California lobbying spending soars to record high

$445 million was spent on legislative advocacy in Sacramento in 2022.
The California State Capitol Building in Sacramento (Reid Wilson / Pluribus News)

Interest groups, businesses and activists shelled out more than $445 million lobbying California’s state legislature in 2022, rebounding substantially from a pandemic-era lull to set a new all-time record.

Reports filed with California’s secretary of state show about 1,000 different organizations spent more than $100,000 trying to influence lawmakers and government agencies. Overall spending was up nearly $50 million from 2021.

Energy producers were among the biggest spenders in California, where lawmakers have worked on climate bills that would impact greenhouse gas emissions. The Western States Petroleum Association spent more than any other group, $7.3 million, employing four separate firms to lobby lawmakers.

The Energy Foundation, Chevron, Sempra Energy and Pacific Gas and Electric, the state’s largest utility, were all among the 10 biggest spenders.

Powerful unions also spent millions on advocacy. The California State Council of Service Employees spent more than $3 million, while the California Teachers Association spent $2.5 million trying to win lawmaker favor.

Local government agencies also pony up significant money as they seek grants or try to influence state policy. The city of San Jose spent $2 million on lobbyists. San Diego County and city combined to spend more than $3.2 million, while Los Angeles County spent $1.8 million. The League of California Cities spent $1.75 million of its own in Sacramento.

Total lobbying spending has been on the rise in states across the country, according to data maintained by OpenSecrets, a government transparency organization. Lobbying spending has set new records in virtually all of the states that require comprehensive disclosure, the data show.

Influence groups spent more than $276 million trying to curry favor with Florida lawmakers last year. In New York, total lobbying spending topped $330 million. Spending in Connecticut and Massachusetts both topped $100 million. All four of those states set new records.