Lobbyists paid $1.9 million in Cook County last year
Lobbyists were paid $1.9 million in 2011 as they attempted to influence Cook County officials on issues including the budget, pension reform, and taxes on tobacco, alcohol and amusements, according to reports submitted to Clerk David Orr's Lobbyist Online website. Lobbyists contacted officials nearly 1,200 times in 2011 about important issues facing the people of Cook County, Orr said. This searchable data is a valuable resource for watchdogs and reporters who want to dig deeper to connect the role of lobbying to decision-making. The 199 registered lobbyists in Cook County earned $824,136 between January and June and $950,034 from July to the end of the year. Compensation dropped about 8 percent from 2010, when lobbyists were paid just more than $2 million. Lobbyists reported contacting county officials 560 times from July to December, down from 632 in the first half of 2011 and 700 during the last half of 2010. More than 250 lobbying contacts were reported during this filing period by the Cook County Farm Bureau, who set an example of the type of detailed reporting expected but rarely provided by other lobbyists. The budget and various taxes -- property, sales, tobacco and alcohol -- were lobbied on more than any other issues. Sixty-nine County officials, including every Cook County Commissioner, were contacted (Persons Lobbied List). Nine officials were contacted 20 times or more. Lobbyists are required to file twice every 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. For the second year, lobbyists paid registration fees online, which resulted in an increase in fees collected. Lobbyists paid nearly $75,000 to register as lobbyists in Cook County, up 50 percent from an average annual collection of $50,000 prior to online filing. Since reports have been published online, more firms have reported having multiple lobbyists. Registration fees and late fees are as follows: Sole proprietors pay $350 each year. Firms must pay $350 for the firm, plus $350 for each lobbyist associated with the firm. Non-profits pay $350 for the non-profit organization, but are not required to pay $350 for each lobbyist. Late fees are two-tiered: $50 per day until the end of January; $150 per day starting Feb. 1. Forty-three of the 94 firms and sole proprietors active for at least part of 2011 reported earning compensation (2011 Lobbyist Compensation chart). The number of companies who hired a lobbyist or had one on staff grew from 125 to 147. Those companies are based in Illinois and in states across the country, including Ohio, Missouri, California, New York and Washington, D.C. Advocate Healthcare ($125,000) and Noresco, LLC ($110,000) paid lobbyists the most in 2011 to influence Cook County officials (2011 Compensation by Clients chart). 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. Fourteen new firms or sole proprietors registered as lobbyists since August, while eight firms/sole proprietors terminated their lobbyist registration during the same time period. Four lobbying firms and one sole proprietor had not yet filed at the time of this release: Blue Star Energy; Jeffries & Company Inc.; McDonald's Corp.; Kim Morreale; and Raymond James & Associates, Inc. The deadline to file was Jan. 20. Late fees are two-tiered: $50 per day until the end of January; $150 per day starting Feb. 1. All lobbying reports can be extracted into one Excel file using a download tool at Lobbyist Online. The data is displayed in three worksheets: agents, clients and activity.