‘Show me the money’: A short session year ends in record spending by lobbyists

John Schaaf

$20 million falls just short of record ($20.8M) spent on a 60-day session

Kentucky lobbying spending for 2017 will surpass $20 million, an all-time record for spending on lobbying the General Assembly in an odd-numbered year, when the legislative session is only half as long as in even-numbered years.

This year’s total will easily eclipse the previous odd-year record of $19.3 million spent in 2015. The only other time lobbying spending has exceeded $20 million was in 2016, when $20.8 million was spent by businesses and organizations lobbying the General Assembly.

There are 714 businesses and organizations registered to lobby, and they employ 615 lobbyists. In 2017, those employers will spend an average of $28,000 lobbying in Frankfort.

The vast majority – about 90 percent – of lobbying spending each year is paid as compensation to lobbyists. The other ten percent of spending goes for office rent, compensation to support staff, receptions and other events, and expenses incurred in travel to Frankfort.

In the 25 years since the ethics law was enacted and employers and lobbyists began reporting their spending, $300 million has been spent on legislative lobbying in Kentucky.

Lobbying groups come and go:

Businesses and organizations which have recently registered to lobby include: Crown Cork & Seal Co.; DisposeRX, Inc.; Handy Technologies; Junior Achievement Coalition; Marijuana Policy Project; and National Association of Social Workers, Kentucky Chapter.

Employers that have terminated their registrations and are no longer lobbying include: American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Council of State Governments; and Edumedics.

In legislative ethics news from other states:

• Florida:  For at least three days in the final week of the 2017 legislative session, a covert surveillance camera recorded the comings and goings of legislators and lobbyists living in condos near the Capitol.

 • Indiana:  An Indianapolis Star review has found that as the General Assembly was considering crucial energy legislation, utilities and their political action committees poured millions into the General Assembly in the form of gifts, entertainment, campaign contributions and lobbying.

• Missouri:   Lawmakers are considering stricter controls on how PACs can spend their money, after a report that a PAC funded by a former House Speaker transferred roughly $650,000 he raised over the years from campaign contributors into a PAC that “spent heavily on golf outings, meals, travel, liquor, cigars, baseball tickets, office renovations and other expenses that critics say appear to violate the prohibition against using campaign money for personal business.”

• Oklahoma:  Legislators have been raising thousands of dollars from lobbyists at fundraisers during a special session limping into its eighth week, yet they’ve failed to make much progress toward plugging a $215 million hole in the state budget.

• South Carolina:  With two more arrests, the number of current and former S.C. lawmakers currently facing criminal charges grew to six.  In the wake of the criminal charges, South Carolina legislators are considering strengthening financial disclosure laws.

• Tennessee:  For the second time in a week, a state watchdog agency fined expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham, pushing his total penalties owed for ethics and campaign finance violations to more than a half million dollars. 

 

For information on the ethics news from Kentucky and other states, subscribe to the monthly newsletter from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. You can do that by contacting executive director John Schaaf at John.Schaaf@lrc.ky.gov or by calling the KLEC at 502-573-2863.

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