Organizations spent more than $1 million to influence Hawaii lawmakers in the first two months of this year, according to a report by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

If the total of $1,035,966 were spread across the state’s 76 legislators, it would mean $17,559 per day, or $13,631 per lawmaker. Spending figures for the rest of the legislative session are not yet available.

Not surprisingly, some household names spent the most, including Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

A few organizations making the top 10 were less well known. The Hawaii Association for Justice, a lawyers’ advocacy group that describes itself as a “voice for individuals injured by the misconduct or negligence of others,” spent about $32,000 lobbying lawmakers during the period.

Civil Beat previously reported that neither registered lobbyists nor lobbying organizations are required to say what, or who, they’re spending money on.

Hawaii Revised Statutes define lobbying as “communicating directly or through an agent, or soliciting others to communicate, with any official in the legislative or executive branch, for the purpose of attempting to influence legislative or administrative action or a ballot issue.”

The state Lobbying Registration and Reporting Manual says a lobbyist is any person who spends more than $750 in any of three reporting periods or spends more than five hours of any month lobbying the Legislature.

Almost 280 lobbyists in Hawaii work for 269 different organizations. Most lobbyists will represent one or two of the organizations, but others will represent several. George “Red” Morris, for example, lobbies for close to 30 organizations.

The ethics commission requires lobbyists and the organizations to file expense reports three times a year. The reports cover the periods from January 1 to the last day of February; from March 1 to April 30; and from May 1 to December 31.

The reports typically show a total expense figure for the period, but do not go into detail about how the money was spent. Expenditure reports by organization are posted on the commission’s website. Individual lobbyist reports are not, but are available for review at the commission’s office.

The table below shows the top 10 lobbying organizations based on spending in the first reporting period of 2011, Jan. 1 to Feb. 28:

Organization Number of Registered Lobbyists Total Expenditures
1) Kamehameha Schools 7 $45,961
2) Altria Client Services Inc. 4 $44,820
3) Hawaii State Teachers Association 6 $39,572
4) Hawaii Association for Justice 1 $32,467
5) Hawaii Medical Service Association 2 $27,000
6) The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii 2 $23,836
7) General Contractors Association of Hawaii 1 $23,750
8) County of Maui, Office of the Mayor 1 $20,833
9) Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. 5 $17,900
10) Hawaii Crop Improvement Association 1 $17,850

Other than the total amounts spent by lobbying organizations, very little is known about how the money was spent.

Kamehameha School’s disclosure, for example, lists about $1,400 spent on “food and beverages.” The rest of its expenses, $44,561, were filed as “compensation paid to lobbyists.”

Because individual lobbyists are not required to report the details of their spending, the money trail essentially ends there.

Lawmakers and state employees are required to file gift disclosures if they receive one or more items totaling more than $200. The cost of the gift(s), which could have come from lobbyists, must be recorded, along with who it came from.

However, in an examination of lawmaker’s 2010 gift disclosures (the most recent available), the vast majority reported few, if any, gifts received. Most came nowhere near the average of $13,631 per lawmaker that lobbyists could have spent on them in the first reporting period of 2011.