Political cynics are fond of urging taxpayers to hold onto their wallets when the General Assembly is in session. But that doesn't apply to businesses, industries and others with something to win or lose in Annapolis.
The Maryland State Education Association, which was fighting deep school funding cuts and a major expansion of charter schools, spent more on lobbying state lawmakers this year than any other association, business or group, according to a rundown recently posted by the Maryland State Ethics Commission.
The teacher's union reported spending $446,000 from Nov. 1 through April 30.
The second-biggest spender on lobbying was Exelon Corp., the Chicago-based energy company, which paid $369,000 to have its interests represented in Annapolis.
Exelon, which absorbed Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group four years ago, had a range of bills it wished to influence. It also was seeking state regulators' approval to merge with the Washington-based energy provider Pepco, a measure before the Public Service Commission. The commission OK'd the deal in May.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of Exelon that delivers power and natural gas to hundreds of thousands of customers in Central Maryland, also reported spending $264,000. The two companies' combined output of $633,000 dwarfed the teachers' lobbying payout.
Exelon wasn't the only business with more than one entity lobbying: Verizon Communications reported spending $240,000, while Verizon Maryland chipped in $88,000, according to the ethics listing.
Businesses and business groups, which may see their profits impacted by legislation, traditionally put a lot into lobbying. Those involved with the lucrative health care, energy and communications industries, which also are regulated by the state, tend to be among the biggest spenders.
No. 8 on the list of top lobbying spenders, though, was one with a mix of spiritual and economic interests — the Maryland Catholic Conference, which spent $271,000. Its legislative agenda included killing a bill that would have authorized assisted suicide, which didn't pass. It also sought a tax credit to help private schools, which also failed.
The ethics commission also lists the lobbyists who benefited the most by all that largesse. The top earner this year was Gerard Evans, who raked in $1.8 million. Second-highest paid was Timothy Perry, who got $1.15 million. Rounding out the top five were three others earning more than $900,000 – Joel Rozner, former Montgomery County state Sen. Robert Garagiola and Lisa Harris Jones.
To review the listing of employers that spent more than $50,000 on lobbying and to see what lobbyists made, go to ethics.maryland.gov.