Politics & Government

Companies spend record $9.53 million lobbying Kentucky legislature

Companies and special interest groups spent an all-time high of $9.53 million lobbying Kentucky’s 2016 General Assembly, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission reported Tuesday.

That’s a 9 percent increase over lobbyist spending in 2014, the most recent 60-day lawmaking session.

During this year’s session, a record 698 businesses and organizations registered to lobby. That is 5 percent more than in 2014.

The surge in spending was led by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $149,002 during the session, a 14 percent increase over 2014 and the most ever spent by the chamber during a legislative session, according to the ethics commission.

The commission noted that the Chamber’s website calls the 2016 session “one of the most successful the business community has seen.” It noted “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

The session’s second-leading spender was the Kentucky Hospital Association, which spent $131,472, a 26 percent increase over KHA’s spending in the 2014 session.

The next leading spender was Altria (Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco), which spent $119,905, a 23 percent drop from 2014, when Altria was the top spender while lobbying against raising the cigarette tax, against new taxes on electronic cigarettes, and in support of a bill banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

The Kentucky Retail Federation (KRF) spent $117,941, which was a 44 percent increase over the group’s 2014 spending.

This year, the retail federation lobbied against the proposed constitutional amendment which would have allowed local governments to add a 1 percent local sales tax.

Another top spender was a first-time lobbying organization, Marsy’s Law for All, lobbying in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment to provide increased formal involvement in criminal proceedings for crime victims or their families.

Marsy’s Law spent $111,686 on lobbying, including $80,586 on advertising related to their lobbying effort.

Since 2014, several business and organizations dropped off the list of top spenders, the commission said. Those include: AT&T, $75,075 in 2014 to $41,313 in 2016; Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, $67,546 in 2014 to $35,185 in 2016; Pew Charitable Trusts, $65,985 in 2014 to $19,200 in 2016; Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, $57,051 in 2014 to $25,324 in 2016; and United Parcel Service, $54,950 in 2014 to $22,500 in 2016.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics