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Kentucky Keeps Breaking Records For Lobbying Spending

Josh James

Lobbying expenditures hit an all-time high in the General Assembly last year – and that’s despite a shorter legislative session.

Kentucky lobbying interests shelled out a record $20.8 million hoping to sway lawmakers in 2017, just edging out the previous record set the year before. The numbers appear even more pronounced given the length of the session, just 30 days rather than an 60-day odd year session.

John Schaff with the Legislative Ethics Commission says Republicans’ total hold on power in the Capitol may have played a role.

"It's hard to say what kind of impact that has, although it probably did maybe open the door to some different proposals that had been considered in previous sessions," Schaff says. "It may have brought different people and more people to lobby." 

While the top two spenders – the state Chamber of Commerce and Altria, a major tobacco producer – remain unchanged from the previous session, some new groups climbed into the top ten. One is the US Justice Action Network, a 501(c)4 organization that lobbies for bipartisan justice system reforms.

The vast majority of the lobbying spending, 90 percent, goes toward lobbyist pay. 

"A lot of people don't realize that. They think that it's spent on events and that kind of thing which is really a small part of it," Schaff explains. "The 90 percent plus of the money spent on lobbying is actually what is paid to the individuals who are doing the lobbying."

From the Legislative Ethics Commission:

The other top 10 spenders include three new additions from the prior year, and several changing places on the list.  The Ky. Justice Association ($177,419) moved into third place, while the Ky. Hospital Association ($167,861) dropped a spot after spending $43,000 less than in 2016.  Anthem Inc. ($157,000) moved into the top 10, spending almost $30,000 more than 2016, followed by Marsy's Law for All ($152,385); Ky. League of Cities ($147,049, which is $36,000 more than 2016); Ky. Retail Federation ($140,147, down from $204,124 the prior year); Molina Healthcare ($129,600); and U.S. Justice Action Network ($120,604 in their first year of lobbying).

The rest of the top 20 spenders include: Humana ($116,968); AT&T ($111,525); Ky. Medical Association ($109,858); EQT Corp. ($103,073); Home Builders Association of Ky. ($100,377); Ky. Farm Bureau Federation ($96,739), down $43,000 from 2016; LifePoint Hospitals ($99,253); Greater Louisville, Inc. ($95,344); United Parcel Service ($91,369); and Commonwealth Credit Union ($90,507 in their first year of lobbying).

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.