The state’s public agencies last year spent more than $6 million in taxpayer money on lobbyists, a new report shows.

EDITORS: EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:01 A.M. THURSDAY, MAY 20

The state’s public agencies last year spent more than $6 million in taxpayer money on lobbyists, a new report shows.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s annual survey of local governments and public agencies found that 119 governmental units spent $6.36 million on more than 80 lobbying firms in fiscal 2009, which ended June 30.

That amount is up slightly from the year before, and is 23 percent higher than in fiscal 2007 — the first year the group surveyed agencies’ lobbyist spending.

“It’s important for the public to know how much their governments are spending on contract lobbyists and what those lobbyists are doing to influence state government,” said Cynthia Canary, director of ICPR, in a release. “Because those contracts and invoices are public documents, we do know who is getting paid and how much. In some cases, we also can learn a little about the issues they are trying to affect.”

The Prairie Capital Convention Center spent $12,664 on lobbyists last year, all with Zack Stamp Ltd., a Springfield law practice that serves as corporate attorney for some of the leading businesses in the area. That’s about $200 more than what the center spent last year.

Brian Oaks, general manager of the center, said the PCCC pays into the Civic Center Coalition, which hires a lobbyist to keep track of legislation pertinent to 11 civic centers and arenas around the state.

Most notably, Oaks said, Zack Stamp Ltd. helped secure $25 million in appropriations for the center via the state’s capital construction plan that was approved last year.

In the coming year, Oaks said Springfield’s bill will drop by nearly $10,000 while still receiving the same services.

“Basically, Rockford and Springfield (the two biggest coalition members) were paying the lion’s share, and we went to the coalition and asked them to spread out the payments more evenly and there was general agreement,” Oaks said.

The survey found that the city of Springfield and the Springfield Metropolitan Sanitary District cut back on their lobbyist spending.

The city, which spent $15,000 on lobbyists in fiscal 2008, spent $10,000 through William S. Foster in 2009. And the sanitary district, which spent $24,700 in fiscal 2008, paid $22,722 to Springfield-based Dorgan-McPike & Associates last year.

Elsewhere, the Chicago Transit Authority represented the year’s biggest spender, having coughed up more than $385,000 to hire six lobbyist firms.

The CTA, DuPage County, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Metra and the City Colleges of Chicago represented the top five, spending a total of $1.3 million, or more than 20 percent of the total lobbyist costs identified.

The report did not track private business lobbyist costs; that information is not public record.

“The public should also know what the private sector is spending to lobby state government, but the state’s lobbyist laws keep that information hidden from public view,” Canary said.

The Campaign for Political Reform further recommends the state strengthen enforcement of its lobbying laws by making all lobbyists disclose contracts and earnings, and by requiring organizations to disclose expenses and salaries of all in-house lobbyists.

Brian Feldt can be reached at 782-6292.