City of Kirkland one of 68 public agencies named in PDC complaint

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) has formally filed complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) against sixty-eight public agencies, including the City of Kirkland, for failing to disclose the hiring of lobbyists with taxpayer dollars.

According to a letter to EFF supporters which a reader sent to us, the author claims that public agencies spent millions of dollars lobbying Olympia and then failures to properly disclose the use of public funds for these lobbyist activities. You can view the complaint against Kirkland by download this file: PDC Complaint Against Kirkland (PDF). The entire complaint is available at http://www.effwa.org/files/pdf/100726combined.pdf.

The EFF claims the named 68 public agencies should have disclosed the millions of dollars of public funds they spent on lobbying efforts in Olympia. If such disclosure was not made by so many public agencies, there may be a flaw in the system. Detractors of the EFF claim that it is unlikely that so many public agencies deliberately withheld information.

Excerpts from an Evergreen Freedom Foundation letter dated July 28, 2010:

When people think of lobbyists, they usually imagine big businesses buying off corrupt politicians. They probably don’t imagine government agencies hiring lobbyists to buy votes at the capitol. It sounds absurd—and it is—but here in Washington public agencies spend millions of our dollars every year hiring lobbyists.

Unfortunately, the flagrant use of tax dollars to lobby for bigger government is a growing problem. While conducting research for the Freedom Foundation’s just-released report detailing taxpayer-funded lobbying in Washington, I found that public agencies spent over $42 million on lobbying in the last decade. And with unreported lobbying, hidden administrative costs, employee benefits, and lobbying at the federal level, the true cost of government lobbying is much, much higher.

Not only do city governments, county governments, public utility districts, and other public agencies spend millions of dollars every year lobbying the state, sometimes they don’t even tell us about it.

What I discovered was that, while lobbyists were disclosing payments from public agencies, those same public agencies had failed to comply with public disclosure laws and report their use of public funds to hire lobbyists. As it turns out, public agencies have failed to disclose over $4.6 million worth of taxpayer-funded lobbying—and that’s just what I was able to identify by cross-checking reports filed by contract lobbyists with reports filed (or not filed) by public agencies.

The problem is actually worse, since many agencies, such as Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), pay in-house staff to lobby in lieu of hiring contract lobbyists. I discovered PSP’s failure to report its lobbying by happenstance. It is likely several other agencies fall into this category, but would be difficult to identify without manually reviewing bill testimony and agency correspondence.

Preston Mui, Intern Evergreen Freedom Foundation