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Kentucky Keeps Topping Lobbying Spending Records

Josh James

Lobbying groups in Kentucky outspent themselves – again – in 2018. The latest stats show more businesses and organizations are taking their message directly to lawmakers in Frankfort.

It’s news that comes and goes with little fanfare every year. Lobbying spending continues to climb, with no end in sight. Now, armed with 2018's totals, John Schaaf with the Legislative Ethics Commission reports another all-time record: $23.1 million.

"That really shot the record past the previous high, which had been set the year before... about $20.8 million," he says. 

Top spender nods went to Altria. The parent company of Phillip Morris doled out $552, 103 – or 43 percent more than during the last 60-day legislative session – hoping to sway lawmakers on a proposed cigarette tax hike. The General Assembly ultimately raised the tax by 50 cents as part of its tax overhaul reform package

But even so, Schaaf says business and organizations are finding their money is best spent lobbying legislators at the state level.

"These groups lobby because they find out that they can accomplish more, and more gets done really, at the state Capitols than is done a lot of times in Congress," he explains. 

Although the number of employers lobbying in Frankfort shot up to record levels last year, the number of lobbyists actually declined slightly. That suggests the lobbying business in Kentucky is growing more consolidated, Schaaf says, with roughly a dozen lobbying firms handling more than half of the $23 million in spending.

"The business that used to be handled primarily by individuals is now being done, in large part, by big lobbying firms," he reports. 

Below are the top five lobbying spenders in 2018.

1. Altria ($552,103)

2. Kentucky Chamber of Congress ($352,425)

3. Kentucky Hospital Association ($194,425)

4. Anthem, Inc. ($181,564)

5. LG&E and KU Energy ($162,073)

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.
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