CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming ranks next to last in the nation in lobbyist disclosure laws, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Wyoming scored 34 points out of a possible 100 to rank 49th among the 50 states, a report released last week by the Center said. Only Pennsylvania scored lower — a zero — because of a court ruling in 2002 making the state's lobby law null and void.
Washington State had the top score with 87 points.
The report pointed out that from 2000 to 2001 nationwide, spending by lobbyists increased by $160 million to a total of $715 million.
The Center's report, the result of a three-month study, said lobbying expenses in Wyoming for 2002 totaled $82,963. Wyoming law does not require lobbyists to disclose their salaries or other compensation. The 2002 figure is only a partial total since the final reports are not due until June 2003.
Total lobbyist spending in Wyoming for 2001 was $174,526, the report said.
Wyoming holds its short 20-day budget sessions in even-numbered years and 60-day general and budget sessions in odd-numbered years.
The state's 1998 law requires lobbyists to report total spending of more than $500 a year. They also must report spending more than $50 a year on any one legislator, elected state official or state employee.
Sarah Gorin, chair of the Equality State Policy Center, said that passage of pre-election contribution reporting by the 2003 Legislature put Wyoming in the top tier of states for openness and accountability in campaign finance reporting.
Now, Wyoming voters will be able to see who contributed how much to a candidate's campaign before the election, she said.
But Wyoming's current lobbyist reporting law presents only "a limited and biased picture of what actually goes on in the Capitol during the legislative session and at interim committees between sessions," Gorin said.
"Why should the reporting stop once candidates are elected and in the Capitol making decisions on our behalf?" she asked.
If lobbyists or their employers don't give gifts or hold receptions, they don't have to report "and are therefore invisible to the general public, even if they are lobbying all the time," she said.
"And that's just the point," Gorin said. "Many interests that lobby the Wyoming Legislature, particularly the energy industries, don't want Wyoming people to know how much they spend on lobbying."
Meantime, Wyoming's part-time legislators are heavily dependent on lobbyists for information, she said.
The Equality State Policy Center lobbies the Legislature and has voluntarily reported all its lobbying expenses for several years.
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