Editorial: Taxpayers pick up the tab for lobbying

Published Jul 26, 2013 at 05:00AM

Oregonians may not have been aware of it, but they put nearly $2 million toward lobbying the Legislature this year. In fact, of the top 10 legislative lobbying efforts, eight were financed either by government unions or government agencies.

Numbers from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission show that Oregon Health & Science University spent the most, more than $324,000, on lobbyists during the 2013 legislative session. The Oregon Education Association and the Oregon American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council came in at numbers 2 and 3, spending some $571,614 between them.

Others in the top 10 included the League of Oregon Cities, the City of Portland, the Oregon Public Employees Union, the Special Districts Association of Oregon and the Service Employees International Union Local 503. Only Altria, the parent company of tobacco company Phillip Morris, and the Oregon Nurses Association were not somehow directly linked to government.

Clearly, government unions and government agencies themselves had a huge stake in what went on in Salem this spring. There was reform to the Public Employees Retirement System pension program, for one. That alone had an impact not only on unionized public employees but on nearly every government entity in Oregon, from the state itself down to the Winchester Bay Sanitation District.

The state budget was another huge item for AFSCME, SEIU and OEA employees, as well.

The governor’s office, meanwhile, sought money for Gov. John Kitzhaber’s education and health programs and worked hard on PERS reform, among other issues. And so on. All of which is well and good, if ironic.

Ironic because, in the end, it’s the citizens of Oregon who indirectly pick up the tab for all these efforts at persuasion. We’re not asked to sign checks for lobbyists, of course, but our taxes keep city halls open, pay teacher salaries, even keep the governor’s office running. And when they lobbied, they used our tax money to do so, whether we agreed with them or not.