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WASTE WATCH: Taxpayer Lobbyists

WASTE WATCH: Taxpayer Lobbyists

Stacy Case
Brentwood & Franklin

   When you think of lobbying, you probably envision a private company hiring lobbyists.  However,  there's something known as intergovernmental lobbying where city governments  actually hire lobbyists to sway votes in state and federal governments.
   It's going on right here in Tennessee and you're paying for it.  Every year, nearly 250 lobbyists are paid to influence policy on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.
    Joycelin Blackmun  had no idea she's paying for some of them saying, "It seems like a waste."
   Taxpayer funded lobbying, also known as intergovernmental lobbying, is gaining ground in Tennessee. 
      Right now, the cities of Franklin and Brentwood just voted to jointly hire a lobbyist with taxpayer money and split the annual cost of  $35 thousand dollars.    That's almost as much as what the average Tennessean makes in an entire year,  a little more than $42 thousand.
    Their new lobbyist is Debra Maggart, former state representative & Republican caucus chair. 
    Eric Stuckey,  Franklin's City Administrator says, without someone on the hill during the legislative session,  his city misses too many potential bills, "It's a realtively small amount that we think will help us be heard more effectively.  You look at the potential cost of one issue on impacting the community many many times over what we might spend in a year or two or three in getting these services."
    Some say this area is already well represented by those elected to do so.   Blackmun of Franklin asks with state representatives and senators already there, why would Franklin and Brentwood go outside to get somebody to get their point across?
    Stuckey answers, "Our legislators are a great resource and they do a trememndous job,  but they have a job to do.  So it's not always advocacy for our city's needs and they are one of a larger body."
     According to Americans for Prosperity, taxpayer fund lobbying to the tune of  $1 trillion a year.    Missouri Policy Analyst David Stokes studies taxpayer funded lobbying and write publications on the topic, "It's really a lose lose situation for taxpayers because if it's successful then government grows and government programs increase and taxes increase and if it fails it's been a total waste of money so in the end there's no good way to come out of it."
     Stokes points out when state governments listen to tax payer funded lobbyists expressing the will of the city government---  they only hear the will of government,  not the people.