Clerk Orr’s annual report details need for more frequent disclosure
Lobbyists were paid more than $2.4 million in 2014 as they attempted to influence Cook County officials on a range of issues, from keeping community health clinics open, to requesting a negotiated resolution to a pet breeding ordinance, to opposing the EPA’s so-called “WOTUS” rule of the Clean Water Act.
The 178 registered lobbyists – representing 78 lobbying firms and 21 sole proprietors – earned $1,249,150.65 between January and June of 2014 and $1,155,843.21 from July to the end of the year. The number of registered lobbyists dropped from 190 in 2013.
“These lobbyist reports provide just a glimpse of how pervasive lobbyists are in government,” Orr said. “The amount of money spent on lobbying now routinely exceeds $2 million.”
“I suspect the level of lobbying activity didn’t slow, and I question it when no lobbying is reported on big money contracts,” Orr said. “Reporting every six months isn’t enough. Real-time reporting of lobbying activity should be required, rather than just twice a year.”
At minimum, lobbyists should be required to file four times a year like campaigns must report contributions to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Orr said.
The County Board recently approved lobbyist reforms including requiring lobbyists to wear IDs while lobbying on county property and to complete annual lobbyist training. The Clerk’s office is working with the County’s Board of Ethics to implement these changes.
The total compensation of $2,404,993.86 was a drop of approximately 14.7 percent from 2013, but it was still the second-highest total since online filing began, and the fourth time in the past five years when Cook County lobbyists have earned more than $2 million.
The five firms that earned the most compensation – a collective $1,648,000 – to lobby Cook County last year are:
- All-Circo Inc., $1,015,000;
- Fletcher, O’Brien, Kasper, $216,000;
- Thomson Weir, LLC, $168,000;
- Alexander & Borovicka, $130,000, and
- Nicolay & Dart LLC, $119,000
The top-paying clients in 2014 were: Noresco, an energy services firm that paid $180,000 to lobbyists; McLane Co. Inc., a food and beverage distributor that spent $168,000; American Beverage Association, $132,000; Family Guidance Centers, $132,000; and Price Waterhouse Coopers, an accounting firm that spent $120,002. Other clients and the amount they paid lobbyists in 2014 included: CVS Caremark, $90,000; Election Systems and Software, $90,000; the Chicago Association of Realtors; $77,000, and ComEd, $60,000.
The firms whose lobbyists reported the most contacts in 2014 were: Bank of America, N.A., 51 contacts; the collections law firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, 37 times. The Cook County Farm Bureau contacted officials more than 100 times regarding a resolution concerning the WOTUS (Waters of the United States) rule, a part of the Clean Water Act that would give the EPA greater control over waterways.
Cook County commissioners, rather than county employees, were lobbied most – on average two dozen times per year. A few commissioners were contacted approximately 40 times by lobbyists.
All lobbying reports can be extracted from the Clerk’s Lobbyist Online into one Excel file using the download tool. The data is displayed in three worksheets: agents, clients and activity. The data can also be searched by lobbyist, firm, compensation and clients.