LOBBYING By TIM WARDLE Capital News Service LANSING- While the roster of the state’s top 10 lobbying organizations is largely unchanged from a year ago, one notable newcomer made the 2007 list. MyWireless.org, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, made the list for the first time as number eight, having spent more than $450,000 in 2007. That places it between the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, which spent $458,877, and Kelley Cawthorne – a Lansing law and government relations firm – which spent $437,121. The non-profit group lobbies the federal and local governments on issues affecting wireless users, according to Brian Johnston, the group’s director of communications. The group came to Michigan last year to lobby against a Senate bill that extends a 9-1-1 surcharge on all cell phones and other communications devices. Johnston said the phone tax will “severely hurt” the estimated seven million wireless users in Michigan. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the bill in December. Money spent lobbying state officials and legislators totaled nearly $32 million in 2007 - a 6 percent increase over 2006, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Its report was based on public data from the Secretary of State’s office. A Lansing multi-client lobbying firm, Governmental Consultant Services, was the lead spender at $1.4 million. Rich Robinson, the executive director of the network, said the continuing spending increase in recent years is largely attributable to term limits imposed on legislators. Since legislators aren’t eligible to serve indefinately, they need to learn complicated policy matters faster, he said. Thus, the lobbyists come in to educate them, he said. “Money in politics is really a growth industry, perhaps the only one in Michigan,” Robinson said. The nation’s three largest cigarette companies held a heavy presence on the list, two of them more than doubling their lobbying efforts in the past year. Winston-Salem, N.C.-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. – the maker of Camels – reported one of the largest increases of any company on the list between 2006 and 2007. It came in 19th on the list, spending over 400 percent more last year than in 2006, according to the report. The nation’s top cigarette manufacturer, Richmond, Va.-based Philip Morris USA, spent more than twice as much than in 2006. The report also said that Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. more than quadrupled its lobbying dollars over the past three years. The Secretary of State’s website, shows every registered lobbying group that spent more than $1. For many of the groups, an itemized list shows how much was spent on food and drinks for public officials, as well as how much they spent on mailing and advertising. The online records include “other” expenses that are neither defined nor itemized. Ken Silfven, who works in the Secretary of State’s communications office, said “other” expenses could include anything from research to presentations. A menagerie of large corporations appeared on the top 100 list, including the big three U.S. automakers, the Detroit casinos and top drug company Pfizer Inc. Also, most of Michigan’s public universities appeared high on the list. Wayne State University reported spending $155,458, more than any other school in the state.
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