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Reality Check: Lobbyist Spending In Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Lobbyists spent tens of millions of dollars last year to influence government officials in Minnesota. That's according to a report from a public agency tracking the money. What did it get?

One of the biggest protests in 2017 stemmed from a state Capitol vote on the Enbridge crude oil pipeline planned to run across northern Minnesota.

But the real action was at the low profile -- but very important -- state agency called the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It will vote on whether to allow the existing pipeline to be replaced.

The Canadian-based Enbridge Energy Partners spent $5 million on lawyers and complicated evidentiary hearings to influence the five-member PUC. That's more than twice the amount of the next biggest lobbying group -- the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce spent just over $2 million. The Minnesota Business Partnership was right behind, spending $1,420,000 on lobbying last year. The state's largest teacher's union, Education Minnesota, spent almost $1.4 million.

Lobbyists spent $64.3 million dollars at the State Capitol to influence 201 lawmakers in 2017. That's an average of $318,408 per person, or seven times a lawmaker's $45,000 annual salary

And it gets results.

The parent company for Philip Morris tobacco spent $400,000 at the Capitol in 2017 while tobacco distributors spent $211,485 -- a total of more than $611,485.

Lawmakers approved tobacco tax cuts totaling $21 million.

Lobbying money doesn't go directly to lawmakers. It's mostly for legal fees, salaries, research and advertising. But lobbying groups do spend millions of dollars to influence political campaigns away from the state Capitol.

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