A state Senate committee failed to muster enough votes Wednesday morning to pass a bill that would fix a transparency loophole the Legislature created last year. But the bill sponsor said he’ll try again to get the measure through the Rules Committee. The loophole allows lobbyists to disclose much less about how they spend money on public officials than they used to. It removed a requirement for lobbyists to report expenses spent on individual lawmakers below $100. Previously, lobbyists had to report all spending, itemizing expenses spent above $75 per lawmaker and reporting the cumulative amount of expenses below $75 per lawmaker.
Registered lobbyists and their employer campaign donations made up about 25 percent of what legislative candidates spent during the 2016 election. And most of that money went to House Republicans. Despite that lobbyist largesse, the GOP lost control of the House to Democrats, while Senate Democrats increased their margin. Lobbyists and their employers reported donating more than $2.8 million to candidates and political action committees in 2016. That brings their total for the 2015-16 elections cycle to nearly $4 million, with more than 90 percent of that money going to legislative candidates or partisan PACs.