Skip to main content

St. Paul spent more on lobbying than any other MN city last year

St. Paul spent almost $170,000 more on lobbying than Minneapolis last year.

Minnesota's local governments spent more than $9 million on lobbying in 2016, as a way to represent their interests in discussions at the state level.

The figures were revealed in the latest annual report by the Minnesota Auditor, which lays out how much taxpayers' money is being used to represent city interests at the state legislature.

Topping the list was the City of St. Paul, which spent $445,000 on four staff members and three contract lobbyists.

All told, local governments spent a total of $9,110,139 on lobbying activities in 2016. This was an increase of $183,353 over the amount spent in 2015, about a 2 percent jump.

Here's a look at the biggest governmental spenders in the state.

The Pioneer Press reports lobbying interests in Minnesota, representing businesses, unions, governments and other groups, spent almost $67 million in 2016.

You can find a full list of lobbyists registered in Minnesota here.

What do lobbyists do?

Lobbyists are professionals hired to represent a client's interests to an elected official. They're used by all kinds of groups across the country, from local governments, to businesses, to unions and nonprofits.

In Minnesota, a lobbyist is defined as someone who is paid more than $3,000 (from all sources in a year) for the purpose of "attempting to influence legislative or administrative action" either by speaking directly to elected or local officials or urging others to contact them.

Similarly, any company, local government or organization that spends more than $250 to hire or pay someone for the same purpose is considered to be involved in lobbying activities.

So if I own a company that provides internet service to Minnesotans, and I want lawmakers to change regulations that affect my business, I could pay a lobbyist directly to go talk to relevant lawmakers. Or, I could send money to an association that will find and pay lobbyists on behalf of me and my industry.

And are they necessary?

The question of whether they are necessary depends on who you talk to.

The Minnesota Legislature website points out that with lawmakers having to pass judgement on hundreds of topics each year, it's "nearly impossible to keep abreast of all the complex issues."

This is where lobbyists can fill them in with (hopefully) reliable information, though it's up to the legislator to make sure he/she explores all sides of an issue.

But the interests lobbyists represent sometimes aren't things everyone will agree with.

Among those complaining following the release of the state auditor's report on Wednesday was government transparency activist Rich Neumeister, who highlighted the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid in dues to local government associations the League of Minnesota Cities and Association of Minnesota Counties.

These groups, he argues, have consistently opposed initiatives that would grant greater transparency in Minnesota local and state government.

Here's a list of the biggest spenders among local government associations in Minnesota last year.

At a national level, there are myriad complaints about the influence of lobbying companies, who not only represent their clients' interests but also get involved in fundraising for members of Congress, increasing their influence with that lawmaker in the process, according to Represent US.

The New York Times reports lobbyists get involved in writing laws as well. A bill drafted for the U.S. House in 2013 softening regulations on the banking industry featured 70 out of 85 lines written by lobbyists working on behalf of the financial company CitiGroup.

Next Up

Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are finally heading to Cooperstown

The Twins legends were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday night.

Tanner Morgan

Report: Gophers to play in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

The Gophers will reportedly head to Phoenix to take on West Virginia.

Adam Thielen

Winless Lions beat Vikings on final play of game

Adam Thielen also left early with an ankle injury

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 7-0 on Willis' late 3-pointer

The Gophers earned back-to-back road victories for the first time since January 2017.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Woman in critical condition after being shot in the head in St. Paul

Officers responded to the incident at around 2:45 a.m. Saturday.

Alexander Mattison

Vikings-Lions: 5 things you can count on

It's a great time for the Vikings to play the Lions.


Omicron variant confirmed in Wisconsin man who traveled to South Africa

Five other cases have been confirmed and linked to a Wisconsin wedding.

Sharon Mollerus - duluth - snow plow car

Sunday snowstorm walloping MN's North Shore with huge totals

Just ridiculous snow totals expected the rest of Sunday.

Screen Shot 2021-12-05 at 6.49.03 AM

Saturday snow causes havoc on Twin Cities roads

There were countless spinouts and crashes across Minnesota.

Kirill Kaprizov

Wild win battle of NHL's hottest teams, extend winning streak to six

Kirill Kaprizov delivered a shootout winner to take down the Maple Leafs.


Revealed: The biggest lobbying spenders in MN last year

Enbridge spent the largest amount on lobbying in a single year since 2002.

Xcel Energy spent most on lobbying at Minnesota Capitol last year

The utility company spent more than $2.3 million on lobbying, followed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce which was also over $2 million.

Serious crime dropped by more than 7% in St. Paul last year

There was a drop in robberies and homicides.

Here's how Enbridge had a $5M lobbying bill in Minnesota

The energy company was the biggest lobbying spender in 2017.

Catholic school to close after more than 100 years in St. Paul

Enrollment has dwindled over the years for St. Mark's School.

Senate votes to block MN cities from setting their own minimum wage

State lawmakers are looking to thwart minimum wage and sick leave ordinances in the Twin Cities.

Local gov't lobbying tops $8M in 2011

A new report shows 82 local governments spent more than $8.3 million on lobbying last year -- up 0.7 percent from 2010. Eleven local governments spent more than $100,000. Minneapolis tops the list, spending almost half a million dollars.

State lawmakers vote to stop Twin Cities setting own minimum wage, sick leave

Dozens of opponents to the bill made their feelings clear inside and outside the House chamber.