Lobbyists have influence not just because of campaign contributions, but also because of knowledge and effort. In California, The Sacramento Bee reports, they often do the detail work on legislation.
Whether or not it's disclosed, sponsoring bills is big business in the capital city, where there are more than 10 registered lobbyists for every state lawmaker.
When a group sponsors a bill, its lobbyists frequently serve as pseudo-staff to legislators – drafting bill language, researching issues and rounding up people to testify at hearings. Many times, the sponsoring interest group has drafted a bill before a lawmaker has even signed on.
"We write a fact sheet, we go knocking door to door to legislators, to those we think might have an interest in the issue – committee chairs if possible," said Michelle Castro, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union. "If they don't want to be associated with a union bill, then they decline, they don't do our bill."
SEIU was listed in legislative records as sponsoring two dozen bills last session, more than any other interest group. They included measures to take away fingerprinting requirements for recipients of in-home care and a resolution creating a special day honoring "justice for janitors."
Lobbyists sometimes know the bills they sponsor better than lawmakers do. It is not uncommon for legislators to send out news releases directing media to call a sponsoring interest group for more information on a bill.
One example: A news release about a bill by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, that would put new breastfeeding protocols in place at hospitals that deliver babies lists the sponsoring interest group, the California WIC Association, as a resource for reporters seeking interviews and information.