Skubick: Why lobbyists are willing to foot the bill at meal time


 In the first seven months of this year Lansing lobbyists have spent over $428,000 on the wining and dining of state lawmakers.

That averages out to about $61,000 a month.

When the state’s 148 lawmakers are in town they do more than just vote on legislation.  

They also eat and drink and often times lobbyists pick up the tab.

Outside the House and Senate chambers is where lobbyists congregate to talk with lawmakers about pending lawmakers, but they also meet away from the television cameras in private at local bars and restaurants.

And the Michigan Campaign Finance Network has tracked the spending of $428,000 in the last seven months.and found this:

(1) 16 Lawmakers: $1000 or more
(2) 35 Lawmakers: $500
(3) 4 Lawmakers: $2000
(4) There’s a link to Power

Since lobbyists want to influence decisions, they gravitated to lawmakers with the most power to do that.

Craig Mauger with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network says “so they want to talk to the lawmakers that have the most power.”

Among local lawmakers, Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. got $966 in free food.

It was $746 in freebies for Senator Rick Jones.

The House Democratic leader Sam Singh got $639 and Rep. Tom Cochran got $124.

For the average citizen who can not afford an lobbyist, Mr. Mauger suggests, the lobbyists’ voice may be louder than yours.

“It leaves the people who are regular citizens at a disadvantage compared to those who are able to hire a lobbyist and get this free time and buy the meals.”

Lawmakers will tell you lobbyists are not buying votes with the free food.

But Mr. Mauger suggests what they do receive is access to lawmakers when they need it.

“Lobbyists say they are building a relationship,” explains Mauger. “That’s why the do it.”

And so far this year relationship building has cost over $428,000.

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