In Pennsylvania, gambling interests are being scrutinized because of the recent law legalizing slots machines in the state. But the $1.16 million spent by gambling lobbyists dealing with the Pennsylvania Senate from 2003-2004 is a fraction of the amount spent by construction/manufacturing lobbyists, who forked out $4.52 million on lobbyists during that period.
Pennsylvania has no law requiring registration of lobbyists dealing with state officials, but the state senate does requires lobbyists dealing with its members to register annually. A bill in the state legislature would require registration of all lobbyists dealing with state officials. For now, though, hiring of lobbyists seems to be one difference between the companies that get large state contracts and those that don’t.
The two most prominent engineering/design/construction companies with lobbyists dealing with the Pennsylvania state congress are Pittsburgh-based Michael Baker Corp. and DMJM+Harris. Michael Baker Corp. has 16 lobbyists registered to work with state legislators, and DMJM+Harris is served by 13 lobbyists. The close contact that these companies are afforded by having so many lobbyists haunting the halls of Harrisburg may be paying off.
In August 2004, Michael Baker Jr., Inc., the engineering unit of the corporation, was awarded an $1.8 billion contract by the National Guard Bureau to provide architectural and engineering services for the first phase of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s program to transition the Pennsylvania 56th Brigade to a Stryker Bridge Combat Team. In June of this year, Michael Baker Jr., Inc., received a contract from the Allegheny County Airport Authority to provide On-Call Planning and Environmental Services for Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport. Additionally, Baker has received federal contracts since 2004 from the U.S. Air Force, FEMA, and other federal groups, totaling more than $4 billion, including a $1.2 billion contract for reconstruction in Iraq.
Michael Baker Corp. spokesman David Higie says his company does not engage lobbyists “to do lobbying on our behalf for legislation.” The company might use a lobbyist to facilitate a meeting with a state official, adds Higie. “Technically, we do not hire lobbying firms,” he said.
DMJM+Harris is the project manager of Pittsburgh’s North Shore Connector project. The project is in the design and planning phase. About $35 million has been spent so far on preliminary work on the project.
Pennsylvania does not track the total annual spending by all lobyists in the state. The state is ranked last on a state-by-state comparison list on lobbyist regulations compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity. Pennsylvania has 579 state senate-registered lobbyists who work for 1,111 employers, including construction and engineering firms, hospitals, universities, other branches of government and many other groups.