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Lobbying Cook County officials a million-dollar business

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Lobbying Cook County elected leaders and staff continues to be a million-dollar business, but meetings between lobbyists and officials to discuss public policy have tapered off a bit this year, newly released data suggests.

In the first six months of the year, lobbyists were paid by various companies a total of $1.15 million -- up from the $824,000 earned from January to June 2011, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr's office semi-annual report released Thursday.

In all of 2011, lobbyists pulled down nearly $2 million.

But the 211 active lobbyists reported a total of 540 "contacts" -- meetings, emails, texts, phone calls or even events -- with county officials in the first half of this year, the lowest of any six-month period since online filing began in 2010, according to a statement from Orr's office.

Lobbyists chatted up county officials about everything from a Des Plaines River project - details of which weren't immediately available to the Sun-Times or Crain's Chicago Business - to unincorporated areas of Cook County to lowering the county's jail population, according to Orr's office.

The jail population and delivering services to pockets of unincorporated Cook County - inexpensively -- were thrown in the run-up to approving this year's budget.

Cook County Board President pushed, then backed away from a plan to charge residents of unincorporated stretches for law enforcement services.

And Preckwinkle has been arguing for a way to reduce the jail population, in hopes of saving the $143-a-day it costs to house a single prisoner and help those behind bars get the social services they might need to get them back on track.

All-Circo, Inc., was the best paid lobbying firm pulling in $386,500 -- representing one-third of all reported earnings for the six-month period, according to Orr's office.

Lobbyists are required to file twice annually, noting who they're meeting with, subject matter and how much they're paid for the work.

Orr says the online reports "sheds light on who is being paid to influence county decision-makers."
To take a look at the searchable database go to the clerk's website here.

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