Maryland’s top lobbyists got $15.5M during 2011 session

Daily Record Business Writer//October 12, 2011

Maryland’s top lobbyists got $15.5M during 2011 session

By Nicholas Sohr

//Daily Record Business Writer

//October 12, 2011

Maryland’s biggest businesses, interest groups and labor unions increased spending on lobbyists to $15.5 million during the 2011 General Assembly session, according to the State Ethics Commission.

That was a 14.4 percent bump over the 2010 session, when the top spenders had $13.5 million in lobbying expenses.

There were 32 lawmakers in new seats and major issues on the table this year, including public employee pension plans, gambling, same-sex marriage and costly wind power mandates, not to mention a revenue shortfall that threatened nearly every line of the state budget.

“As things tighten in government, businesses recognize they’ve got to beef up their government relations because it’s so important to their bottom line,” said Gerard E. Evans, the top-earning lobbyist during the session.

Michael V. Johansen, a partner at Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver and the fourth-highest earner, agreed the budget pressure meant bigger paydays for lobbyists.

“Everybody is trying to preserve what resources they have as far as state funding,” he said. “Hanging on to what you’ve got is harder.”

The spending figures for the 2011 session include every group that paid at least $50,000 for lobbying services from Nov. 1, 2010, to April 30.

The Maryland State Education Association, which represents teachers and other school personnel, was the most active this year. MSEA reported $950,626 in lobbying expenses, almost three times as much as the next-highest spender.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget threatened cuts to planned spending on county school districts — the legislature added money to the schools budget — and battles over public employee pensions have gotten more intense in recent years.

The Maryland Hospital Association was second on the list, with $339,485. Constellation Energy Group and the Maryland Jockey Club both spent more than $300,000.

MHA has a consistent lobbying presence in Annapolis. The group spent nearly $370,000 during the 2010 session. Spokesman Jim Reiter said that is “a function of hospitals being among the most regulated fields in the state.”

Constellation lobbied against an O’Malley proposal that would have forced utilities to buy power from offshore wind turbines, an effort to spur development of a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.

Lawmakers balked at the cost to consumers and shelved the proposal, which O’Malley has vowed to bring back in 2012.

Aaron Greenfield, a Duane Morris lobbyist, says the green energy issues “seem to have gotten everybody’s interest.”

The jockey club fought for and won state operating subsidies for the Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course thoroughbred tracks. The tracks will be eligible for up to $6 million in state aid in each of the next two years if the jockey club meets certain requirements.

Johansen, whose firm represents the jockey club, said gambling has become a large and consistent source of income for Annapolis lobbyists.

The owners of the two casinos operating in Maryland and a third under construction spent $405,635 on lobbying during the legislative session.

PPE Casino Resorts Maryland LLC, the subsidiary of The Cordish Cos. that is building Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County, spent $145,000.

Penn National Gaming Inc., owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville, spent $137,000 and is ramping up its effort to bring slot machines and table games to Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County. And Ocean Downs, the track and casino outside of Ocean City, spent $123,000.

Joel D. Rozner, Lisa Harris Jones and Nicholas G. Manis rounded out the top-five lobbyists by billings.

Evans billed $977,000 during the session counts among his clients many with big names and big issues. He represents the Baltimore Orioles and the law firm of its owner, Peter Angelos, who is fighting a major state development project in Baltimore. Evans also represents Constellation and several alcohol industry interests that were hit with an increase to the sales tax on their products this year.

Harris Jones’s firm, Harris Jones & Malone, as well as Alexander & Cleaver, represented The Daily Record.

The newspaper spent $67,213.94 on lobbying, according to the ethics commission figures.


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