Trying to follow the money? Good luck

Washington state’s 1,033 registered lobbyists spent more than $100 million trying to influence public policy between 2013 and 2014, according to a recent Washington Post article.

But what and whom exactly did they spend it on?

Good luck wading through that stack of papers.

Since 2003, Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, has tried to pass a measure requiring lobbyists to file electronically.

That way, the state’s public disclosure commission could offer the public a searchable database to see gifts, time and meals lobbyists are showering on lawmakers.

Once again, Moeller’s measure died in the state Senate.

“Despite being home to Microsoft and Amazon, worldwide leaders in the technology sector, we have no searchable online database to see on whom or on what lobbyists are spending money,” Moeller wrote recently in an opinion piece.

And it’s not because the technology isn’t available. The state’s disclosure commission has a searchable database for campaign contributions online.

Let’s just go back to the previous point for a brief moment. Of course the technology is available! It’s 2015. At this point, it seems like more work to fill out these forms by hand than it would be to fill them out electronically.

The lack of transparency comes at a time when lobbyists have reportedly spent more money in state Legislatures across the nation than ever before.

“Lobbyists and watchdogs say a confluence of events are to blame — or credit — with the industry’s growth: The recent gridlock in Washington comes at the same time states are deciding on a host of contentious issues, from energy regulation to health care and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Decisions on those issues, which are in the hands of state lawmakers, stand to make one industry a lot of money, at the expense of others,” the Post reports.

Moeller said he will continue to push for his transparency bill.

“The average resident shouldn’t have to devote hours to what should be a simple task.Taxpayers deserve to know the truth,” Moeller wrote. “For our democracy to function, the press and public need real access to what lobbyists spend on which lawmakers.”

As Moeller said, Washington isn’t making it easy to follow the money.


Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or Follow her on Twitter .

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