Politics & Government

Lobbyists spent record $16.4 million during Kentucky General Assembly in 2013

FRANKFORT — It's getting costly to lobby Kentucky lawmakers.

The Legislative Ethics Commission, in a new report, says businesses, organizations and lobbyists spent $16.4 million last year to try to influence state lawmakers to their way of thinking on hundreds of bills.

That's a record amount for an odd-numbered year in which the legislative session lasts just 30 days, John Schaaf, the commission's legal counsel, said in a release about the report.

The Kentucky General Assembly meets for 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 in odd-numbered years.

The record spending for 2013 is 8 percent higher than the $15.1 million spent during the last odd-numbered year and just $1.4 million less than the spending in 2012, when the session lasted 60 days.

The commission report, based on filings by registered lobbyists, said most of the money for lobbying was spent on pay for lobbyists. Other lobbying expenses often involve receptions for lawmakers.

Pay for lobbyists amounted to about $14.9 million of last year's $16.4 million total.

A total of 708 businesses and organizations lobbied Kentucky's 100 House members and 38 senators in 2013.

The top five spenders accounted for more than $1 million of the lobbying costs.

The biggest spender was Altria Client Services ($291,379), which lobbied against higher taxes for tobacco products.

Others in the top five were Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($289,824), Century Aluminum ($198,687), Kentucky Hospital Association ($172,421) and Kentucky Medical Association ($160,063).

The next highest spenders were Kentucky Justice Association ($128,895), Buffalo Trace Distillery ($120,000), Hew lett-Packard ($120,000), Houchens Industries ($118,500), Kentucky Retail Federation ($112,300), AT&T ($108,847), Kentucky League of Cities ($92,793), Humana ($92,612), KentuckyOne Health ($91,885) and Home Builders Association of Kentucky ($91,422).

Other top spenders included Norton Healthcare ($90,411), Churchill Downs ($90,328), National Tobacco Co. ($90,000), Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities ($88,956), EQT Corp. ($88,217), Jefferson County Public Schools ($87,176), Kentucky Association of Manufacturers ($83,490), Kentucky Bankers Association ($81,397), Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation ($80,304), Kentucky Cable Telecommunications Association ($79,976), Dismas Charities ($79,202), Swedish Match North America ($78,302), CSX Corp. ($77,387), Kentucky Beer Wholesalers Association ($75,397), LifePoint Hospitals ($74,664), Bluegrass New Directions ($73,009), Toyota Motors North America ($72,572), Kentucky Optometric Association ($71,931) and Anheuser-Busch Co. ($70,199).

Don't be surprised if lobbying costs climb during this year's 60-day lawmaking session, which began Jan. 7 and runs through mid-April.

As the 2014 General Assembly moves into its second month, there are 621 employers of lobbyists registered with the Legislative Ethics Commission, and 577 lobbyists working for those employers.

Businesses and organizations that were not lobbying last year but have registered to lobby during the 2014 General Assembly include Accenture LLP, Advance America Cash Advance Centers, Alkermes Inc., Almost Family Inc., Allen Co., American Tort Reform Association, Behavioral Health Advocates, Big Ass Fan Co., Bizzack Construction, Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, BSB Coalition, CBM Premier Management Co., Celgene Corp., Central Bridge Co., Check Into Cash, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Kentucky, Community Choice Financial, Community Resources for Justice, Cordish Co., CTIA-The Wireless Association, Eastern Kentucky University Foundation and Gaddic-Shamrock LLC.