Despite shortened session for ‘in-person’ lobbying in Capitol and Annex, lobbying reaches $9.88 million; $334,094 spent on advertising

Editor’s Note:

The 2020 Kentucky General Assembly was one for the books. With more than a month left in the 60-day session, committee meetings were held sans audiences and lobbyists because the Capitol and Anne were closed to the public. Only lobbyists who were invited to testify before a committee were let inside the Capitol or the Capitol Annex. The lobbies on floors 2, 3 and 4 of the annex, where House and Senate members have their offices, were empty each day from mid-March until when the session ended April 15. Actually, they still are because neither building has been reopened for all to enter.

So the question went to Laura Hendrix, executive director of the KLEC, and Donnita Crittenden, administrative assistant: “Since lobbyists weren’t allowed in either building and didn’t gather en masse as they do every day of each session, how did that affect the amount spent on lobbying?”

The answer is: “Not very much.” Laura and Donnita suggested checking out all previous newsletters filed on the KLEC website — https://klec.ky.gov/About-KLEC/Pages/News.aspx — to find all the numbers from previous sessions. You can check for yourself by clicking on corresponding months listed.

The reason that lobbying spending remains consistent throughout the year, including during legislative sessions, is that many lobbyists are paid an annual rate, which is allocated on a monthly basis, and it’s the monthly amount that’s reported to KLEC.  

Employers of contract lobbyists typically want those lobbyists working on a year-round basis, talking to legislators, tracking isssues and attending interim committee meetings.  So, it makes sense to contract with lobbyists on a year-round basis.  Likewise, many lobbyists who are not contract lobbyists are full-time employees of the business or organization for whom they lobby, and their lobbying activities are year-round, while they also perform other duties for their employers.

When lobbyists are paid in monthly increments throughout the year, it “smooths out” the reporting so there aren’t great spikes in spending when lobbying is intense, such during the final days of a regular session or during a special legislative session.

2018, the last 60-day session prior to this year, had a record $10.67 million spent on lobbying after April lobbying reports were filed. That was an 11 percent increase over 2016, and 19 percent above 2017.

2019’s 30-day session ended with $9.43 million when the April reports were filed.

KLEC recently got the lobbying totals of 2020 and, surprise, the dollars didn’t set a record but is the second highest to the 2018 record with $9.88 million. One might think with no access to legislators in the Capitol or Annex that spending amounts would have decreased.

My thanks to Laura and Donnita for sending me in the right direction to compare expenditures by some 715 businesses and organizations in what had to be one of the oddest lobbying sessions ever.

Advertising on legislative issues totalled $334,094. More information is below but for a couple of years, the Legislative Ethics Commission as required totals spent on advertising — to support or defeat an issue — to be included in the lobbying totals. The $334,094 is included in the $9.88 million spent on the 2020 session

Laura H. Hendrix


From Laura Hendrix

It is probably not hyperbole to express that the 2020 Regular Legislative Session was not “regular” in any sense of the word, due to the unprecedented fiscal, health, and employment concerns brought about by COVID-19.  However, the work of the General Assembly went on.

From January through April, 2020, employers and lobbyists registered with the Commission spent $9.88 million to lobby the Kentucky General Assembly. This was lower than the previous even-year session of 2018, in which a record-setting $10.67 million was spent. There are 715 businesses and organizations lobbying the General Assembly, with 609 lobbyists working for those employers.

Lobbying spending for the past four months was led by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $162,194.  Coming in second was Altria Client Services LLC (Philip Morris) with $148,588.

The other top 10 spenders were: Kentucky League of Cities ($124,070); Juul Labs ($117,403); Marsy’s Law for All ($103,819); Kentucky Hospital Association ($85,694); Kentucky Retail Federation ($82,783.20); American Civil Liberties Union of KY ($70,237); Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives ($68,573); and the Kentucky Justice Association ($66,164).

The rest of the top 25 spenders were : Anthem Inc. & its Affiliates ($64,567); Kentucky Education Association ($63,329); Humana ($60,612); Kentucky Bankers Association ($59,024); Kentucky Medical Association ($57,817); LG & E and KU Energy ($57,665); Kentucky Farm      Bureau Federation ($52,769); Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of KY ($51,841); CSX Corporation ($51,249); US Justice Action Network ($50,302); HCA Healthcare ($49,245); Home Builders Association of Kentucky ($48,799); Greater Louisville, Inc. ($47,800); Kentucky Downs ($47,345); and Century Aluminum Company ($46,512).

The Legislative Ethics Commission’s searchable register of lobbyists and employers is online at http://apps.klec.ky.gov/searchregister.asp.

Advertising on Legislation for the 2020 Session

The 2020 Regular Session brought with it spending on advertising supporting and opposing legislation, which is required to be reported by employers if it appears during a legislative session, of $334,094. Several groups registered with the Commission had significant advertising spending.

The highest reported spending was from 5 entities that reported advertising spending on issues related to HB 137, the sports betting bill, totaling $63,505 (collectively). These groups were DraftKings, FanDuel, IGT and its Affiliates, Kentucky Downs, and Kentucky Raceway. Kentucky Raceway disclosed that the group “Sports Betting Now” was utilized for their advertising.

The second highest reported advertising spending was from Juul Labs, at $58,679. Third was $57,939 in spending by Marsy’s Law for All, and fourth was Kentucky League of Cities, which spent $44,540.

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