Governments Should Disclose Lobbying

Should units of government that lobby (or sue) the legislature for more of your money be able to hide their spending? That’s the question behind the Topeka Capital-Journal’s ongoing tussle with the school districts that sued the state.

An editorial in the Parsons Sun reminds us of the value of disclosure:


It all comes down to taxpayers’ right to know how elected officials are spending their money.

It’s a principle that’s been reinforced again and again – through laws allowing for public examination of records and through laws allowing for open debate on decisions.

A measure introduced last week in the House would require lobbyists who do work for government agencies or government associations to report how much each is paying them.

It’s an opportunity the Kansas Legislature should take advantage of in order to strengthen public oversight of government spending.

Currently, lobbyists must file reports periodically with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission detailing how much they’ve spent on meals, entertainment and the like and on whose behalf.

As a result, the public can search for school districts, cities, counties and groups to which their governmental entities belong to find out how much money lobbyists are spending on behalf of governmental entities.

While positive, this reporting does not tell taxpayers how much the government entities pay lobbyists.

Lobbyists work for all types of government entities.

Smaller towns, counties and school districts join coalitions and leagues with lobbyists, and a few smaller government entities even have lobbyists registered with the secretary of state on their behalf.

Examples of coalitions with lobbyists where taxpayer money pays dues for membership include the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas Association of School Boards, the League of Kansas Municipalities, Schools for Fair Funding and many more.

Several large- and medium-size cities, counties and school districts have registered lobbyists, including Topeka, Kansas City, Hutchinson, Johnson County, Hays, Dodge City, Blue Valley schools, Wichita schools, Olathe schools and that list, too, could go on.


At the least, the financial records of units of government should be easily accessible, obviously apparent, and released promptly.

Source: Tracking lobbyists, Parson Sun, March 2, 2007

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