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slides: Central Mass Organizations Spent Over $800,000 Lobbying Washington

Friday, December 14, 2012

 

Corporations, industry groups, non-profits, colleges and universities in Central Mass have spent $825,000 lobbying in Washington over the last two years, a GoLocalWorcester review of lobbyist disclosure filings revealed.

The money spent on lobbying from Central Mass represents just a tiny fraction of statewide lobbying expenditures since January 1, 2011. Last year, Bay State organizations spent $74,683,328 on lobbyists to have their interests represented in Washington. Through the third quarter of 2012, the total was $45,316,815.

Locally, the region's colleges and universities accounted for more than a third of lobbying expenditures, a state of affairs that is not uncommon according to Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.

"Many policies that affect schools are decided at the federal level," she said. "If institutions of higher learning had no representation they wouldn't stand a chance of having their voice heard."

Promoting Interests vs. Peddling Influence

For Common Cause, the issue is not that lobbying occurs, but rather, how such lobbying is conducted.

"Is it about presenting your case and making sure your constiuency's voice is heard? Or is it about raising money for public officials and throwing lavish parties?" said Wilmot.

"There's nothing wrong with promoting your cause and paying somebody to be articulate about it. The problem is influence peddling."

Finding a Voice in Washington

At Becker College, where about 51 percent of students are currently enrolled in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) major, seeking out federal funding focused on STEM disciplines can be integral to developing new programs when state-level funding is harder to come by.

"We have regular conversations with government leaders, both state and federal, about what we're up to and where governemnt interests lie and trying to find some intersections," said Dean Hickey, vice president of advancement at Becker.

"It's really kind of a give-and-take conversation more than it is lobbying in the traditional sense."

With $180,000 over the past two years, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) expended the most money in Washington of the area's schools, in order to advocate for research and development iniatives and funding in technology and other areas.

“As a research university, WPI works with our government relations counsel to build relationships with federal agencies – and with corporations - to build matches between our nation’s research needs and opportunities and the expertise on our campus," said Assistant Vice President of Government & Community Relations Linda Carre Looft.

"They are important partners who build awareness for WPI and the good work being done here, and they have been instrumental for attracting federal funds for research in areas such as neuroprosthetics and the advancement of technologies for first-responders. WPI researchers, faculty and students are focused on applying knowledge to helping solve great problems, so aligning our expertise with our nation’s critical research goals is important work that will continue in earnest.”

Based in Worcester, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) works with companies throughout the Commonwealth to help them grow and innovate to keep pace with the ever-evolving manufacturing industry.

Director of Operations Jack Healy said the organization receives funds through the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support its efforts, and MassMEP's representatives in Washington are there to make sure officials know what they are getting for their federal dollars.

Healy said the organization's mandate is to work with small manufacturing enterprises and that 72 percent of the companies it works with have under 20 employees.

"They don't have a voice," he said.

MassMEP conveys the need for additional skills and technical training in the Bay State's manufacturing industry to the federal bodies who can support the necessary programs and initiatives to develop a trained workforce for employers who are faced with a lack of qualified applicants. 

 

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