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Gay marriage advocates, business groups spend big on lobbying in 2013

Briana Bierschbach//June 18, 2013

Gay marriage advocates, business groups spend big on lobbying in 2013

Briana Bierschbach//June 18, 2013

The successful push to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota this year also turned out to be one of the most expensive lobbying efforts during the

Richard Carlbom, executive director of Minnesotans United for All Families (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

2013 session, with advocates and opponents spending nearly $2 million to try and influence legislators’ votes on the issue.

Minnesotans United for All Families, the anti-constitutional amendment campaign-turned lobbying group, spent about $1.6 million lobbying legislators to support gay marriage during the 2013 session, according to lobbyist disbursement reports submitted to the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board this week. The lead group lobbying against the change, Minnesota for Marriage, spent just a fraction of that, reporting just over $211,000 spent last session to convince legislators to vote “no.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Minnesotans United spent closer to $2 million on lobbying legislators this session. That could still be the case, as groups are not required to disclose individual lobbyist compensation until later in the year. That could increase total spending for Minnesotans United, which registered more than a dozen lobbyists to help with the effort to legalize gay marriage.

The state’s three largest pro-business groups also racked up big lobbying bills in 2013 — a total of about $1.86 million — as they fought proposed changes to the state’s tax system and other legislation. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce spent about $653,000 on lobbying in 2013, while the Minnesota Business Partnership hit about $535,000 in lobbying expenses this year. A third business group, Coalition of Minnesota Businesses, spent $671,000 on lobbying this session. That’s up from about $1 million in total spending for the three groups in 2011, the last budgeting year under Republican majorities.

But a DFL-controlled Legislature didn’t mean union groups got a free ride in 2013. In their push for the unionization of daycare and personal care attendant workers, AFSCME Council 5 and SEIU Healthcare spent more than $230,000 on lobbying last year. The bill was subject to two Republican filibusters, one in each chamber, before ultimately passing off the House floor with just hours to go until adjournment.

Teachers union Education Minnesota also spent about $659,000 on lobbying in 2013, considerably more than the roughly $201,000 the group spent during the 2011 budget year under GOP majorities. The union successfully pushed for more funding in the per-pupil education formula this year, and scored a victory in Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto of Teach for America funding, a program long-targeted by the union.

The state’s world-famous Mayo Clinic arguably got the best bang for their buck. Mayo lobbyists successfully pushed legislators to pass roughly $400 million state subsidy to pay for infrastructure surrounding a multi-billion dollar expansion of the clinic and surrounding area to create a “Destination Medical Center.”  The deal also puts the city of Rochester on the hook for $128 million of the total cost. The price tag for lobbying: about $121,000.

Lobbying against proposed gun violence prevention laws also saw an uptick in activity from the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist Chris Rager, who was paid more than $95,000 this year to push back against gun law changes. The NRA won that fight, with the so-called “Gun Violence Prevention Act” failing to reach the full House floor for a vote. That’s a big increase from 2012 under GOP majorities, when Rager took home only $378 from the group. On the opposite side of that issue, Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, part of Protect Minnesota, spent about $3,850 in 2013 to encourage legislators to support the gun law changes.

Lobbying on this issue may only intensify next session, with proponents of the change vowing to try again.

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