California businesses spent a record amount on lobbying in 2022. Who paid the most?

After a lull during the pandemic, lobbyist spending by California businesses, advocacy groups, unions and local governments roared back in 2022, the latest state figures show.

Employers spent about $444 million on lobbying state officials in California last year, up by nearly $50 million, or 12%, from 2021, according to the California Secretary of State. California employers have never spent $444 million on lobbying in a single year before; however, after adjusting for inflation, spending in 2022 still lagged spending in 2019.

Spending on lobbyists shows the extent to which entities outside of state government are trying to influence it. Lobbying expenditures often go toward paying lobbyists who try to convince legislators and others to take actions that will benefit their employers.

But lobbying is also big business in Sacramento — and much of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by businesses each year goes to firms in the Sacramento region.

More than 1,000 businesses, advocacy groups or others spent at least $100,000 lobbying state government in 2022, state data show.

The biggest spender last year was the Western States Petroleum Association, which spent about $7.3 million on lobbying, followed by the International Franchise Association.

The Secretary of State’s office notes the industry of each lobbyist employer, though the categorizations are sometimes arguable. In the Secretary of State’s estimation, the government sector spent the most on lobbying in 2022, followed by the health, manufacturing and utilities sectors.