Most citizens have at least a cursory familiarity with the role of lobbying in the political process. Lobbying refers to actions that individuals, groups, and special interests undertake for the purpose of influencing public officials. Typically, lobbying occurs on behalf of private parties. However, a far more concerning form of lobbying — and one with which far fewer citizens are familiar — is lobbying that occurs on behalf of public institutions, which taxpayer dollars fund.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying — often referred to as intergovernmental lobbying — is the process of one governmental entity lobbying another. The entities that engage in this brand of lobbying include school districts, universities, police departments, fire protection districts, cities, counties, and various other agencies at every level of government that — in turn — lobby each other, state governments, and the federal government. In essence, taxpayer-funded lobbying implies that government — quite literally — lobbies itself.
According to Americans for Prosperity, this form of lobbying consumes up to $1 trillion of the tax revenue collected in this country each year. In consideration of tight budgets across the state of Missouri, expenditures such as these warrant particular scrutiny and a careful evaluation of the effects and legitimacy of intergovernmental lobbying.
There are many other concerns with taxpayer-funded lobbying. The largest is simply the unseemliness of its role in the constant expansion of the role of government at every level in all of our lives.
The Show-Me Institute’s Missouri government lobbying project is dedicated to bringing some sunlight into the practice. We have attempted to collect every current lobbying contract between a government institution and a private lobbying firm in Missouri. That effort is ongoing. It is our hope that interested Missourians will use this information to more effectively monitor their own local governments. Staying vigilant in regards to the activities of your government is difficult. We hope this tool makes it a little easier.
REPORT: “Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying: Government Lobbying Government,” by David Stokes and Abhi Sivasailam
RELATED COMMENTARY: “Missouri’s Taxpayers Lobbying To Pay More Taxes?” by Mary Kate Hopkins