Picture the business of lobbying in Ohio as a big pond with a small school of sizeable swimmers intermingling with a mixture of small to medium-size fish.

Picture the business of lobbying in Ohio as a big pond with a small school of sizeable swimmers intermingling with a mixture of small to medium-size fish.

"It's a mixed bag," says Tony Bledsoe, the executive director of the office of the state's Legislative Inspector General. "Some organizations and groups employ heavy hitters, but some of the nonprofits have only one person."

With 1,600 lobbyists representing 1,750 interests, Bledsoe, the legislative inspector general since 2004, has plenty to track. Basically, his duties include overseeing all state lobbying endeavors and providing ethics advice for the General Assembly.

Bledsoe ensures that lobbyists follow the laws that delineate how they try to influence legislation, government agency decisions and state retirement board investment judgments. He also provides legal advice and guidance to lawmakers and legislative employees to avoid ethical snafus.

All lobbyists and their clients are required to register and submit tri-annual activity and spending reports to Bledsoe's office, which is the administrative arm of the bi-partisan Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.

"It's important that they register so the public knows who is speaking to a public official and what money they are spending," Bledsoe says.

In the wake of pay-to-play scandals in years past, spending restrictions got tougher. Lobbyists can spend up to $50 on a legislator without filing a report and are permitted to spend $75 on food and beverage in a calendar year. Lawmakers must reimburse anything over that amount.

"We have a multitude of policy decisions that impact every facet of life in this state that is relative to many interested parties," Bledsoe says.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice at times will monitor or even lead investigations.

"We keep a close watch to make sure they are complying with the lobbying laws," he says.