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Oak Ridge leads the region — but it’s a dubious distinction

Earlier this week the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on the phenomenon (discussed here earlier) of local governments employing Washington, DC lobbyists to give “extra muscle” in seeking targeted pork-barrel funding for local projects. The report indicates a new dubious distinction for Oak Ridge — we spend more on federal lobbying than any other local government in the area.

The City of Oak Ridge’s annual expenditure of approximately $100,000 for work by the Ferguson Group leads the Knoxville metro region in lobbyist spending, exceeding the $40K spent yearly by the City of Knoxville and the $90K total cost of a lobbying contract shared by Blount County, the cities of Maryville and Alcoa, Maryville College, and Blount Memorial Hospital. Within Tennessee, Memphis seems to be the spending champ at $160,000, but at just 24 cents per resident, Memphis’ spending on DC lobbyists doesn’t come close to Oak Ridge’s expenditure of almost $3.60 per resident. (Chattanooga is reported to have spent $90,000 in the first half of 2006; the article doesn’t indicate whether their annual cost is twice that, or if they dropped the contract after mid-2006.)

In an editorial today, the News Sentinel appeared unable to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but they the editorialist did point out that “there are problems with using taxpayer money at the local level to chase more taxpayer money at the federal level.” There are problems, indeed — so let’s stop paying lobbyists to “game” the federal system on our behalf.

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