2021 ‘short session’ still long on lobbying expenses; ‘advertising’ passes a half million

By Laura Hendrix, Executive Director, Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

Laura H. Hendrix

According to the most recent lobbyist and employer reports, legislative lobbying spending for the first 8 months of 2021 was just shy of $15 million, at $14.9 million.

Businesses and organizations kept up the trend of increased lobbying spending by nearly reaching the record $15.7 million spent in the same period in 2019.

The General Assembly is in session for only 30 legislative days in odd years, as opposed to a 60-day session in even numbered years.  While a special session was also held in September, these expenditures will not be reported until January, 2022.

During the first two-thirds of 2021, 748 lobbying employers paid about 612 lobbyists $13.5 million, and an additional $531,872 was spent on lobbying-related administrative costs, such as travel and other expenses.

The leading spender for January through August, 2021, is the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $355,812 on lobbying. The second place finisher, at $184,933, is Altria (Philip Morris).

The rest of the top 10 spenders and amounts for this period of reporting are: American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky ($162,863); Kentucky Hospital Association ($124,127); Kentucky Equine Education Alliance (KEEP) ($122,156); Keeneland Association ($122,118); Kentucky Education Association ($108,081); CSX Corporation ($103,467); Secure Democracy ($103,240); and Anthem, Inc. and its Affiliates ($96,500).

The remainder of the top 20 spenders and amounts are: Heaven Hill Distilleries ($96,000); Kentucky League of Cities ($893,438); HCA Healthcare ($89,665); Charter Communications ($88,967); National Council of State Boards of Nursing ($86,330); LG&E and KU Energy ($84,413); Kentucky Retail Federation ($77,282); Westlake Chemical Corporation ($77,000); RAI Services Company ($76,625); and DraftKings, Inc. ($76,500).


Advertising relating to lobbying in the 2021 legislative session nearly doubles from last short session

In 2014, bipartisan legislation enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly required employers of lobbyists to report the cost of advertising appearing during a legislative session that supports or opposes legislation, which is paid for by that employer of lobbyists or a person or organization affiliated with an employer. This includes statements disseminated to the public in print, via radio or television, on billboards, or any electronic means, including internet or telephonically, and includes direct or bulk mailings.

During the last short regular legislative session, in 2019, $317,859 was spent on advertising relating to legislation, by employers of lobbyists.

In 2021, this amount increased substantially, as employers spent $500,928 on advertising to support or oppose legislation during the regular session.

The top 5 employers and amounts spent on advertising, and legislation reported, were:

  • Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($114,160)- SB 5 (liability protection during emergencies); HB 7 (recovery ready communities); HB 25 (KEES scholarships); HB 126 (crimes and punishments); HB 561 (gas tax) and transportation investment. Included digital ads, radio and social media ads, legislator direct communication, and patch through calls and texts.
  • Kentucky Education Association ($79,656) – SB 25 (education opportunity accounts); HB 149 (education opportunity accounts); and HB 192 (executive branch budget). These included billboards, radio ads, phone calls, digital ads, and posters.
  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing ($69,330) – SB 78 (prescriptive authority of advanced practice registered nurses). Included ads, emails, and search engine marketing.
  • Kentucky Equine Education Alliance (KEEP) ($54,524) – SB 120 (pari-mutuel wagering). Included patch through calls, social media and digital advertising.
  • Americans for Prosperity ($47,841) – Gas tax. Included television, radio, and digital ads, and telephone calls.

Recent lobbying registrations and terminations

Seven businesses and organizations recently registered to lobby the General Assembly: American Kidney Fund; Bar K Ranch; Carvana; EdChoice, Inc.; Mako Medical Laboratories LLC; New Towne Consultants (NTC); and Vera Action, Inc.

Recently terminated businesses and organizations include: Airbnb, Inc.; Barr Media, LLC; BusPatrol; Confluent Health; Enhanced Capital; Guardian Healthcare Providers; Janus Capital Management LLC; Kentucky Beverage Association; Light River Technologies, Inc.; Morehead State University; Philips North America LLC; Securus Technologies; and Self Storage Association.

Commission Office Procedures and COVID-19

Following guidance from federal, state, and local officials regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission halted in-person services at its Frankfort office as of Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

As of July 1, 2021, the Commission office re-opened its office to the public. We request that you wear a mask when visiting our office, due to the increased prevalence and transmissibility of the COVID Delta strain at this time.  Also, we would be happy to speak to you over the phone or via Zoom.

We encourage you to continue to contact us via the means listed below, and by filing electronically or by scanning paperwork and emailing it to us.  If you need to send the Commission copies of paperwork, it is most efficient to scan and email it to the email addresses as listed on the staff page, or fax to the number above.

Legislators, staff, lobbyists, employers, and the public may continue to contact the office by phone at (502) 573-2863, by fax at (502) 573-2929, and via the email addresses listed on the staff page:  https://klec.ky.gov/About-KLEC/Pages/Commission-Staff.aspx . You may still reach Laura Hendrix, Executive Director, at (502) 573-2910, Emily Dennis, Counsel, at (502) 573-2911, and Lori Smither, Staff Assistant, at (502) 564-9084. You may still reach Donnita Crittenden, Executive Assistant, at the main Commission number (502) 573-2863.

Continued thanks to the many lobbying entities who have honored our request to begin filing online, and those who have utilized this service for many years. If a lobbyist or employer is currently filing disclosures by paper and would like to file online, please email us and we can contact you with an ID and password.

If an entity needs to register as a lobbyist or employer, please email the required scanned paperwork to Donnita Crittenden or Lori Smither at the staff emails in the link above or fax them to (502) 573-2929. Blank forms may be found here https://klec.ky.gov/Forms/Pages/Get-Blank-Forms.aspx

All provisions of the Code of Legislative Ethics are in force during this time. If there is a need for an opinion about the application of the Code to any particular ethical issue that may arise, please continue to contact us and we will answer your questions.

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