Buried within the lobbyist compensation report for the 125th Legislature is data that illustrates some of the most intensely lobbied – and contentious – policy initiatives of the session.

According to reports from the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, some of the most concentrated lobbying activity centered on a controversial bill that loosened regulations to allow mining on Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.

Groups spent $85,084 in March advocating for the proposal.

Aroostook Timberlands, a subsidiary of JD Irving Ltd., the Canada-based corporation and Maine’s largest landowner, was the biggest spender, paying lobbyists $73,348 over one month.

The figure doesn’t represent the total amount spent lobbying the proposal. Disclosure law requires lobbyists to reveal expenditures for specific legislation only if they spend more than $1,000 in one month while working for one organization.

The state budget is typically a big draw for lobbyists as dozens of interest groups compete for funding.

The over-$1,000 report shows lobbyists were paid more than $200,000 last year to influence state spending decisions.

This year, lobbyists spent a minimum of $82,000 trying to influence Gov. Paul LePage’s controversial cuts to MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Last year’s watchdog report on the spending practices of the Maine Turnpike Authority generated a lot of lobbying activity, mostly by the turnpike authority. The MTA spent close to $40,000 lobbying lawmakers about a report that ultimately led to the indictment of former director Paul Violette.

Violette was sentenced this spring to 3 1/2 years in prison for stealing about $430,000 from the MTA.

Lobbyists spent more than $33,000 last year to facilitate the state’s purchase of the Dolby landfill in East Millinocket. Brookfield Renewable Power, who sold the landfill, spent $27,389 hoping to facilitate the transaction.

Insurance companies and health advocates spent in excess of $30,000 working L.D. 1333, the controversial health insurance reform bill passed last year.

Other lobbying spenders included:

Lafayette Ocean Resort spent $20,000 last year advocating for a bill altering the state’s sand dune law so that the company can build a $2 million resort in Wells. The bill passed.

Southsong LLC, a real estate company from Texas, spent $18,272 lobbying the bill to legalize consumer fireworks. The bill was enacted.

Maine Racing LLC spent over $17,700 over a three-month period hoping to achieve legislative authorization of the Biddeford racino and partner facility in Calais. Maine Racing spent $60,000 last year advocating for the proposal. Ocean Properties, the project developer, spent $18,742. The racino did not receive legislative approval and was rejected by voters in November.

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: [email protected]