SCGA Public Affairs


Monday, November 13, 2023

“CalMatters” is a nonprofit, non-partisan state news service that was created a few years ago to do the kind of in-depth journalism once routinely provided by newspapers and periodicals and now provided scantily if at all only by those media organs funded by charitable contributions or substantial enough to sustain deficits. Its reporting is increasingly used by the few traditional print media organs still dedicated to serious journalism to fill gaps in their own coverage, particularly their political and public policy coverage.

CalMatters political statistician Jeremia Kimelman penned a story November 9 detailing the nearly 4,000 associations, alliances, businesses, organizations, and local governments that in the first three quarters of 2023 spent $358 million lobbying California’s Legislature, regulatory agencies, and Public Utilities Commission. The top ten (10) according to Kimelman’s reading of California’s Secretary of State’s reporting on the matter:

[Table: Jeremia Kimelman, CalMatters / Source: California Secretary of State]

Lobbying activity through ¾ of 2022 was $333 million and finished the year at $437 million. Roughly ¼ of lobbying expenditures are recorded in the last quarter of each year. Should 2023 follow the pattern, which is highly likely, this year’s expenditures will finish at roughly $475 million, an increase of about $40 million.

A cursory glance at the chart informs that most but not all (McDonald’s is a glaring exception) of 2023’s top ten contributors are not one-off participants; they are regulars to the game. That same glance should inform that there are many other “regulars” who in 2023 just didn’t contribute enough in the 2023 session to make the top ten but have likely made the top ten in years when confronted by matters of a compelling nature. It’s also clear that oil & gas, health, and public employment have spent multiple years on the Secretary of State’s top ten list.

Even more clear is the relationship between the bills in the 2023 legislative hopper and the associations, businesses, alliances, and organizations that made the top ten. Big oil, health, and fast food were centerpieces of the just concluded session, and for the most part their massive expenditure yielded what most would call mixed results at best. Of course, if you read these “Updates” you know that mixed” in terms of softened landings and mitigations is often as good a result as the political moment is capable of yielding. We hope you also know that these and the myriad other sectors that routinely expend millions of dollars on advocacy find those expenditures on such “soft landings” and “mitigations” sufficiently valuable to justify the spend.

Click here to read Kimelman’s full story and find more information about CalMatters.

Continue reading to find out why we thought it important to share this information with you.

The total of lobbying expenditures represented by the 2023’s top ten was but 15% of that total. That means that 85% of that $358 million total was spent by other sectors, many of them smaller than golf. Indeed, there are scores of sectors much smaller in economic scope and much more “mom and pop” in ownership diffusion that support ongoing advocacy associations/alliances with million-dollar budgets and professional staffs. This is but one of the many reasons we preach the folly of wasting golf’s resources on the production of economic impact studies. Is it really wise to document the gap between golf’s spend on the different forms of advocacy and the impression too many have of golf as a sector that is rich, elite, and aloof?

Golf provides much of value – recreation, green space, carbon sequestration, heat relief, fire breaks, community centers, charitable contribution – and that “value” is important to policymakers and their constituencies. But when it comes to the traditional markers of economic value – jobs, tax receipts, economic multipliers – golf’s return per acre of encumbered land pales in comparison to almost any other commercial or residential use. And that is why golf’s ability to affect outcomes in the public arena is going to follow the scripts of environmental and other “identity” proposition organizations that aggregate large numbers of citizens dedicated to a cause or activity (“amateurs” if you will), as opposed to the traditional business lobbies that aggregate financially interested parties dedicated to the sustenance of commerce, jobs, taxes, and economic multipliers – the kinds of organizations and sectors that make the Secretary of State’s top ten list. Or the top 500 for that matter.

It wasn’t golf’s economic heft that toppled AB 672/1910. Sure, golf developed a great strategy and devised solid tactics in support of that strategy, but it was the thousands of rank-and-file financially disinterested golfers who made the difference in the final analysis – a difference that once demonstrated is sure to echo to the benefit of the game’s public policy cause well beyond 2021-2022.

That is what SCGA is composed of – thousands (208,000 to be exact) of rank-and-file “amateur” golfers who belong to public, private, and unaffiliated golf clubs, and are by that identification the most “core” or “avid” of Southern California’s golfers and most likely to respond to calls to public action. They are to golf what the members of the very impactful California Bicycle Coalition are to that notable example of an identity proposition organization.

That is what all 58 of the nation’s golf associations (AGA’s) are made of, and until such time as some set of very well-heeled interests undertakes the task of grouping core/avid golfers into organizations separate from the AGA’s for the purpose of engaging them in the public policy arena, the amateur golf association will continue to be the only organization with the database and credibility necessary to duplicate the kind of organized response that made the difference in California’s AB 1910 campaign.

The professional associations like the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association, and PGA of America do great work in the area, but their reach, though disproportionately significant in many instances, doesn’t extend to the substantial numbers of financially disinterested citizen golfers that constitute the nation’s state and regional golf associations. In combination, the “professional” associations and “amateur” associations can work wonders, but there is no “combination” without the participation of the state/regional golf associations.

And that is why we came home from last week’s annual meeting of the International Association of Golf Administrators (IAGA) delighted that the IAGA, the organization that serves as the aggregator of the nation’s state/regional golf associations, has created a national network dedicated to “advocacy” in its many manifestations. It’s really an international network, as Golf Canada and Golf Ontario are included. Of course, as the leader in advocacy among the nation’s 58 state/regional associations, the SCGA is very much involved and is likely to be tapped for some measure of leadership as the “Network” evolves from creation to organization to action. The trick is going to be the same trick always involved when human beings and organizations resolve to change – thinking differently and then summoning the courage to act on that new thinking. Yes, courage. It always takes a healthy measure of that virtue to break free of old ways and old comforts.

Archived Updates

Opposition to Assembly Bill 1910

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Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

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FORE - Public Affairs

FORE - The magazine of the SCGA. Find archived Public Affairs articles on the website of the SCGA's award winning quarterly publication.

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AB 3192 [Muratsuchi; D-Torrance]

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“CalMatters” is a nonprofit, non-partisan state news service that was created a few years ago to do the kind of in-depth journalism once routinely provided by newspapers and periodicals and now provided scantily if at all only by those media organs funded by charitable contributions or substantial enough to sustain deficits.

Read More →