One of my biggest pet peeves that I have yet to write about is this – I hate tax-payer funded lobbying with a passion. I don’t understand why the Iowa Legislature doesn’t address this. Invariably when ever I, as a private citizen, have engaged in grassroots lobbying I tend to always find these people working against me being paid from our taxes.

Here are (some of) the offenders along with the number of registered lobbyists they have at the statehouse. This information can also be found here.

  • Alcoholic Beverages Division – 2
  • Area Education Agencies of Iowa – 2
  • Iowa State Auditor – 1
  • Broadlawns Medical Center (Polk County’s Public Hospital) – 6
  • Cedar Rapids Airport – 1
  • City of Ames – 1
  • City of Cedar Falls – 1
  • City of Cedar Rapids – 3
  • City of Coralville – 3
  • City of Des Moines – 5
  • City of Dubuque – 3
  • City of Iowa City – 1
  • City of Waukee – 3
  • City of West Des Moines – 3
  • Clarke County Reservoir Commission – 1
  • Iowa Department of Administrative Services – 1
  • Des Moines Area Community College – 1
  • Des Moines Area International Airport – 5
  • Des Moines Public Schools – 2
  • Des Moines Water Works – 9
  • Eastern Iowa Community College District – 2
  • Governor’s Office  – 1
  • Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy – 2 (one is the director)
  • Hawkeye Community College – 2
  • Indian Hills Community College – 1
  • Iowa Attorney General – 2
  • Iowa Board of Educational Examiners – 3
  • Iowa Board of Medicine – 1
  • Iowa Board of Nursing – 3
  • Iowa Board of Parole – 3
  • Iowa Board of Pharmacy – 1
  • Iowa Central Community College – 5
  • Iowa Civil Rights Commission – 2
  • Iowa College Student Aid Commission – 2
  • Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service – 1
  • Iowa Communications Network – 2
  • Iowa Dental Board – 2
  • Iowa Department for the Blind – 1
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture – 1
  • Iowa Department of Corrections – 2
  • Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs – 1
  • Iowa Department of Education – 9
  • Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals – 2 (one is the director)
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources – 2
  • Iowa Department of Public Defense – 2
  • Iowa Department of Public Health – 2
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety – 1
  • Iowa Department of Revenue & Finance – 1
  • Iowa Department of Transportation – 2
  • Iowa Department on Aging – 3
  • Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board – 2
  • Iowa Insurance Division – 5
  • Iowa Judicial Branch – 3
  • Iowa Lottery Authority – 2
  • Iowa Public Television – 2
  • Iowa State Fair – 5
  • Iowa State Treasurer’s Office – 2
  • Iowa Utilities Board – 4
  • Iowa Valley Community College District – 2
  • Iowa Western Community College – 3
  • Iowa Workforce Development – 3
  • IPERS – 1
  • Juvenile Detention Coalition of Iowa – 2
  • Kirkwood Community College – 2
  • Linn County Board of Supervisors – 3
  • North Iowa Community College – 2
  • Northeast Iowa Community College – 3
  • Northwest Iowa Community College – 2
  • Office of Consumer Advocate – 2
  • Office of Ombudsman – 2
  • Office of Polk County Treasurer – 1
  • Office of Chief Information Officer – 1
  • Polk County Board of Supervisors – 4
  • Public Employment Relations Board – 1
  • South Western Community College – 8
  • Southeastern Community College – 1
  • Western Iowa Tech Community College – 2

It’s not difficult to see why the budget keeps growing year after year. A couple clarifications…. I understand why municipalities and school districts would have lobbyists as they need to keep watch for unfunded mandates that the state likes to place on them. That said they do have associations they are a part of that lobbies on their behalf so isn’t that overkill? I also understand that a number of these lobbyists are just under contract to lobby and are not full-time employees.  Also, I recognize that the state department and agency lobbyists (legislative liaisons) don’t lobby year round and have other duties.

My opinion is that, at the very least, the Iowa executive branch departments and agencies should not have lobbyists. Sure they need to have people who can go answer questions during subcommittee and committee hearings, but they should not be allowed to lobby for or against bills.  Ultimately the Governor is their advocate as he can veto or sign legislation (perhaps they need to lobby him).

Instead “we the people,” who have very few lobbying on our behalf, get fleeced by taxpayer-funded lobbyists who ask for more taxpayer money on behalf of their taxpayer-funded department or agency.

9 comments
  1. Some others include ad hoc and formal consortiums of county supervisors and agencies. In Scott County two Republican Supervisors lobbied in support of higher gas taxes, if not against interests of Iowa retailers, who enjoy business from Illinois, Iowa consumers. There is also the rampant indirect lobbying from the pulpit so to speak, in sessions with remarks advocating other agencies of government be lobbied by citizens for a particular policy change favored by that legislator or body of elected officials.

  2. There is also the seediness of AFSCME “encouraging” public employees to use personal leave days, if not (wink/ nod) sick days to lobby the state legislature. This is disruptive of management and services to the public.

