THE STATE HOUSE is closed these days because of COVID-19, but for the most part businesses and other advocacy groups are continuing to hire lobbyists to represent their interests on Beacon Hill.
Total spending on lobbying in 2020 was $85.6 million, down $1.8 million, or 2 percent, from 2019, according to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.
Brian Dempsey, one of the state’s top lobbyists, said many of his clients responded to the COVID-19 state of emergency declared last March by putting their lobbying efforts on hold. But, as issues began to arise with COVID restrictions and legislative business continued to move ahead haltingly, Dempsey said other clients stepped forward and the gains generally offset the losses.
“There were so many things happening, people were looking for advice and assistance in navigating state government,” said Dempsey, a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
There were 1,423 firms or individuals who reported lobbying expenditures in 2020. The top 10 reported spending nearly $5.6 million, while the top 50 dished out $15.9 million, according to secretary of state records.
Health care businesses were active. Of the top 10 spenders on lobbying in 2020, the top five were in health care and seven in total were operating in health fields. The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association was the biggest spender at $835,718, followed by the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans ($698,172), the Massachusetts Nurses Association ($646,066), Mass General Brigham ($629,943), and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ($579,748).
Top spenders on lobbying in Massachusetts
|Clients||Payments to lobbyists|
|Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association||$835,718|
|Massachusetts Association of Health Plans||$698,172|
|Massachusetts Nurses Association||$646,066|
|Mass General Brigham||$629,943|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts||$579,748|
|Massachusetts Biotechnology Council||$560,011|
|Association for Behavioral Healthcare||$424,424|
|Wynn MA, LLC||$402,500|
|Retired State, County and Municipal Employees Association of Massachusetts||$401,595|
|Beth Israel Lahey Health, Inc.||$394,764|
SOURCE: Secretary of State’s lobbying division
Several other companies or associations flexed their lobbying muscle last year. The Massachusetts Senior Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, spent $350,000 on lobbying in 2020. The association played a key role in securing more state aid for nursing homes, which were hard hit by the pandemic.
Marijuana businesses continue to pop up in lobbying records. Harvest Health and Recreation, a Tempe, Arizona-based, publicly traded marijuana company, spent $329,553 on lobbying in Massachusetts in 2020 after spending nothing in 2019. The company has secured provisional licenses to operate a cultivation facility in Deerfield and a retail store in Worcester, according to records of the Cannabis Control Commission.
Two major state vendors reported substantial lobbying expenditures. Keolis Commuter Services, which runs the MBTA’s commuter rail system and is pushing for a contract renewal, sprinkled $240,000 among three lobbyists – Michael McCormack, Patrick Moynihan, and Robert White.
Top 10 lobbying firms in Massachusetts
|Lobbying firm||2020 revenue||2019 revenue||Largest client|
|Smith Costello & Crawford||$4,295,049||4,221,097||Orsted Wind Power ($180,000)|
|O’Neill and Partners, LLC||$3,146,683||2,977,274||PAX Labs Inc. ($141,000)|
|Kearney, Donovan & McGee, LLC||$3,036,939||2,858,312||Massachusetts General Brigham ($306,000)|
|ML Strategies, LLC||$2,844,677||3,659,902||Wynn Ma. LLC ($262,5000|
|Tremont Strategies Group LLC||$2,534,078||2,483,795||Clivus Multrom Inc., Marine Biological Laboratory, Uber, Unitil ($120,000)|
|Bay State Strategies Group, LLC||$2,355,000.||2,386,500||Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association ($202,500)|
|Murphy Donoghue Partners||$2,105,119||1,998,999||Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Co. ($156,000)|
|Preti Strategies||$2,093,199||2,076,616||Clearway Energy Group ($145,000)|
|The Suffolk Group, LLC||$1,975,355||1,827,842||Steward Health Care ($180,000)|
|Dempsey, Lucey & Associates||$1,966,809||1,539,240||Beth Israel Lahey Health ($176,000)|
SOURCE: Secretary of State’s lobbying division.
CRRC Mass Corp., which makes subway cars for the MBTA, spent $150,833 on lobbying with the money split among two firms – Locke Lorde Public Policy Group and Preti Strategies.
The top 10 lobbying firms in terms of revenue were all familiar names, but there was some movement within the ranks. Smith, Costello & Crawford remained at the top of the heap, with revenue of nearly $4.3 million, a slight increase over 2019. Its biggest client was Orsted Wind Power, which spent $180,000 and is seeking to build wind farms off the coast.
Most other lobbying firms in the top 10 reported slight increases in revenue. ML Strategies was an exception, with its revenue declining by $815,225 from 2019 levels. The firm ended up in fourth place in terms of revenue. Its two biggest clients were Wynn Resorts ($262,520), the operator of the Encore Boston Harbor casino, and Equinor ($173,403), a wind farm company.
Dempsey’s firm, Dempsey, Lucey & Associates, burst into the top 10 with a revenue gain of $427,569 in 2020. Its biggest client was Beth Israel Lahey Health, which spent $176,000.
The highest paid individual lobbyists were Charles Stefanini ($648,524), Thomas M. Joyce ($629,651), and Dempsey ($600,000).