• FPPC says “Big Money Talks”–and how… Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Corporations and business associations spent some $545 million over the past decade trying to influence policy decisions in Sacramento, part of a tsunami of special interest spending that has given “a handful of special interests … a disproportionate amount of influence on California elections and public policy,” according to a new report by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

    Big Money TalksThe report carved out the top 15 special interest groups who together spent more than $1 billion trying to influence policy over the decade. The top two heavy spenders were labor groups whose members’ wages depend on state spending, the California Teachers Association and the California State Council of Service Employees. They spent a combined $319 million. But that was dwarfed by the $545 million spent by six corporations — led by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America‘s $105 million — and four business associations. The other three big spenders in the top 15 were Native American tribes, who laid out $202 million.

    Incidentally, the Consumer Attorneys of California (members of which help support the nonprofit behind this blog) spent about $21 million over the decade, earning it 25th place on the FPPC’s list. Though the folks at the Civil Justice Association of America (which seeks to limit lawsuits) are trying to argue that plaintiffs’ attorneys spent $35 million since 1999. The problem is that figure includes individual lawyer’s donations to state officials and candidates, an expression of individual political choice that the FPPC more wisely left out of its lobbying tabulations.

    And the CJAC, incidentally, didn’t contrast the lawyers’ individual political contributions with those by corporate executives, Chamber of Commerce members, doctors, or even against the total amount of all campaign contributions. And as we all know, numbers without context are just numbers.

    This is the FPPC’s “Billion Dollar Club,” the top 15 that spent a combined $1 billion over the past decade:

    1. California Teachers Association     $211,849,298
    2. California State Council of Service Employees     $107,467,272
    3. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America     $104,912,997
    4. Morongo Band of Mission Indians     $83,600,438
    5. Pechange Band of Luiseno Indians     $69,298,909
    6. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.     $69,240,759
    7. Chevron Corp.     $66,257,132
    8. AT&T, Inc.     $59,619,677
    9. Philip Morris USA     $50,756,360
    10. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians     $49,078,448
    11. Southern California Edison     $43,412,031
    12. California Hospital Association     $43,281,456
    13. California Chamber of Commerce     $39,065,861
    14. Western States Petroleum Association     $35,214,325
    15. Aera Energy LLC     $34,671,163