Lobbying hits all-time high — $20.8 million expended in 2016

John Schaaf

By John Schaaf, Executive Director, Legislative Ethics Commission

Lobbying spending in Kentucky hit an all-time high in 2016, as $20.8 million was paid by businesses, organizations, and lobbyists pursuing their interests with the General Assembly.

In the largest spending category, $18.7 million was spent last year by employers compensating lobbyists, a 10 percent increase over the $16.8 million in compensation paid in 2014, the previous even-numbered year with a 60-day legislative session.

Lobbying continues to be a growth industry, as overall spending is up 11 percent from 2014, and compensation has more than tripled over the past 20 years, up from $6 million in 1996. Meanwhile, the number of lobbying employers has increased by 35 percent — from 448 in 1996 to 694 businesses and organizations registered today.

The top lobbying spenders and the amounts spent in 2016 are: Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($281,378); Altria Client Services and its affiliates, including Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco ($274,358); Kentucky Hospital Association ($211,096); Kentucky Retail Federation ($204,124); Kentucky Justice Association ($185,659); Marsy’s Law for All ($162,270); Norton Healthcare ($156,518); Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($139,570); Humana ($130,798); and Molina Healthcare ($129,933).

The rest of the top 20 spenders are: Anthem ($128,500); Hewlett Packard Enterprise ($126,000); Buffalo Trace Distillery ($117,250); Kentucky League of Cities ($111,291); Century Aluminum ($110,541); AT&T ($107,357); Americans for Prosperity ($106,814, including $93,000 on advertising); EQT Corporation ($103,880); Home Builders Association of Kentucky ($103,460); and Kentucky State Building & Construction Trades Council ($100,834).

While there are more lobbying interests represented in Frankfort, the number of lobbyists has decreased by eight percent in the past 10 years, indicating the growth of lobbying firms which represent multiple clients.

Last year, the top 10 lobbying firms employing a total of 44 lobbyists, earned $10.8 million of the $18.7 million in compensation paid by businesses and organizations for legislative lobbying. So, seven percent of the 601 registered lobbyists represented almost half the lobbying employers and earned 58 percent of the compensation.

From the amounts earned, all lobbyists in 2016 paid $894,000 in expenses, including rent, phone, research and administrative assistance, food, lodging, and transportation.

The top earners among lobbying firms in 2016 are: MML&K Government Solutions, the lobbying office of the McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland law firm, has 10 lobbyists, representing 49 lobbying interests which paid the firm $2.16 million for lobbying in 2016. McCarthy Strategic Solutions, with seven lobbyists, representing 62 businesses and organizations which paid the firm $1.39 million for 2016 lobbying; Commonwealth Alliances, with three lobbyists representing 33 lobbying interests that paid the firm $1.35 million last year; and Top Shelf Lobby, with five lobbyists representing 36 clients that paid the firm $1.2 million in 2016.

Other lobbying firms include: Capital Link Consultants, with five lobbyists representing 28 businesses and organizations that paid the firm $1 million last year; Babbage Cofounder, with one lobbyist representing 30 lobbying interests which paid the firm $899,000 in 2016; JYB3 Group, with three lobbyists representing 26 clients, which paid the firm $800,000 in 2016; The Rotunda Group, with four lobbyists representing 18 clients that paid the firm $793,000 in 2016; Government Strategies, with five lobbyists representing 24 clients that paid the firm $652,000 last year; and Capitol Solutions, with one lobbyist who represented 13 clients that paid the firm $592,000 for 2016 lobbying.

Legislator Financial Statements due by February 15:

Members of the General Assembly and major management personnel at the Legislative Research Commission are required to file Financial Disclosure Statements with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

Statements from legislators and top LRC staff are due on or before Wednesday, February 15, 2017. A blank disclosure statement and a sample completed form are available at http://klec.ky.gov/Forms/Pages/default.aspx

After review, the forms will be uploaded to the Ethics Commission’s website.

New lobbyist groups include foundation, one city:

The following businesses and organizations recently registered to lobby the General Assembly: City of Georgetown; Ferring Pharmaceuticals; Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; Harshaw Trane; JPMorgan Chase Holdings; Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board; Kentucky Film and Digital Entertainment Association; Masonic Homes of Kentucky; National Heritage Association; Nuclear Energy Institute; Opportunity Solutions Project; Polaris Industries; Racing Resource Group; Safety Edge, LLC; Unite Foundation; and U.S. Justice Action Network.

And some gave up their lobbying rights:

These groups recently terminated their registrations, and are no longer registered to lobby:

AbbVie, Inc.; Bayer Corp.; Calgon Carbon Corp.; Childrens Magic U.S.; Crown Castle USA, Inc.; Dell, Inc.; Fortress Capital Formation; Foundation for Government Accountability; General Electric Co.; Hazard Perry Co. Community Ministries; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Kentucky Association of Circuit Court Clerks; Northern Kentucky University; Premier Integrity Solutions; Teamsters Local 89; and Waste Connections, Inc.

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