The Milwaukee Bucks spent more money lobbying the Wisconsin Legislature than any other organization during the first half of the year, as the NBA team was pushing for approval of a new basketball arena, a report released Friday showed.
The state elections board, which oversees lobbying, reported that the Bucks spent just over $482,000 on lobbying through June. The next highest was the Wisconsin Hospital Association at nearly $379,000 followed by the state chamber of commerce at nearly $349,000.
The Bucks’ lobbying paid off. The Legislature, on bipartisan votes, ultimately approved spending $250 million in taxpayer money on a new stadium for the team. Gov. Scott Walker signed the measure into law earlier this month.
The amount spent by the Bucks doesn’t include lobbying done on the arena bill in July, which is when it passed both the Senate and Assembly. Those figures will be reported in January.
The budget, which dominated legislative debate in the first half of the year and into mid-July before it was passed, elicited more than 48,500 hours of lobbying. That comes to 367 hours for each of the 132 lawmakers, or two hours each and every day from January through June for every member of the Legislature.
Hours of lobbying accounts for far more than just in-person arm-twisting and includes such things as research and outreach to the public.
The two most heavily lobbied topics within the budget were Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to change how medical assistance and long-term care services are delivered.
The first and third most-lobbied bills, outside of the budget, were Republican-backed Assembly and Senate measures to eliminate the prevailing wage law, which sets a minimum salary for construction workers on government projects.
Changes to that law were ultimately approved as part of the budget.
The second-most heavily lobbied bill outside the budget was one making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, where private-sector employees can’t be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment. The Legislature passed that in March, and Walker signed it into law.
Those three bills received 5,575 hours of lobbying time — or about 42 hours for each of the 132 lawmakers.
Overall, lobbying organizations spent $18.5 million through June. That is an increase of 9 percent over what was spent in the same time period in 2013, the last time a state budget was debated. Spending was still lower than the $23.9 million spent in 2011.
The total number of hours spent lobbying on all issues was 123,522, or 935 hours for each member of the Legislature. There were 598 lobbyists working for 718 registered lobbying firms.