Lobbying Groups Spent $70 Million over Latest Legislative Session

Lobbying organizations in Wisconsin spent just under $8 million more on their efforts influencing policy in the 2017-18 session than they did the session prior, according to data submitted to the state’s Ethics Commission.

Initial figures reported Friday show nearly 800 lobbying organizations racked up about $70 million and the equivalent of about 15,585 days, or 43 years, of work attempting to sway the course of Wisconsin lawmakers and officials.

Lobbying organizations are required by state law to report the total amount of time and dollars spent directly communicating with lawmakers or state officials, as well as the time and money spent preparing and researching for communications affecting current or future areas of legislation.

The group that spent the most money lobbying Wisconsin lawmakers and officials over the last legislative session was the conservative Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business organization that has consistently been a top tier spender on elections and lobbying.

Over the 2017-18 session, the group spent about $1.4 million on its lobbying effort, largely consistent with the $1.3 million it spent in the 2015-16 session, when it also was the state’s top spender. The single largest piece of legislation the group was lobbying on over the 2017-18 session was a bill that would have made changes to the state’s workers compensation law.

The second-largest lobbying group over the latest session was the Wisconsin Hospital Association, which reported spending about $1.3 million, similar to the 2015-16 session, when it spent about the same amount and also clocked in as the second-biggest spender.

Most of the Hospital Association’s money gets spent on lobbying. It has an interest in influencing policy related to health care, insurance, taxes, medical education and mental health and psychiatric care, among other things. In the latest session, the single-largest topic the group lobbied on was Medicaid funding.