Lobbyists Spent $13.9 Million As Assembly Met

Ethics Report Shows Slight Downturn From A Year Ago

August 04, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

Companies and special interest groups spent about $13.9 million on lobbying during the six-month period that included this year's General Assembly session, newly released figures from the State Ethics Commission show.

While overall spending fell slightly from the same period a year ago, when lobbying costs reached $14.6 million, several entities reported ramping up their lobbying presence despite the economic downturn as they worked to protect their interests in a volatile legislative session. The commission report covers companies and groups spending more than $50,000.

During the session that ended in April, lawmakers not only slashed parts of the state's budget, which benefits a range of interests from doctors to teachers, but waded into thorny issues affecting energy markets and the administration of the death penalty.

Joel D. Rozner ranked as the top-grossing lobbyist from November through April, logging $905,000 in compensation, ethics filings show. His clients included Electricite de France, which is trying to buy half of Constellation Energy Group's nuclear power business, and the Maryland Film Industry Coalition, which has sought state-funded incentives for producers, movie studios and networks that film here.

"From year to year, there are some businesses and groups that are always impacted by the General Assembly," Rozner said. "From their perspective, they can't afford not to have representation in Annapolis."

Among the top spenders was the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park horse track and has been embroiled in a legal battle with the state over its disqualified bid for a slot-machine license. It spent $390,000 on lobbying. Also, MedChi, the state medical society, and the Maryland Hospital Association, which have stakes in debates over Medicaid funding and legislation to crack down on Medicaid fraud that didn't pass, spent a combined $625,000.

CASA of Maryland, the state's largest immigrant advocacy group, doubled its spending on lobbying from a year earlier to nearly $156,000 as the group fought a new law that denies driver's licenses to anyone without proof of legal U.S. residency.

Marylanders for Restorative Justice, which opposes the death penalty, boosted its spending on lobbying by almost 50 percent to about $224,000 as the group sought a repeal of capital punishment that was backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley but failed to garner the necessary votes.

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