Lobbyists were paid nearly $1 million during the first half of 2011 as they attempted to influence Cook County officials, although the number of reported contacts dropped by nearly 10 percent, Clerk David Orr announced Monday.
The 178 active lobbyists in Cook County earned $924,136 and reported 632 lobbying contacts from January to June, down from 700 contacts during the last half of 2010, according to data released by Orr.
“From the activity reported, we know county officials were lobbied about the budget, the proposed closure of Oak Forest Hospital, contracts and more,” Orr said. “Some lobbyists are diligent in their reporting, but it appears too many fail to report all of their activity.”
Lobbyists are required to file twice a year, in January and July. Lobbyist information can be found at Orr’s Lobbyist Online website, where anyone can search by lobbyist or firm name, what they are lobbying about, who they lobbied and how much they were paid.
New this reporting period, Lobbyist Online now features a download tool that allows users to easily extract all lobbying reports into one Excel file. The data is displayed in three worksheets: agents, clients and activity.
“Analyzing lobbying in Cook County is easier than ever with this new tool,” Orr said. “It is another step to increase transparency in government.”
For example, 62 elected officials and high-ranking employees were lobbied. A dozen officials were lobbied more than 20 times. They are:
Larry Suffredin, Commissioner 13th District, (44)
Liz Doody Gorman, Commissioner 17th District (32)
Peter Silvestri, Commissioner, 9th District (32)
Tariq Malhance, Chief Financial Officer (28)
Joan Patricia Murphy, Commissioner 6th District (26)
Toni Preckwinkle, County Board President, (26)
John Fritchey, Commissioner 12th District (22)
Bridget Gainer, Commissioner 10th District (20)
Gregg Goslin, Commissioner 14th District (20)
Dan Patlak, Board of Review Commissioner (20)
Deborah Sims, Commissioner 5th District (20)
Robert Steele, Commissioner 2nd District (20)
A lobbying contact may include a phone call, meeting, email, letter, text message or event. The Cook County Farm Bureau, for example, reports every newsletter it mails to elected officials.
Lobbying firm All-Circo, Inc. topped the earnings list. They were paid $280,000 including $48,000 from Family Guidance Centers and $30,000 from Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. All-Circo’s lobbyists reported contacting Cook County officials on behalf of its nine clients only a half dozen times.
Compensation totaled $121,334 for Fletcher, O’Brien, Kasper, although no lobbying activity was reported on behalf of its clients: Advocate Healthcare, Wight & Company, Navistar, Inc., and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council.
Thomson Consulting, LLC rounded out the highest paid lobbying firms with compensation of $120,000. Its lobbyist, Michael Thomson, contacted county officials 34 times on behalf of its clients, McLane Company, Inc. and Illinois Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors.
In all, 18 lobbying firms reported earning $10,000 or more. Half of the 80 registered lobbying firms reported some compensation.
In 2010, lobbyists earned more than $2 million. They were paid $1,123,295 between January and June 2010, and $909,956 from July to the end of 2010.
About 125 companies hire a lobbyist or had a lobbyist on staff to lobby Cook County government. Those companies are based in Illinois and across the country, including Indiana,Michigan,New York,Massachusetts and Washington,D.C.
Five new firms registered as lobbyists, while five firms/sole proprietors terminated their lobbyist registration.
Some lobbying firms, including non-profits, lobby on their own behalf and therefore do not report any compensation. However, those firms may still spend money to lobby on meals, events, educational materials and more.
Political contributions totaling $7,040 were made by a handful of lobbyists or their firms, of which Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle received $1,750. Commissioner Peter Silvestri received $1,190 in contributions from lobbyists, while Commissioners Joan Patricia Murphy and Deborah Sims each received $900.
Two lobbying firms had not yet filed at the time of this release: McDonald’s Corp. and Conlon Public Strategies. The deadline to file was July 20. Late fees are two-tiered: $50 per day until the end of July; $150 per day starting Aug. 1.