By John Schaaf, Executive Director, Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission
Vigorous lobbying on a tobacco tax, energy, and health-care issues has pushed Kentucky lobbying spending to an all-time high of $8.4 million during the first three months of the General Assembly session. That total is 17 percent higher than last year’s spending at the same point, and indicates that 2018 will be the third consecutive year of record lobbying spending.
The top spender in the first quarter of 2018 is Altria, one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of tobacco products, which spent heavily on its lobbying effort in opposition to an increased tax on tobacco. The parent company of Philip Morris USA spent $332,000 through the first three months of the session. That’s over three times more than the $94,468 that Altria spent in the same three months of 2016, the most recent 60-day session.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which supported a cigarette tax increase, was second on the lobbying list, spending $159,527. Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, another supporter of the tax hike, was the fourth-leading lobbying spender, at $110,766, while Kentucky Hospital Association, which supported a health care reimbursement assessment on tobacco products and changes in the Medicaid program, spent $100,744 and was the fifth-leading spender.
LG&E and KU Energy is third on the spending list at $116,858, while lobbying in support of HB 227, a bill to cut payments to utility customers who generate excess electricity and sell it to utility companies, and a resolution urging Congress to establish a “moratorium on closing coal-fired electric plants and eliminating all subsidies for renewable energy sources.” In addition to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, other top spenders who reported lobbying on HB 227 were: Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives ($71,018); Greater Louisville, Inc. ($53,750); Big Rivers Electric ($51,025); and Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($46,773).
1-800 Contacts, a company that conducts eye exams and sells contact lenses through its website spent $70,906 in opposition to HB 191. That bill was supported by optometrists, but opposed by ophthalmologists and supporters of telemedicine. Other top 10 spenders are: Baxter Healthcare ($70,000); Sullivan University ($64,332); and Kentucky League of Cities ($61,729).
The rest of the top 20 lobbying spenders include: Kentucky Education Association ($59,156); Kentucky Justice Association ($59,024); Kentucky Medical Association ($53,919); Kentucky Retail Federation ($53,686); Anthem, Inc. ($53,064); Marsy’s Law for All ($47,480); and Kentucky Bankers Association ($45,546).
Candidate disclosures are available
With three exceptions, all candidates who are running for the General Assembly in the May primary have filed financial disclosure statements, and those statements are posted on the Ethics Commission’s website: https://klec.ky.gov/Reports/Pages/Legislators-and-Candidates.aspx
New lobbying registrations and terminations
Businesses and organizations which have recently registered to lobby include: American Automobile Association; Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Coin Laundry Association; Corizon Health; Crowe Horwath; CTIA – The Wireless Association; Emerald Energy and Exploration Land Co.; Kentucky Cannabis Co.; Kentucky Section – PGA of America; Sage Therapeutics; Track Group; and Walker Company.
Terminated registrations for those no longer lobbying include: Crime & Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice; Hellervik Oilfield Technologies; and Perdue.