Return on investment: Chamber spent $126,801 lobbying, says it saved Kentucky businesses hundreds of millions

Chamber was heaviest spender during session that saw largest number of lobbying companies

John Schaaf

By John Schaaf, Executive Director, Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission

Lobbyists and their employers reported spending $6.98 million in the 2017 session of the General Assembly. The total matches the record spent in the 2015 session, the most recent 30-day odd-year session.

In the past year, the number of lobbying organizations has increased by nine percent, as Kentucky follows the national trend toward more state lobbying by businesses and interest groups, and more lobbying spending in state capitols. As an illustration of that upward trend, the amount spent in the first three months of 2017 exceeds the amount spent in the entire 12 months of 2001, the first year in which Kentucky held a 30-day session.

As it was in the 2016 session, the top spending lobbying organization this year was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $126,801 in the three-month session. On its website, the Chamber proclaims 2017 as “a record year of legislative victories,” and says its advocacy against minimum wage and maternity leave bills saved the business community $244 million; while its work toward repealing the prevailing wage law saved businesses $190 million.

The Chamber also estimates that businesses will save $117 million thanks to the Chamber’s work to block 1) “transgender bathroom” bills that would have required public schools and state and local governments to designate that bathrooms they control only be used by persons based on their biological sex; and 2) a “religious freedom” bill that would have required that no law shall impair the exercise of rights guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and Kentucky, including a person’s “right of conscience” or freedom of religion.

Although the Chamber did not include businesses’ estimated cost savings for the “right-to-work” legislation, the charter school bill, or legislation requiring medical review panels, those issues are also characterized as legislative victories by the Chamber.

After the 2016 General Assembly, in which the Chamber spent $149,000 on lobbying, the group’s website called that session “one of the most successful the business community has seen”, citing “pro-business legislative victories” on bills relating to public-private partnerships to finance government projects and services, and additional money for the state’s pension system, along with the defeat of “anti-business tax reform” and renewable energy legislation.

The second-leading spender in the 2017 session was the U.S. Justice Action Network, a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) group that spent $89,125 lobbying on Senate Bill 120, which was enacted, and includes reforms to the reentry process for convicted felons, including access to occupational licenses for those with a criminal record, and a reentry substance abuse pilot program.

Other top lobbying spenders in the recently concluded General Assembly are: Altria ($85,347); Marsy’s Law for All ($79,218); Kentucky Hospital Association ($71,132); Kentucky League of Cities ($68,969); Kentucky Justice Association ($57,156); Kentucky Bankers Association ($54,240); Anthem Inc. ($51,000); Greater Louisville, Inc. ($49,329); Kentucky Retail Federation ($46,371); Kentucky Medical Association ($44,472); Norton Healthcare ($44,325); Humana ($41,440); Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, Inc. ($40,012); Home Builders Association of Kentucky ($38,626); Excellence in Education Action ($38,458); AT&T ($38,216); Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($35,951); and Kentucky Association of Realtors ($35,272).

Railroad companies join to host large legislative reception

During the 2017 General Assembly, several events were held by lobbying businesses and organizations.

One of the largest events held during the session was the reception sponsored by four railroad companies. The event was held on rail cars parked on Broadway in downtown Frankfort, and CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp., Paducah & Louisville Railway, Inc., and RJ Corman Railroad each reported spending $2,370 on the event, for a total of $9,480.

Events held in March include: a reception sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentucky at the Governor’s Mansion ($4,313); a luncheon sponsored by the Kentucky Dental Association in the Capitol Annex ($2,102); a luncheon sponsored by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association in the Capitol Annex ($2,020); a reception sponsored by Kentucky State University at the KSU Co-op Building ($1,625); and a barbecue sponsored by the Kentucky League of Cities in the Capitol Annex ($1,354).

722 employers registered to lobby in 2017, a new record

At the conclusion of the 2017 General Assembly, 722 businesses and organizations were registered to lobby. That’s a record number of lobbyist employers, and a nine percent increase since this time last year.

After the end of the session, 13 groups terminated their lobbying registrations. Those are: Big Ass Solutions Company; BPM Lumber; Crown Cork & Seal Co.; Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Hudson Holdings, LLC; Kentucky Tax Bill Servicing, Inc.; Laborer’s Local 576; National Association of Charter School Authorizers; National Association for Gun Rights; NCP Finance Kentucky; Nuclear Energy Institute, Inc.; Prudential Financial, Inc.; and SolarCity.

There are six organizations which have registered to lobby since the end of the session: Adapt Pharms, Inc.; Central Kentucky Landfill; Council for a Strong America; DXC Technology Co.; Rhino Resource Partners; and Hopebridge.

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