By Len Lazarick

State House at sunset.

State House at sunset.

More than $32 million was spent last year lobbying state government, and the health-care industry was the top spender at $7.1 million.

The figures come from the official reports on lobbying by the State Ethics Commission, further massaged in an analysis by Common Cause, the good government advocacy group, which called the totals “staggering.”

Not surprising in a year that saw the implementation of Obamacare, causing the further growth of state involvement in health care through Medicaid, 62 health-care organizations spent $7.1 million on lobbying.

The Maryland Hospital Association topped the list of firms at $665,000.

The numbers do not include lobbying by state agencies, county governments and municipalities, which spend millions more, but are not required to report spending to the State Ethics Commission.

The other top categories for lobbying the legislature or state agencies in the regulatory process, as compiled by Common Cause, were utility and energy, $3.4 million; builders and Realtors, $3.2 million; gambling, $1.9 million; and business, $1.3 million.

The Top 10 individual spenders on lobbying were (numbers are rounded):

1.    Maryland Hospital Association, $665,000

2.    National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, $459,000

3.    Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, $459,000 (See comment at bottom for clarification.)

4.    Maryland Retailers Association, $448,000

5.    CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, $405,000

6.    Maryland Bankers Association, $386,000

7.    Comcast, $363,000

8.    Johns Hopkins Institutions, $353,000

9.    Maryland State Education Association, $351,000

10.  Baltimore Jewish Council, $342,000

Another 22 employers spent more than $200,000 for the year from Nov. 1, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2013, and 74 employers spent more than $100,000, according to the Common Cause analysis.

The total compensation paid to the 148 lobbyists listed in the report was over $37 million. Almost $2 million was spent by these lobbyists on dinners, receptions and other events for legislators. Lobbyists are not allowed to take individual legislators out to dinner, but they may invite whole committees, delegations or the entire legislature.

The 10 highest grossing lobbyists were:

1.    Timothy Perry, $1,531,107

2.    Gerard Evans, $1,392,500

3.    Robin Shaivitz, $1,390,165

4.    Joel Rozner, $1,293,263

5.    Gregory S. Proctor, $1,176,456

6.    Michael Johansen, $1,025,011

7.    Robert Enten, $1,002,266

8.    Nicholas Manis, $964,350

9.    Lisa Harris Jones, $934,625

10.  John Stierhoff, $920,294

These numbers reflect gross billing by lobbyists, and include the money they spend on associates, support staff, offices and other expenses.

“While lobbyists have a role to play, with these top lobbyists reporting over $37 million in income – and a growing cadre of former elected officials and upper level staff joining the ranks of the lobbying corps – we are concerned that the voice of special interests is growing louder than the voice of constituents,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.  “We support legislation to strengthen training and reporting requirements for lobbyists and to slow down the revolving door from public servant to private lobbyist.”