Government lobbying

It’s not enough for governments to seize your wealth against your will and spend it in ways that you don’t support. Nevada bureaucrats also use some of those seized revenues to hobnob with their peers at other levels of government — only they’re not lobbying for lower tax burdens or to request the elimination of ineffective or redundant government services.

No, they’re spending your precious, hard-earned money to come up with ways to get more of it.

Nevada Department of Taxation records for the recently concluded 2009 Legislature reveal that local governments, in particular, are never so short of cash that they can’t cruise the capital. Cities, counties, school districts and other government entities spent at least $3.2 million this year lobbying lawmakers in Carson City.

Amid revenue declines, the city of Las Vegas came up with $344,733 to dispatch employees and contracted lobbyists. Clark County government spent $344,733, and the Clark County School District forked out $390,702.

The Department of Taxation numbers don’t include tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying expenses doled out by state government agencies, such as the higher education system. And they certainly don’t include all the days government employees spend testifying on behalf of legislation or bemoaning the possibility of funding changes.

Remember, you aren’t paying these people to represent your interests — you’re paying them to represent the interests of government, which involve growing at all costs, regardless of the economy’s ability to support every tentacle of the bureaucracy.

If there’s one sign of progress in this year’s Department of Taxation records, it’s that local governments are spending less on hired guns. Instead, they’re having workers lobby lawmakers themselves. About $1.2 million of the $3.2 million in expenses reported to the state were payments to contracted lobbyists. The Clark County School District’s nearly $400,000 lobbying bill consisted entirely of employee salaries and their expenses.

But government-on-government lobbying shouldn’t be happening in the first place. Spending taxpayer resources on largely private interactions with legislators is a breach of public trust. Local governments should limit their influence-peddling activities to public testimony and formal, written communications — so you can see exactly what you’re paying for.

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