ST. PAUL -- Businesses and interest groups spent a record amount to influence Minnesota politics in 2001, according to an analysis of politically-related spending by a Hamline University professor.
Nearly $7.4 million was spent by or on lobbyists to influence action at the Legislature, and another $775,000 was spent to sway Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration, including regulatory agencies.
Hamline's David Schultz, a former head of the state's chapter of the watchdog group Common Cause, said issues at the Legislature, ranging from a proposed sales tax expansion to property tax reform, combined with a special Legislative session, may have driven the increase.
"It's not just a question that they went an extra six weeks," Schultz said. "People were really fighting hard over these issues."
Schultz sees tripartisan government as another cause, with interest groups having to work to influence a House, Senate and governor's office each controlled by different parties.
Broken down, the spending amounts to $36,770 per lawmaker -- more than their annual base salary of $31,000. The previous record was in 1997, when $6.4 million was spent lobbying the legislature.
The figures represent the money interest groups and businesses reported they spent to influence legislation and policies last year.
Schultz also examined how much money was raised by candidates and political parties and caucuses.
He found the most generous contributors to individual candidates weren't lobbyists, they were the donors themselves. Entrepreneur Brian Sullivan donated more than $952,000 last year to his unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican Party's endorsement to run for governor this fall.
His donation was the largest, but all of the top ten largest individual contributors were candidates donating to themselves.
Schultz also found a shift in the methods favored by donors to send money to politicians and parties.
The flow of money through so-called independent expenditures, which had been surging in recent years, slowed to a trickle in 2001.
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