Thanks for picking up the tab, or, taxpayer-funded lobbying hurts

This article explains the prevalence of and the problems with taxpayer-funded lobbying. This type of lobbying is especially egregious, as it is using taxpayers’ own funds to harm them further. It’s bad enough that a governmental body — say the Wichita Public Schools — receives funds, increasing rapidly from year to year, from the local taxpayer. It then compounds the damage by using some of that money to persuade other governmental bodies to send them even more. Sometimes they use your own money to fund lawsuits to get even more of your money.

You may be thinking that these local governments have the best interests of their constituents as their goal, so it’s okay for them to lobby. But you’d be wrong. The League of Kansas Municipalities (how could an institution with a civic-minded name like that do anything wrong?) lobbies for the ability to take a person’s private property and give it to another through the process of eminent domain, all in the name of economic development. This is a serious violation of the right to be secure on your own property, and they are spending your tax money to support this lobbying effort.

Thanks for Picking up the Tab
By Alan Cobb, Americans For Prosperity Kansas State Director

It’s a common scene in Topeka — a lobbyist treating an elected official to lunch, giving a legislator a cigar, or picking up the tab at a local watering hole. Of course, there is talk. Talk about new programs, regulations, budget increases, and the like.

Who is paying for these perks?

You are.

Your tax dollars are used by school districts, city and county governments and other taxpayer funded organizations for direct lobbying efforts in Topeka.

Some local officials say it isn’t “lobbying” but rather “representing our town, county, or school district” before the Legislature. Your tax dollars are being used to influence legislators to voting a particular way. That’s lobbying.

It’s proper for private citizens and groups to petition their government, but should one government be “petitioning” another? Do you agree with the things they are lobbying for? Do you even know?

How prevalent is this? Well, it’s hard to say, and that’s part of the problem.

Over 70 individuals and organizations, paid by local governments, peddle their influence in the Kansas Statehouse. Their expenses are reported to the Governmental Ethics Commission.

Some of larger cities, counties and school districts have their own lobbyists. Others rely on their associations to do their lobbying for them.

But the amount of tax dollars that cities, counties and school districts are paying these folks — specifically for lobbying — is anybody’s guess.

In November, Americans for Prosperity sent an open records request to every city, county and school district in Kansas — over 1,000 government entities — asking them to disclose how much they spend to lobby.

The responses we’ve received are quite interesting. While most local governments complied with our request, few could say with any certainty how much money is actually spent on lobbying.

Many of those responses went something like this: “While the city/county/school district spends XX amount each year to join associations that lobby, we have no way of knowing how much of that goes toward lobbying.”

But shouldn’t someone know how much of our taxes go to lobbying in Topeka?

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