Lobbying the Maryland Legislature (2017)

Lobbying expenditures grew by a staggering 40% among the top 10 paying employers.

Report analyzing the lobbying activity during Maryland’s 2017 legislative session

Different Kinds of Industries, Same Kinds of Expenditures

Common Cause Maryland released this report analyzing the lobbying activity during Maryland’s 2017 Legislative Session. Our research found that lobbying expenditures stayed relatively stable, with the primary employers spending a total of almost $19 million. However, new employers and industries emerged, continuing to pour large sums of money into lobbying efforts to promote their agendas.

Lobbying expenditures grew by a staggering 40% among the top 10 paying employers. Industry spending on statewide environment and utility/energy issues skyrocketed, largely driven by the debate on fracking legislation. Industry spending on statewide health issues dropped, marking a potential shift in focus to national health issues following a tumultuous election year.

The amounts received by lobbyists this session remained pretty consistent, with the 110 lobbyists earning over $50,000, for a cumulative total of $28 million. Interestingly, the total amount that employers spent on lobbying decreased by 4.5% this session, yet the total that employers spent on lobbyists increased by 1.1%.

Susan Radov, a Summer Research Associate for Common Cause Maryland who produced the report, remarked: “It is troubling when employers spend millions of dollars to be heard by our General Assembly. Everyday people cannot compete with that type of spending, and risk their voice being drowned out.”

“Yet while businesses, yet again, spent tremendous amounts of money on lobbying efforts, it is reassuring that big spending did not always translate to big victories by these employers.”

Common Cause Maryland synthesizes lobbying data provided twice a year by the State Ethics Commission, examining the leading employers’ full expenditures and target issues. The ethics report lists employers that reported at least $50,000 in lobbying expenses, as well as lobbyists who reported at least $50,000 in lobbying income, from November 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017. In this 2017 report, CCMD analyzed the list and categorized 200 employers into 29 broad industry categories.

“Overall, lobbying activities remained fairly consistent. But it is interesting to see new players and tactics that cropped up this year in Annapolis.”

Takeaways from Top Ten Employers & Lobbyists

  • The American Petroleum Institute (API) replaced the Maryland Hospital Association as the highest paying employer of 2017, marking a drastic change from last year, where API did not even pay to play;
  • Due to API’s targeted radio and print ads in opposition to the Fracking Ban Bill, spending within the environmental industry rose from 19th to 2nd place for industry expenditures;
  • Several employers’ lobbying expenditures shrank, as issues faded to the background this session. Former top contributors, such as telecom and transportation, fell in the ranks, and certain firms, such as Expedia, did not even make the list the year;
  • The education industry became the 6th highest paying industry, underscoring the continued policy friction between the administration and the state’s education unions;
  • The Lexington National Insurance Corporation, which deals with the bail bond industry, spent 130% more than they did last year. These expenditures highlight the intensity of the bail bonds reform debate, as first reported by CCMD in our January “Pay to Play” press release;
  • Contention over diversifying the medical marijuana program in Maryland catapulted new employers into the $50,000 and over list. Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association and Holistic Industries LLC spent a total of $135,662 on lobbying efforts;
  • Gerard Evans, Bruce Bereano, and Timothy Perry remain the three highest paid lobbyists in the Annapolis legislative scene, garnering well over $1 million for their lobbying efforts;
  • Lisa Harris Jones, the fourth highest paid lobbyist, was the only woman in the top 10 lobbyists list and was one of only three women in the top 30, a troubling trend given Annapolis’ reputation as an “old boys’ club.”

For More Information

Common Cause Maryland’s 2017 Post-Session Lobby Data, including top 10 lists and comparisons to last year’s spending, are attached

The State Ethics Commission’s 2017 Post-Session Lobby Data is available here.