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Western States Petroleum Association topped the list of big spenders for lobbying in the first three months of this year, forking out $948,840, according to newly released state records.

The petroleum association had its hand in numerous issues, ranging from a low-carbon fuel standard to waste discharge requirements and implementation of a landmark state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially. It also lobbied for or against more than a dozen bills, records show.

Since the two-year legislative session began in January 2011, however, the California Teachers Association has spent the most money for lobbying, $7.1 million, state records show. The California Council of Service Employees is second, $5.6 million; and the petroleum association is third, $5.2 million.

Cumulatively, Capitol interests have doled out $66.9 million for lobbying in the first quarter, California Common Cause concluded Wednesday after analyzing disclosure statements. The total is a near-record for the first three months of a year, topped only by $68 million in 2008, said Phillip Ung, the group's policy advocate.

Ung said that interest groups lobby in good times to expand benefits they receive in state tax breaks or other assistance, and they lobby in bad times to protect such benefits.

"Our experience is that the influence industry seems to be recession proof," Ung said.

The first quarter's $66.9 million in cumulative spending compares to $66.7 million in the first three months of 2011, Ung said.

As the Legislature moved into high gear last year, so did lobbying expenditures: $76.4 million in the second quarter, then $73.3 million in the third quarter before the total dropped slightly to $70.0 million in the fourth quarter, Ung said.

In addition to the Western States Petroleum Association, The Bee has compiled the following list of the biggest spenders for lobbying in the first three months of 2012, based on state records:

• California Labor Federation, $867,234

• Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, $801,331

• Sempra Energy & its affiliates, $756,970

• Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, $755,475

• California Hospital Association/California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, $678,008

• California Chamber of Commerce, $661,671

• Chevron Corp., $605,613

• California State Council of Service Employees, $588,403

• County of San Bernardino, $568,548

• AT&T & its affiliates, $549,662

• California Teachers Association, $541,027

• California Manufacturers and Technology Association, $501,608

• California School Employees Association, $478,291

• California Online Poker Association, $469,260

• County of Los Angeles, $354,452

California Common Cause reported that government interests -- including local, county, tribal and special districts -- topped other sectors by spending $11 million for lobbying from January through March. The health sector spent $8.4 million, followed by the manufacturing/industrial sector, $5.4 million.

"It's due time for lobbying reform in California, including real-time disclosure and stopping the revolving door between government and industry," Ung said.

* Updated at 4:15 p.m. to indicate the types of state issues that Western States Petroleum Association was lobbying for or against in the first quarter. Updated at 5:10 p.m. to indicate top spenders for the two-year legislative session that began in January 2011.


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