More and more towns are putting lobbyists on the payroll to tap federal tax money through earmarks (those special appropriations that make their way into omnibus bills in Congress). According to the NYT, “since 1998, the number of public entities hiring private firms to represent them in Washington has nearly doubled to 1,421 from 763.” Bridges, roads, walkways, pedestrian crosswalks… cities and towns are finding that a little bit of lobbying can go a long way.
Hiring Federal Lobbyists, Towns Learn Money Talks
By JODI RUDOREN and ARON PILHOFER
TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. ? Rebuffed on several requests for state and federal financing to help rebuild its crumbling bridge, this small resort town was all but resigned to raising the money by doubling the 50-cent bridge toll, increasing property taxes and issuing bonds.
But in a last-ditch gambit, city officials hired a federal lobbyist who had known the local congressman for four decades. Within weeks, the congressman, Representative C. W. Bill Young, called the mayor to say he had slipped a special $50 million appropriation, known as an earmark, into an omnibus bill.
The city had originally sought $15 million. But Mr. Young ? a Republican who was then the all-powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee and, as his lobbyist friend knew, believes public roads should be free ? raised it to eliminate the toll.