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More lobbyists in Springfield than past 5 years: report

SPRINGFIELD — The number of lobbyists seeking out public officials in Springfield is at the highest level in five years, according to a newspaper report published Sunday.

So far this year, there are 1,973 lobbying entities or organizations, up from 1,763 five years ago, the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reported citing a review of public records. Some note a push by utility companies for legislation altering state law for favorable changes to the industry, while others attribute the reason to a change in the governor’s office with the first Republican holding the office in more than a decade.

“With the new administration, there are those who do business with the state who feel the need to have more direct contact with executive branch employees,” said state Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican.

State records show the biggest spending lobbying organization in 2015 has been the Ounce of Prevention Fund which is led by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s wife, Diana Rauner. The public-private partnership which focuses on early education spent more than $130,000 on lobbying public officials.

Another group, the Illinois Association of Park Districts, has spent roughly $87,000

Lee Enterprises reports some of the lobbyists include former lawmakers and aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Some companies have increased the number of lobbyist hires, including in the energy sector. Exelon Generation has 16 lobbyists this year, up from eight last year.

Exelon Corp., based in Chicago, has been pushing for a system that would pay nuclear plants extra for producing carbon-free energy. It has threatened to close nuclear power plants in Clinton, Cordova and Byron unless legislators approve the legislation. Critics have called it a bailout for a profitable company.

Some Exelon hires have ties to both parties. They include former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady and former aides to Senate President John Cullerton.