Why did lobbying watchdog group give Minnesota a so-so 'C' grade?


Minnesota is at the top of its class in a lot of areas – like providing friendly environments to small businesses, and even being a top road trip destination – but when it comes to keeping tabs on political lobbyists, it's apparently not doing so well.

A new report from the Sunlight Foundation on "lobbying disclosure" in each state – in other words letting the public know how much lobbyists make, and whether they're giving gifts to or paying politicians – gave Minnesota a "C" grade.

For those not familiar with the nuts and bolts of politics, a lobbyist is anyone who works for or speaks to legislators on behalf of an organization, industry or cause, according to this handy About.com guide.

The goal is to persuade lawmakers to "enact legislation that would benefit" the lobbyist's cause, the article says, adding that lobbying is an important part of the democratic process despite its sometimes poor reputation.

So what did Minnesota get wrong?

The Sunlight Foundation gave the state poor marks for the following two reasons: not requiring lobbyists to reveal what they're paid by their clients, and allowing lobbyists to not report their expenditures until they exceed a certain amount – as opposed to requiring that all expenditures be reported.

Minnesota's report card shows a "-1" in both areas.

Additionally, the rating on "lobbyist activity" (i.e. does the state require them to disclose which piece of legislation they're trying to influence?) was so-so for Minnesota, which rated a neutral "0" in this category.

Our overall rating? Also a big zero, though we received positive marks for "expenditure transparency" and "document accessibility" – requiring lobbyists to itemize all their expenses (from travel to gifts for lawmakers) once they reach the reporting threshold and making it easy to obtain public information on lobbyists, respectively.

Minnesota is certainly not in last place; Florida, Nevada, Oregon and West Virginia were all in the "F" column.

Meanwhile, our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin, was among those given an "A" grade.

View the full score card here.

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