Documents indicate an array of groups funded lobbying efforts for DREAM Act

Dozens of groups, ranging from state teachers organizations to a multinational company, paid to lobby the second part of the California DREAM Act, according to documents from the Secretary of State’s office.

The documents, available through a database compiled by California Watch, indicate that the act — also known as AB 131, which the state Senate and Assembly approved last week and now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown — was lobbied by over 30 groups, many of which contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobbyist efforts.

Organizations lobbying the state legislature must submit a Form 635, which names the bills being lobbied and the amount paid to those lobbying in the state Legislature. The form does not specify the amount paid to lobby individual bills but rather the total expenditures for all lobbying actions.

Of the many groups that lobbied AB 131, the California Teachers Association paid a combined $5.3 million to lobbying efforts on that bill and over 20 Assembly and Senate bills in the first half of fiscal year 2011, according to the Form 635s the association submitted.

Mike Myslinski, a spokesperson for the 325,000-member association, said the approximately 25,000 undocumented students who graduate from state high schools every year should be eligible for financial aid.

“Our communities and our economy are best served by a higher education system that recognizes equal access to educational opportunities,” he said.

The association’s touting of the economic benefits of AB 131 was expressed by several other groups that lobbied the bill, including the California Federation of Teachers. The federation, which represents faculty in public and private schools and colleges, also lobbied the bill, contributing about $380,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2011 to lobby over 30 bills, including AB 131, according to the federation’s Form 635s.

“The social costs for not providing this aid far outweigh the financial cost of helping these Californians succeed and contribute to the recovery of California’s economy,” said Judith Michaels, a legislative representative for the federation, in a letter to state Senator Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego.

But groups representing teachers were not the only groups to lobby the bill at the state level. The Northern and Southern California as well as the San Diego and Imperial Counties branches of the American Civil Liberties Union also supported the bill, paying approximately a combined $170,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2011 to lobby over 60 bills.

“(Students’) ability to pursue higher education promises not only the fulfillment of personal dreams, but also a more vital labor force for the future of California,” said Tiffany Mok, a legislative advocate for the union, in a letter to state Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles.

Although the documents show mostly in-state organizations lobbied the bill, the multinational American International Group, Inc. — an insurance organization headquartered in New York — contributed about $20,000 to lobbyist efforts for AB 131 and seven other bills in the second quarter of fiscal year 2011, according to a Form 635 submitted by the organization.

The city of Berkeley also participated in lobbying the bill. The city, which voted unanimously to support AB 131 in May, provided about $12,500 to lobby AB 131 and over a dozen other bills in the second quarter of 2011, according to the city’s Form 635.

Damian Ortellado covers higher education.