published Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Lobbyists spending record amounts in Tennessee

NASHVILLE — Records from the Tennessee Ethics Commission show lobbyists spent a record amount last year and could spend even more this year.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the 2013 total was $650,873. The amount was released last week in the commission's annual report.

That amount compares to $568,637 so far in 2014, according to figures on the panel's website.

Most expenditures came during the legislative session, which ended on April 17, but reports for several events that occurred late in the session haven't been filed. Lobbyists also usually host multiple events later in the year.

The total in the first few months of 2014 is already more than the $565,318 that lobbyists spent in 2012.

Tennessee Common Cause Chairman Dick Williams said several factors likely have contributed to the increase, including more out-of-state groups wining and dining lawmakers.

Williams said there might also have been a decline right after a 2006 law that took effect limiting how much lobbyists can spend on lawmakers at such events and mandating that reports be filed on each one.

"Maybe we're getting a more accurate picture of what was going on before," Williams told the newspaper.

"I won't say they're buying influence, but they're certainly buying access to legislators to make their case," he said. "They obviously feel it's worth the money. The bottom line is it helps their bottom line."

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