And I have often disagreed with the way that Mike has presented his case.
What bothered me was Mike's dogmatic insistence that water for ag was more important than water in other places. It reminded me of how a lawyer or lobbyist would say or do anything to benefit his client.
And that made me wonder just WHO Mike's client was. It also made me wonder if CFWC was not violating its status as a 501(c)3 non-profit, which forbids lobbying* legislators on particular legislation (such as the water bills or how to allocate federal stimulus money).
In response to this second question, Mike sent an official letter [pdf], stating that
The Coalition supports the current water bond, however we have expended no funds nor do we expect to do so in promoting it if it makes it to the ballot for a vote. While we believe the goals of the water bond are in line with the beliefs of a majority of our members, our goal is to educate rather than advocate.Now, I don't know about you, but Mike's time costs money and Mike's advocacy in favor of the bond therefore appears to "expend funds."
Oh, and whose funds are these? I asked Mike, point blank, three times to tell me who is contributing to the CFWC, and he ignored that question each time. The About us section on the CFWC website is useless, and the Directors of the CFWC need not have anything to do with funding.
So who's paying you to NOT lobby, Mike?
Here's the beginning of an answer. Their 2008 IRS 990 [PDF] lists $370,000 in dues (from WHO?), and $230,000 in "fees" under revenue. Under expenses, there's one FT salary (Wade) and another $200,000 in "other salaries." Put differently, CFWC spends about 2 cents per acre foot "defending" or expanding agricultural water rights. Maybe that's a deal, maybe not.
So CFWC is a one-man lobbying shop. Doesn't seem very grassroots to me...
Bottom Line: If you want to know who has skin in the game, follow the money.
I've been corrected on this. Some lobbying is allowed, under some circumstances. I am MORE interested in WHO is funding CFWC. (OTOH, what does CFWC do that's NOT lobbying?) Here's what the IRS says:
An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.