Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyist Transparency

The Facts:

Contract lobbyists are hired by:

  • Cities
  • Counties
  • School Districts
  • Taxpayer Funded Associations

 

The Problem:

Lobbyists contracted by local governments are not subject to open records laws.

Sometimes, the positions taken by taxpayer funded lobbyists are not in the best interest of the taxpayers.

 

ITR Solution:

Contract lobbyists paid with taxpayer dollars and associations of local government hiring lobbyists should be subject to the same open records laws as public employees.

 

Work Left to Do:

Contact legislators and remind them not to forget taxpayers when funding the desires of government.

Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyists

Are they really working in your best interest?

 

Did you know your property tax dollars are used to lobby legislators? Not only this, but you may never know exactly what taxpayer-funded lobbyists are promoting. Holding local elected officials accountable for the efforts of their lobbyist is difficult, particularly when they work with legislators behind the scenes.

 

Many cities, counties, and school districts hire lobbyists. Other lobbyists are hired through associations and organizations like the Iowa League of Cities. Dues for, and training through these organizations, are paid for with your property tax dollars. It’s challenging to determine exactly how many property tax dollars are funding lobbying because the communications between local governments and their lobbyists are not transparent.

If property tax dollars are paying for lobbying activities, taxpayers deserve to know exactly how that money is being used.

Lobbyists who are contracted by cities and counties are not subject to open records laws. If a city or county hires an employee to lobby, that employee would be subject to open records laws, but a contract employee is not. Further, some of the associations funded by tax dollars, like the Iowa League of Cities and the Iowa State Association of Counties, are not subject to open records laws. If your property tax dollars are paying for lobbying activities, you deserve to know exactly how your money is being used.

 

Lobbyists must declare official positions, and those are public record; however, much more happens behind the scenes than an official position indicates. There are talks to draft legislation which sometimes go nowhere. There are also internal discussions to decide what lobbyists support or oppose. Citizens deserve to know what local elected officials are using their money to advocate for or against because sometimes, the positions taken by lobbyists representing local governments or associations of local governments take stances that are not in the best interest of the taxpayers.

 

Some of the most prominent opponents to last year’s property tax transparency bill were local governments and associations of local governments. The property tax bill passed last year simply required an affirmative vote and a second public meeting for local governments to increase their budgets above two percent. This measure did not prohibit local governments from raising taxes. Instead, it made the process of raising taxes more transparent for property taxpayers so they would have a better opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter.

 

Contract lobbyists paid with taxpayer dollars and associations of local government hiring lobbyists should be subject to the same open records laws as public employees. The people deserve the opportunity to learn how their money is spent and determine if that use is genuinely in their best interest. Citizens must have transparency to be able to hold their local governments accountable.

 

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