Lobbyists trying to influence Massachusetts legislation on Beacon Hill raked in a record $64.3 million in 2006, as they plied their trade on issues ranging from education and insurance to tobacco and cable television, according to state Secretary William Galvin.
The millions in fees and salaries collected by the 568 lobbyists registered with the state reflects a dramatic increase in the amount of money flowing into Beacon Hill in recent years.
Last year, lobbysts collected $60.3 million. Just six years ago, lobbyists collected $47.7 million, an 11 percent jump from $43 million in 1999.
By 2002 that number had grown to $53.7 million, putting Massachusetts third in the nation behind much larger states California and New York in the amount of money spent on lobbying.
“It is a stunning statistic when you consider how little gets done,” Galvin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Obviously there’s a great amount of money being spent.”
The Commerce Insurance Company of Webster topped the list, spending $464,049 on lobbyists, followed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association ($449,267), the Life Insurance Association of Massachusetts ($309,730), Comcast Cable Corporation ($309,500), and Washington-based Altria Corporate Services ($295,748), the parent corporation of tobacco giant Philip Morris USA.
The amount spent on lobbying was less a factor of last years’ closely watched gubernatorial election and more a reflection of types of legislation being considered by lawmakers, Galvin said.
Insurers took a keen interest in activities at the Statehouse, including former Gov. Mitt Romney’s failed push for auto insurance deregulation, and the passing of the state’s landmark health care bill.
The teacher’s association was involved in the gay marriage fight and Comcast’s is a heavily regulated industry. Cigarettes and other tobacco-related issues have been a target of legislation and regulation for years.
The top lobbying firms in 2006, were Kearney, Donovan & McGee, who received $1,303,630 in fees and salary, followed by Holland and Knight ($1,243,038), Donoghue, Barrett and Signal ($1,152,300), the Brennan Group ($1,152,264), and O’Neill and Associates ($1,121,944)
Galvin said the reported numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg” of the actual lobbying that goes on at the Statehouse. As secretary of state, Galvin registers lobbyists, but he says he has little authority to pursue where the money goes.
“The laws the way they currently exist limit my ability to question what the money is being spent on,” Galvin said.
It’s unlikely that the level of spending on lobbying will drop dramatically as Gov. Deval Patrick begins to push through his new agenda and lawmakers gear up for a new legislative session.
Patrick has already said he will comprehensively review the state auto insurance system after the acting insurance commissioner on Friday suspended rules changes made in the system during the final weeks of the Romney administration.