Number of Cook County lobbyists, compensation kept growing in 2013
Lobbyists reported contacting Cook County officials less in 2013, yet the number of lobbyists and their compensation was higher than any year since online filing began, according to reports submitted to Clerk David Orr’s Lobbyist Online website. Lobbyists were paid more than $2.8 million in 2013, as they attempted to influence Cook County officials on issues including staffing in the 2014 budget, the down payment assistance program, fuel tax amendment, Section 8 and multi-family housing, a solid waste ordinance and the county’s land bank, according to the reports. The total 2013 compensation earned by the 190 registered lobbyists – working for 164 lobbying firms –was $2,821,103.57. The number of lobbyists dropped from 199 in 2012, while the number of companies who hired a lobbyist or had one on staff increased to 183, up from 147 in 2012 and 125 in 2011. “These reports show that the amount of money paid to lobbyists has been increasing each year, as has the number of companies using lobbyists,” Orr said. “This data, searchable by anyone including taxpayers, reporters and watchdogs, shines a light on just how pervasive lobbying activity is, as lobbyists contacted officials nearly 1,000 times about important issues that are of interest to their clients.” The five firms that earned the most compensation – a collective $1,725,250 – to lobby Cook County last year are: All-Circo Inc., $1,115,000; Fletcher, O’Brien Kasper, $204,500; Thomson Weir, LLC $168,000; Nicolay & Dart, LLC, $119,500, and Mary Kay Minaghan, $118,250 Lobbyists in Cook County earned $1,456,675.50 between January and June of 2013 and $1,364,428.07 from July to the end of the year. Compensation increased approximately 14 percent from 2012, when lobbyists were paid nearly $2.4 million for the whole year. It’s a 32 percent increase from 2011, when lobbyists’ compensation in Cook County totaled nearly $1.9 million. (See Chart 1) Lobbyists reported contacting county officials 434 times from July to December in 2013, down from 517 contacts in the first half of the year. The 961 reported contacts in 2013 is the fewest in any year since online reporting began. (See Chart 2) Businesses who paid for lobbyists included those in the fields of grocery and food services, beverages, tobacco, healthcare, pharmacies, and finance. The top-paying clients were: Noresco, an energy services firm that paid $165,000 to lobbyists in 2013; McLane Co. Inc., a food and beverage distributor that spent $168,000; Family Guidance Center, $120,000; and the American Beverage Association, $108,000. Lobbyists are required to file twice every year, in January and July. Lobbyist information can be found at the Clerk’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. Lobbyists paid $107,280 to register as lobbyists in Cook County in 2013. Registration fees and late fees are as follows: Sole proprietors pay $350 each year. Firms must pay $350 for the firm, plus $250 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. 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.