Lobbyist pay nears $5 million during budget, solar debates
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Maine lobbyists have been paid $4.8 million so far this year, including familiar political faces involved in fights over solar power, voter-approved laws and the two-year, $7.1 billion budget.
The Associated Press reviewed lobbying reports through July and found big spenders include the pharmaceutical industry, Maine’s largest electrical utility, a nonprofit energy group, and organizations hoping to shape the state’s recreational marijuana industry.
The spending follows renewed concern from political and advocacy groups over the influence of former lawmakers and administration officials. Maine bars lawmakers from registering as lobbyists in their first year after holding office, while certain former executive branch officials – like the governor’s policy advisers – don’t face such a prohibition.
But the state must better enforce a loophole that allows former lawmakers to lobby in that first year if they report lobbying fewer than 8 hours a month, Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said.
“Lobbyists play a huge role in how our statehouse functions,” he said, and noted all individuals – including those who lobby – have a right to petition their government. “I think it’s perfectly acceptable that we hold them accountable.”