file spending reports with the commissioner of political practices.

In 2011, lobbyists reported spending $5.7 million; in 2009, $5.9 million. In 2007, spending hit $6 million, but that included a special session of five days.

This year’s top spender was Compassion and Choices, which spent just over $160,000 advocating for physician assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses. The group lobbied against House Bill 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, which attempted to make physician assisted suicide punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The measure failed.

Compassion and Choices also spent $33,000 on print and radio advertisements.

MEA-MFT, the union representing teachers and public employees, spent $120,000.

“We had a lot of issues in the session,” said union President Eric Feaver. “We spent a lot of resources as well to get a pay plan passed, to fix our retirement system, to fund our public schools, and defeat school privatization bills.”

The third highest spender during the 2013 session was the Montana Association of Realtors, at $113,488. Association CEO Peggy Trenk said the real estate industry touches a wide range of issues, including taxes and land use.

“We use a lot of legal assistance in terms of drafting language for bills, for comments and for amendments,” she said.

Expense reports are broken down into such categories as entertainment, lobbyist pay, other pay, travel, advertising, communications, postage and other office expenses.

The Montana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association spent the most on entertainment with $13,962. CSC Holdings LLC, owner of Optimum, a cable television company, spent the most on lobbyist pay at $110,000.

Other top spenders included:

— AT&T, $107,787

—PPL Montana LLC, $105,605

—Montana Association of Counties, $104,258

—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, $102,542

—Altria Client Services Inc. and its affiliates (formerly Philip Morris tobacco company), $89,781

—Montana Alberta Tie Limited, $76,000

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