SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — More communities across Illinois are opting to pay big bucks to hire lobbyists to represent their interests in Springfield, according to a group that tracks the spending.
About 140 local government units in the state — half of which are municipalities — have outside help trying to influence policies in Springfield.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says the communities and public organizations spent a combined $4.7 million in 2010 on lobbyists. While more recent figures aren’t available, experts say the amount of money being spent by public bodies is increasing.
“A city may think they need to hire someone in order to get face time with the people in charge,” said ICPR Acting Director David Morrison.
That may be because the lawmakers elected to represent the community are from a different party as legislative leaders in Springfield. Or because redrawn legislative boundaries may split a city into several House and Senate districts.
City leaders in Normal voted this week to spend $36,000 a year to hire a former aide to Gov. Pat Quinn to represent the city in Springfield. John Kamis also was hired to attract more state money to the community.
McLean County spends about $7,500 a year on a lobbying contract with Anderson Consulting. County administrator Bill Wasson said it’s worth the expense.
“We can better react to bills that we believe are adversarial to county government,” he said.
But paying for a lobbyist doesn’t necessarily guarantee legislative success.
Gov. Pat Quinn has closed a state halfway house in Decatur and has considered closing an unemployment office in the community, even though Decatur officials spend about $30,000 a year for a lobbyist.
The ICPR says 15 public colleges and universities also had lobbying contracts, according to the 2010 data.