Do Local Governments Need Lobbyists?


Let’s not kid ourselves. North Dakota’s cities and counties already have lobbyists. They already spend our tax dollars on political purposes. The Association of Counties and the League of Cities are very active at the state legislature opposing and supporting bills, and both spent money on opposing an initiated measure (Measure 2, to abolish property taxes) in the last year.

So taxpayer-funded lobbying and political activism on behalf of local government is already happening. But now a bill, SB2313, would give cities and counties explicit authorization “expend…funds to retain a lobbyist.”

Despite the fact that this is pretty much already happening, this bill is a mistake. If anything we should be going in the opposite direction and cracking down on the use of taxpayer dollars on political activities.

The taxpayers shouldn’t have to fight their own tax dollars when it comes to legislation or initiated measures.

“But what about cities and counties needing to communicate their interests to the legislature?” Well, what about it? Why do we elect mayors and city council members and county commissioners? One part of their job is coordinating with other elected leaders, including the legislators from their areas.

What’s actually ironic about this is that we were told that if Measure 2 passed, and if property taxes were abolished in North Dakota, that local governments would have to hire lobbyists to get what they need from the state legislature. Well, Measure 2 was defeated, and here they are pushing to hire lobbyists anyway.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • The Whistler

    I think the idea is to cut the citizens right out of democracy. The cities/counties/states will work together to spend money and demand that we stay out of it except for paying for it all.

    • Rob

      Well, yeah.

      Our legislators are very accessible, but even given that it’s hard for taxpayers to compete with the constant drumbeat coming from the local government lobbyists.

      • The Whistler

        Well my city is using my tax dollars to lobby against my wishes.

        What chance do I have to stand out. The city claims to represent everyone’s opinion and they obviously don’t.

        • Rob

          I don’t have a problem with city council members or mayors or whatever going to the legislature to push for what they want, because those people have to get re-elected.

          Lobbyists? No thanks.

          • SusanBeehler

            It depends on what how you define a “lobbyist”. I would not define it as having to do something to get re-elected. I have heard the assessors from Minot and auditor or assessor from Burleigh County testify against property tax bills which allow everyone to have the first $100,000 deducted off the valuation of their home, they are on salary I am sure, so they are being paid with our tax dollars to “lobby” against lowering our property taxes, but not elected. Then you have the superintendent of the Williston School “lobbying” to tap into sales tax dollars over and beyond the school levies in place. Then you have the “paid” lobbyist like the League of Cities, the Association of Counties, NDEA, ND School Board association lobbying for their entities they represent against bills which allow citizens to refer budget. It seems every government entity has someone to be their voice what is lacking is citizens saying what they want at most of the hearings.

        • SusanBeehler

          The citizens are outnumbered by government and lobbyists are every hearing I have attended. Most government lobbyist against things which would make them more accountable or might be more work for them even if it would be the citizens wishes.

  • Lianne

    In my opinion, Hogue and Hawken make for strange bed-fellows.
    Furthermore, why do we need another layer between the voters and those who represent us?

  • SusanBeehler

    The legislature has to authorize what a county can expend funds on? What happened to local control? Shouldn’t the taxpayers in their county have the say whether they want their tax dollars spent on lobbying over and above the Association of Counties lobbyist, their usually is two or more of those running around the capitol?

  • slackwarerobert

    They don’t have phones or e-mail? That is how I contact my crooks. Doesn’t do any good is why they want other options probably. But all government is lobbied by both the dems, and repubs. If either of those scumbags has ever voted to close government I never heard of it.