ESPC Header

Why Wyoming Needs
Complete Lobbyist Reporting

BACK Bring Lobbying Expenses into the Sunshine
The Center for Public Integrity
Download this Report (106KB pdf)

     Last June 30, when the annual lobbyist spending reports were due, only 10% of the 447 lobbyists registered in Wyoming had to file a report. The other 90% were acting perfectly legally: Wyoming's lobbyist reporting law requires reporting of only a slice of actual lobbying expenditures, thereby presenting a selective and biased picture of lobbying activity in Cheyenne.

What the Current Law Requires

     The 1998 Legislature ended Wyoming's dubious distinction of being the only state in the Union that did not require lobbyists to report any of their spending when it enacted a lobbyist reporting bill.
     Unfortunately, the new law did not require lobbyists to report all the expenditures they (and their employers) make in their efforts to influence our elected lawmakers.
     The law requires reporting of only:
  1. the lobbyist's "sources of funding" (i.e., who pays them);
  2. "loans, gifts, gratuities, special discounts or hospitality" exceeding $50 in value;
  3. the cost of special events held for legislators; and
  4. the cost of advertising to influence legislation (without any definition of what that might be).

What We're Missing

     The paltry 10% of lobbyists filing reports with these types of spending (and several of these were duplicate reports from lobbyists for the same group) demonstrates the reporting law's shortcomings.
     Many of the most influential lobbyists, who are at the Capitol full-time during the legislative session (and also attend interim committee meetings), legally report absolutely nothing. However, their employers/clients obviously are spending a considerable sum to post a lobbying presence.
     Consider these examples of lobbyists reporting no expenses under the current law:
  1. A lobbyist with 14 accounts (12 out-of-state), including: Philip Morris and Kraft Foods (tobacco); BP/Amoco; Shell; Marathon; Triton Coal; CMS Field Services; AT&T; Verizon; Miller Brewing; BlueCross-BlueShield of Wyoming; and the Wyoming Credit Union League.
  2. Another lobbyist with 14 accounts (8 out-of-state), including: Arch Coal; Kennecott Energy; Powder River Coal; Triton Coal; Missouri River Energy; Questar; Burlington Resources; Lincoln Electric Systems; North American Power Group; Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad; and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
  3. Yet another lobbyist with 11 accounts (9 out-of-state), including: ChevronTexaco; Brown and Williamson (tobacco); Anheuser-Busch; Coca Cola; General Motors; Burlington Northern Santa Fe; Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing; AFLAC (insurance); and Corrections Corporation.

     Consider also the example of the ESPC itself, which spent $10,000 on its lobbying efforts during the 2003 session, but legally reported nothing because it did not hold a reception, give gifts, or advertise to influence legislation.
     If there is a $10,000 gap between reportable and actual spending for a small nonprofit like the ESPC, imagine the gap for a global energy corporation such as BP North America!
     Moreover, while penalties for violation of the law are specified, there are no enforcement provisions.
Why Reporting is Important

     Because we can't all sit down together in a giant town meeting to make our governmental decisions, we elect representatives to make decisions on our behalf.
     Electing lawmakers is a public process. Wyoming currently has excellent campaign finance reporting requirements, under which candidates report all the money they receive for campaigns and how it is spent.
     Beginning with the 2004 election, campaign finance reports will be made a week prior to the election as well as afterward, so voters can see- before casting their ballots-where their candidates got their campaign funds.
     Wyomingites are entitled to this same high level of public reporting lobbyists' spending. Why should the reporting stop once candidates are elected to office and actually making decisions affecting our lives?
     This is particularly important because of Wyoming's part-time Legislature. Individual legislators do not have staffs, so they rely heavily on lobbyists for information.
     Some opponents of lobbyist reporting perceive it as an accusation that legislators are taking money under the table. This is not the case.
     But the short, intense legislative sessions mean making lots of decisions with the information available. Thus it's the presence of the lobbyists - not their presents - that makes a difference, and why it's important for the public to see what it takes to post a presence when the state legislature meets in Cheyenne.

What Other States Do

     Other western states surrounding Wyoming require much more lobbyist disclosure. Nebraska, Colorado and Montana require complete reporting of all expenditures related to lobbying activity, including lobbyist compensation.
     Idaho requires reporting of all expenses for entertainment (including food and beverages), advertising, travel and lodging for public officials, and office expenses. South Dakota simply requires reporting of all costs incurred for lobbying except the lobbyist's personal expenses and compensation.
     Wyoming's limited reporting requirements puts it at 49th among the 50 states for its lobbyist reporting, according to a national study conduced by the Center for Public Integrity (see box on page 2).
     Only Pennsylvania, with no lobbyist reporting for its House of Representatives (due to a recent court decision), fell lower.

Why Don't We Have Complete Lobbyist Reporting?

     Complete lobbyist reporting historically has been opposed primarily by Wyoming's mineral industries and by professional lobbyists who work for more than one client.
     They argue that complete reporting would be burdensome and unfair - for example, that some lobbyists live in Cheyenne while others from out of town have to stay in motels, so complete reporting would make it look like some lobbyists spend more than others.
     Some do. The point is simply to show the people of Wyoming what lobbying interests are willing and able to spend to field a lobbyist (or lobbyists) at the Wyoming Legislature.
     Lobbyists for nonprofits, trade organizations and corporations already must keep track of lobbying expenses to comply with tax laws.
     Ironically, some corporate lobbyists who say complete reporting in Wyoming would be too difficult work with company counterparts in other states with full reporting laws!




ESPC Home | Contact ESPC | Contribute to ESPC

www.equalitystate.org
Equality State Policy Center