Idaho State University (ISU) has ended its paid lobbying of the United States Congress and federal departments, a move that will save the Pocatello school thousands of dollars annually.
ISU officials told IdahoReporter.com this week that the university decided not to renew a contract with a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm in part because of a federal earmark ban put in place in 2011 by Republicans eager to cut national spending.
The move will save the school a hefty chunk of change, though the amount spent on lobbying each year is a fraction of the university’s yearly budget.
According to OpenSecrets.org, ISU has spent $2.1 million lobbying the federal government since 2000. In most years, the school expended $160,000 for its lobbying efforts, hitting $200,000 three years in that time span.
Most recently, the school used the Grossman Group to bend the ears of lawmakers. The city of Pocatello also uses the Grossman group in the Beltway.
Andrew Taylor, acting spokesman for the school, told IdahoReporter.com that the 2011 earmark ban motivated school officials to end the relationship with the Grossman Group.
Republicans first instituted the ban in late 2010 as an avenue to cut pet projects and pork-barrel spending
often seen as wasteful. Idaho’s congressional delegation supported the ban, even though Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson pulled down earmarks for Idaho.
Congressman Raul Labrador, elected just before the GOP enacted the restriction, enthusiastically endorsed ending earmarks.
Howard Grimes, ISU’s vice president of research and development, told IdahoReporter.com the school used the lobbyist fund grant opportunities to draw more money to the campus and the state.
According to Grimes’ office, the lobbyist, working with school, was able to attract more than $35 million in research funding since 2000. Several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and NASA have granted money to the Pocatello school.
The vice president also noted the school’s lobbyist looked for opportunities to boost student aid.
“Thus, investing in lobbying efforts directly benefitted research activities and faculty development,” he said in an email. “Importantly, these funds helped Idaho preserve financial aid to assist Idahoan families.”
The school did not, he pointed out, use state, federal or tuition dollars to pay the Grossman Group. Instead, the vice president said, ISU tapped donors and investments to cover the expense.
Grimes, who’s been with ISU since November, said he will now shoulder much of the burden in searching out federal grant opportunities.
“It is in my hands now to make sure there is little or no negative effect felt,” he said. “I will work extremely hard to make sure the impact isn’t felt.”
ISU is not the only Idaho institution of higher learning to spend big bucks to sway federal lawmakers and bureaucrats. The University of Idaho spends about $130,000 annually, while Boise State University usually spends around $160,000 each year.
The state’s smallest four-year public college, Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, does not spend anything on federal lobbying according to records.
North Idaho College, a two-year community college in Coeur d’Alene, spent $40,000 on federal lobbying last year.