MADISON, Wis. - While lawmakers continue to debate a fix for the state budget shortfall, WISC-TV took a look at which lobbyists flexed the most financial muscle to influence lawmakers during last year's budget process.
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Special interest groups are spending record amounts of money trying to influence state lawmakers.
Since the 2007 session held some big budget decisions, WISC-TV's "Reality Check" examined who was spending the most on lobbying.
Topping the list is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which lobbied on nearly 300 issues during the last legislative session. It spent a total of $1.1 million, taking a position on everything from combined corporate tax reporting to heated pedestrian walkways.
Two national tobacco companies also sent a lot. Phillip Morris and Reynolds American, the parent company of R.J. Reynolds, spent about 75 percent of their time working on preventing the $1.25 increase to the statewide cigarette tax, which was increased via the state budget last year.
Philip Morris spent nearly $1 million total on lobbying efforts, and Reynolds America spent about $700,000.
The Wisconsin Hospital Association spent just more than $800,000 and about 65 percent of its time lobbying on medical assistance issues in the state budget. The proposed hospital tax was ultimately not adopted.
At No. 4 in lobbyist efforts is the Forest County Potawatomi Community. Two of its lobbyists are on the governor's task force on global warming, so about 70 percent of lobbyist time was spent on issues related to greenhouse emissions.
Another 12 percent of its time was spent on lobbying lawmakers to require legislative approval to put a casino on tribal lands. The bill passed the Assembly but wasn't voted on in the Senate. The group spent a total of about $730,000.
The total amount spent by lobbyists set a record for the last 10 years -- $34.6 million. Political observers said, judging from the increase in spending over the past decade, they don't expect that number to decrease in the future.
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