  3. You don’t know what you’re talking about. There are more agencies than you have listed. And there is a reason that they are called legislative liaisons and not lobbyists. They interface with legislators when legislators need information from or about that agency, not just on pieces of legislation. They also collect information for the agency to respond to Fiscal Note requests when LSA is gathering financial information on particular legislation.
    Do you even understand how the bill and budget process works for agencies? It all starts in the summer, and it all has to go through the governor’s office. Nothing is introduced in the legislature by an agency without the permission of the governor’s office. No agency can ask for anything unless the governor allows it. All agency legislation is vetted by the governor’s office. All agency budgets go through and come from the governor’s office.
    An agency’s bill is often technical corrections to the Code that have been noted during the past year because of specific situations that have arisen during agency business. Perhaps the code language is inadequate or outdated, or maybe the agency’s attorney general has recommended code language change. Sometimes, an agency will offer a second policy bill if they want to introduce new code language with a new concept. Both concepts are legitimate topics for lobbying. In this case, lobbying simply means explaining to legislators why the change is needed. An agency director has to register as a lobbyist in order to talk to legislators about his or her agency’s bill. Lobbying is not always a bad thing.
    Few legislative liaisons spend all session at the capitol. They monitor legislation, because there are a lot of bills that affect all state agencies, or even particular ones. But most liaisons have regular job duties back in the office, too, because they wear many hats in their agency, especially if their agency is small. The governor’s office couldn’t begin to represent all of the state agencies on every bill — it would just be impossible with only one liaison from the governor’s office. They monitor the appropriations process for their agency, even though they know what the governor has recommended in the budget. The House and Senate sometimes have different opinions on their budget recommendations, and so it is necessary to monitor what the budget subcommittees are doing so the agency knows how much money it is going to have in future fiscal years (sometimes there’s some education about FTEs or programs that the agency can provide, but it is information, not lobbying). Sometimes they get involved in negotiations with other stakeholders that amount to compromises on complex issues in legislation, that may result in amendments. In all of these things, they are serving the public interest. The public always is at the forefront of what government employees, especially liaisons, are doing.
    I know this because I’ve seen this process from different angles. I was an LSA drafter for more than 8 years, and worked with many liaisons. And I’ve now been a liaison myself for almost 6 years (a small part of my job duties). My husband has been a liaison (in addition to his primary job duties) for 2 different agencies for many years.
    I’m writing this on my own time, by the way. But I really feel it necessary to put some accurate information out there. Please don’t write about something when you really don’t know the topic.

    1. I appreciate the feedback. I expressed an opinion, one with which you disagree. I know you guys work year round, I said as much.

      Did I say you submitted anything without approval of the Governor? No, I sure hope agencies wouldn’t. I understand the need to have someone answer questions for legislators, I think that is legitimate. My beef is with agencies registering in favor or in opposition of bills. My beef, and I have experience with this, is being lobbied against by a Department.

      “The public always is at the forefront of what government employees, especially liaisons, are doing.”

      I’m sure that is true for you. There’s no way you can possibly say that for everyone who does what you do. That is an opinion, not a fact.

      1. You implied that all communication should occur through the governor’s office, or rather, through the governor’s one liaison, which is impossible. What I was attempting to educate you about was that liaisons are part of coordinated communications strategy that is controlled by the governor’s office. Your “beef” is that departments register on bills? Well, that is controlled by the governor’s office, too. An agency is allowed to register “For” its own bill because that bill has already been approved by the governor’s office. Any other legislation, the agency must register as just monitoring unless specifically approved by the governor’s office to register “For” or “Against” (and that requires detailed discussion). If an agency takes a position on a bill, it is, in effect, as if the governor’s office is taking a position on the bill. Agencies are not allowed to go rogue.

        If you had a bad experience being lobbied against by a department, the answer is not to condemn lobbying by all public entities. That’s not a mature response.(Especially if you’re not telling the whole story, and you’re just asking us to trust you that it was somehow unfair.) By the way, my position and others are not even funded by tax dollars. You have to do a deep dive into the budget and the code to look at the source of funding for each agency. My agency is funded by feeing industry for the costs of operation. We receive a spending authority through the appropriations process, and have consistently spent less than we have been allotted. There are other agencies which are similar. Not every agency receives general fund dollars. So the term “taypayer-funded lobbyist” isn’t even technically accurate for some liaisons, including me.

        You’ve presumed guilt and bad behavior (accusing liaisons of fleecing taxpayers, for example) when you don’t know any of them personally, and you don’t really understand what they do, why they do it, or how they do it. I was trying to illuminate some of that for you, to show that your presumption of bad faith was wrong. Does your presumption of bad faith also extend to the governor, who ultimately must approve all the agency action before it can occur? Where does your hatred of government end? Does any of it have a rational basis?

    2. Regarding the number of agencies. I was just going down through the list of agencies that have registered lobbyists on the Iowa Legislature’s websites. I am fully aware there are more agencies and departments than this.

      1. No, you didn’t even list all the agencies with registered lobbyists. Not all state agencies begin with “Iowa”. It’s more nuanced than that. But that’s ok.

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