Sunday, December 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Millions spent on political action just a drop in the bucket

walters column sig

By
From page A11 | February 12, 2014 |

Annual reports reveal that thousands of special-interest groups spent $177 million last year on lobbying the Legislature and other branches of state government.

That’s a lot of money, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of spending to influence political decisions – spending that is, in reality, a relative drop in the bucket.

One should add money for direct campaign contributions to candidates and ballot measure campaigns, “independent expenditures” on campaigns and other ancillary political action activities. The National Institute on Money in State Politics says more than $650 million was spent on campaigns in California in 2012, three-fourths of it on ballot measures.

It’s a drop in the bucket because the stakes are much, much higher, given that the governor, legislators, other elected officials and their appointees to myriad boards and commissions directly affect at least a half-trillion dollars each year.

For starters, the state budget, including special, bond and federal funds, is more than $200 billion a year. Kick in, roughly, at least $100 billion in insurance premiums regulated by the Department of Insurance and another $100 billion in utility rates at the Public Utilities Commission.

Then factor in about $50 billion in local property taxes and $20 billion in local sales taxes, all collected under rules set by an elected Board of Equalization, and the $500 billion mark is clearly visible. That’s about a quarter of the state’s entire economy, incidentally.

But that doesn’t count countless billions more in less tangible impacts – particularly on the many professions and businesses regulated by the state. Just one example: Health care is California’s largest single economic activity, more than $200 billion a year, and every aspect is regulated by the state, including the Legislature’s minute control over which medical practitioner can perform which procedure on which part of the human body.

The largest lobbyist employer last year, the Western States Petroleum Association, illustrates that aspect. It spent $4.7 million, principally to affect regulation of hydraulic fracturing to exploit California’s shale oil, the nation’s largest deposits.

The outcome was more oversight than the industry wanted but not enough to stop drilling that’s potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars. If the oil industry is a big winner after spending just $4.7 million, it’s an investment that will pay off very handsomely.

It’s the unspoken cost-benefit equation in every decision to hire a lobbyist, make a campaign contribution or launch a public-relations campaign, whether by the oil industry, a public-employee union, an insurance company or a public-works contractor.

The cost is simply a tiny fraction of the potential gain or loss.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him as dwalters@sacbee.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Shining bright for all to see: Locals deck out yards, homes

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
The Salvation Army serves 1,000-plus across 2 days

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

Blue Christmas service offers reflection, hope

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
Time for annual Solano County quiz

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Bevy of holiday activities at Western Railway Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
State Fair scholarship applications available

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Get tested, know your status

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: C4

 
 
New development fees start Jan. 1 in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Free New Year’s celebration slated

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
A word of warning for Senator Warren

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7, 10 Comments

 
New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

By Tanya Perez | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Sky-high price has VA rationing hep C drug

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Air Force admits nuke flaws, but will fixes work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
 
Design of Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier OK’d

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Officials: Missing dog was dyed to deceive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Immigrants build document trails to remain in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California officer kills teen after machete attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
4 teens die in fiery head-on crash in Pennsylvania

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

2 dozen injured in southern Indiana bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

2 car bombs rock southern Sweden’s city of Malmo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bombings kill 12 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Panama’s Noriega in prison 25 years post-invasion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Burying the dead after Pakistan’s school massacre

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
A chance to breach divide for young in Cuba and US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Season’s greetings from the Obamas

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

New school finance strategy lacks accountability

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

 
Sound off for Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 4 Comments

 
Why celebrate Christmas?

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3, 2 Comments

Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Should I ask grandson why we weren’t included in wedding photos?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

Review: ‘Five’ by Ursula Archer is intriguing

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Publisher hopes to sell books through Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Chris Colfer has multi-book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

New Giants 3B McGehee eager to play back home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Interim coaching jobs present challenges in bowls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders place cornerback Brown on injured reserve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

No. 11 Lady Vols trounce No. 7 Stanford 59-40

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Eagles near elimination, fall 27-24 to Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Big moves bring big hope for Chicago baseball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US skier Nyman wins Gardena downhill for 3rd time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Vonn wins women’s World Cup downhill in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Business

 
Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

On the money: 4 ways to hold on to your cash when renting a car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Recalls this week: Bean bag chairs, toy monkeys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Obituaries

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Perry Michael Smetts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Luzdivina B. Banks

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Arnold Howard Evans

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Anthony Hanson Elder

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Barbara Jean Bidstrup Braker

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics