Writing at Prop Zero, NBC Los Angeles's website devoted to California politics, Sherry Bebitch Jeffe interprets the trend thusly:
Why the increasingly high price for influencing the state's legislative process?
The simplistic answer is because money talks louder than people in the governmental arena (that's a major complaint of today's Occupy Wall Street). And it costs more to be heard these days.
She then goes on to explain that the process is slightly more complicated than that:
The rise in lobby expenses is at least partially due to the simple fact that the policy stakes are so high--and the state's ability to fund priorities important to any group has shrunk dramatically in this still sour economy.
When the size of the pie shrinks, the result is interests fighting each other even more feverishly for access to pols and influence on legislation.
That's a more sophisticated analysis, but it's still not quite right. These are symptoms, not causes ...
Big business and big labor will continue to pony up big money as long as there is big government. The more the Golden State inserts itself into every facet of its citizens' lives -- from their carbon emissions to their dietary choices -- the more it will be possible to profit by attempting to manipulate government instead of serving the marketplace. It's all well and good to want to get money out of politics. But you've got to get politics out of money first.