— The Sacramento Bee carried a revealing examination Sunday of the relationship between big political donations by highly organized lobbying groups in Sacramento and—let's call it insurance.  Not so much advancing as shielding one's interests from reform efforts. As Shane Goldmacher reports, "Special interests spent a record $553 million lobbying California state government in the past two years. For them, it was money well spent."

Makers of chemical fire- retardants poured in more than $9 million to
kill a ban on fire-proofing chemicals in furniture that consumer groups
say cause cancer.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians
used $4.39 million to muscle through a gambling deal to let the tribe
add thousands of lucrative new slot machines to its casino.

oil industry spent more than $10.5 million to influence the Legislature
and state agencies. A 2007 industry association report touted that even
in a Democratic-controlled Legislature, "of the 52 bills identified as
priorities (in 2007), only three that we opposed were approved by the

Of those three, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed two.

Bee analysis of this past two-year session found the 10
highest-spending employers of private lobbyists shelled out a total of
more than $70 million working the halls of state government. They
rarely lost.

Newspapers are able to trace these patterns because of records kept public by law.  But the Obama Administration is hoping to enforce a more ambitious approach to transparency: requiring lobbyists to spell out what they want from the federal government—at least in the stimulus package—on the record.  As noted in an AP report, the President has decreed, "An executive department or agency official shall not consider the view of a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995
. . . concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for
funding under the Recovery Act unless such views are in writing."

Comments trade consultant Richard D. Boltuck:

As the new administration institutionalizes its transparency policies, I continue to wonder to what extent advocates of open information are pressing or will press the executive authorities in various state governments to emulate, to the extent possible, the new Federal policies with respect to state public records?  States have often sought refuge in the argument that their laws and practices resemble the Federal Freedom of Information Act and Federal practices.  Shouldn't the relationship between state public records practices and Federal ones be a two-way street in an era when Federal practices appear to be changing to favor greater openness?