Special interests spent $277 million lobbying in 2012 at state Capitol

SACRAMENTO -- California businesses and other special interests quickly learn that playing politics in the ornate chambers of California’s Capitol building is more like a barroom brawl than a civics lesson about how bills become laws.

Most days, businesses large and small dispatch squads of hired-gun lobbyists to vie for lawmakers’ attention and votes.

And that lobbying doesn’t come cheaply. Last year special interests reported spending $277.5 million on such advocacy, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Quiz: How much do you know about California’s economy?

Billions of dollars are up for grabs in a lobbying free-for-all for economic advantage, privilege and, sometimes, the public good. This year, 1,526 registered lobbyists stalk the halls and hearing rooms in the service of 2,410 clients.


The competition ratchets up starting Tuesday as legislative committees consider the first of 2,233 bills introduced before a Feb. 22 deadline.

The confrontations, though, aren’t limited to the statehouse. Advocates regularly show up in Sacramento at scores of boards and commissions that mull rules governing such diverse areas as milk prices and global warming.

“Everybody’s got a lobbyist. It ain’t pretty, but it’s democratic,” said Barry Broad, who represents labor unions. “For the interest groups that show up in Sacramento, their entire world is at stake. But for the rest of us, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what they’re fighting about.”


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