Lobbying organizations in Hawaii spent $2,548,277 to influence lawmakers in just 120 days, from Jan. 1 through April 30, according to figures compiled by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

Earlier this month, Civil Beat reported that lobbying organizations spent about $1 million in the first two months of the year. Between March and April, they upped the ante, spending $1.5 million.

Looking at the full four-month period, the 269 lobbying organizations registered with the ethics commission spent $21,486 per day. If you spread lobbying expenditures over the 76 members of the state Legislature, spending amounts to $33,530 per lawmaker. The session began January 19 and closed May 5.

The top 10 spenders between January and April included several of the state’s most powerful organizations, and accounted for almost $900,000 of the total. Some of those organizations included: The Hawaii State Teachers Association, Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii Medical Service Association, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and Blue Planet Hawaii, to name a few.

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. There are almost 280 lobbyists registered in Hawaii.

The American Beverage Association spent the most to lobby in the first four months of the year. The ABA represents hundreds of beverage producers, distributors, franchise companies and support industries, according to its website. Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposed a tax on sugary beverages as one way to balance the state’s budget. It was rejected.

In the first reporting period, the ABA spent $97,685 to lobby. The ABA lists in its disclosure for the period the following breakdown of expenses: $82,095 on “Preparation & Distribution of Lobbying Materials”; $6,076 on “Media Advertising”; $709 on “Telephone and Other Forms of Telecommunication”; $189 on “Fees (other than to lobbyists)”; and $8,617 on “Other Disbursements”.

The ABA did not pay any compensation to lobbyists during the reporting period, which is why it listed its expenses by field. Typically, organizations pay their individual lobbyists, and that compensation figure is the only amount required to be reported. But according to the ethics commission’s list of registered lobbyists, the ABA does not employ any lobbyists, so it must report figures under general fields, like “Media Advertising.”

In the second reporting period, from March 1 to April 30, the ABA spent slightly less, $90,586. The organization listed expenses for Preparation & Distribution of Lobbying Materials, Media Advertising, Telephone and Other Forms of Telecommunication and Other Disbursements. The ABA spent the most on media advertising, $44,210.

The ABA indicated on both its disclosure forms that the it lobbies under the subject area of “taxation”.

Its disclosures are more transparent than most organizations, but that’s not saying much. Civil Beat previously reported that the majority of lobbying organizations are not required to say what, or who, they’re spending money on. Nor do many lawmakers report gifts.

The complete list of the top 10 lobbying organizations by expenditures is below:

Organization Jan. 1 – Feb. 28 Expenditures March 1 – April 30 Expenditures Total Expenditures
1) American Beverage Association $97,685 $90,586 $188,271
2) Hawaii Association for Justice $32,467 $119,424 $151,891
3) Altria Client Services Inc. $44,820 $51,926 $96,746
4) Hawaii State Teachers Association $39,572 $41,210 $80,782
5) Kamehameha Schools $45,961 $31,791 $77,752
6) Hawaii Medical Service Association $27,000 $28,296 $55,296
7) Aina Koa Pono, LLC $11,082 $38,967 $50,049
8) Blue Planet Foundation $14,278 $29,234 $43,512
9) The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii $23,836 $19,150 $42,986
10) Citizens for a Better Way $0 $39,093 $39,093
10) Radcliffe & Associates, LLC $0 $39,093 $39,093
TOTAL $336,701 $528,770 $865,471