Government Size on the Rise? Lobbying a Telltale Sign

Here in North Carolina, lobbying is becoming a microcosm of our state’s government.  The number of lobbyists located in the state has steadily grown over the past fifteen years.  The question is why?

North Carolina defines lobbying as “influencing or attempting to influence legislative or executive action through direct communication or activities with a designated individual or that person’s immediate family.” So if a lobbyist’s goal is to influence legislative action, it is easy to assume that as government’s power increases, the rate of lobbying will do the same.

That seems to have been the case here.  In the past decade and a half, North Carolina has received a steady diet of regulation flowing from our state’s legislature, not to mention the massive growth of the state budget.  During this same time period lobbyists ranks have been growing , along with the statute book and budget, as demand for their services to push for special interests escalate.

Based upon information from the North Carolina Secretary of State, the data show that from 1995-2011 the number of lobbyists found in North Carolina grew by 57 percent. (The chart below reveals the annual breakdown.)

It must be acknowledged here that there have been numerous alterations to the requirements for lobbyists over the years. For instance, in 2007, SB 612, “Amend Lobby Laws,” increased registered lobbyists disclosure requirements. It also reduced the registration period from a bi-annual to an annual basis, bringing about annual renewal for all lobbyists.  Furthermore, the law required executive branch lobbyists to register, which had not previously been a requirement. The enactment of this law helps explain the spike in registered lobbyists in 2007.

Even with some of these technical changes to lobbyist registrations, the significant upward trend over time is instructive.

It is important to realize the correlation between the increase in lobbyists and government size.  The gradual increase in government’s size often goes unnoticed but when it is directly compared to another related factor (here, lobbyists), the increase is put into perspective.  Lobbyists and special interests respond to expansions of power and the dispensing of taxpayer dollars as well as political privileges. From the data below, it becomes clear that state lawmakers in North Carolina have demonstrated a willingness to engage in each of these activities.

Number of Lobbyists in NC

Year Number Of Lobbyists
1995-1996 609
1997-1998 657
1999-2000 608
2001-2002 677
2003-2004 644
2005-2006 790
2007* 1014
2008 949
2009 988
2010 920
2011 955
* SB 612 Enacted
This article was posted in Legislative Activity by Will Garvey on July 14, 2011 at 5:01 PM.

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