In the first eight months of the year, more than $13.2 million was spent on lobbying in Kentucky, putting organizations involved in those efforts on track to surpass a spending record of $16.9 million set in 2008.
Employers and lobbyists spent about $4.4 million in the most recent reporting period spanning May 1 through Aug. 31, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission reported in a newsletter circulated Friday.
It has already been a record year in the state for lobbying spending. In the first four months of the year, lobbyists and their employers spent $8.8 million in the 2012 General Assembly session, which is more than any legislative session in the state’s history, according to the ethics commission.
The 2012 regular session of the General Assembly wrapped up in the second week of April, but Gov. Steve Beshear also called a special session that month to resolve lingering issues, including approval for a transportation projects budget and consideration of a bill addressing prescription drug abuse.
In 1994, the first year these types of reports were required from employers, about $6.5 million was spent on lobbying in the state, said John Schaaf, counsel for the ethics commission.
“It’s going to be approaching three times as much as was spent 18 years ago,” he said.
The large amounts of money spent on lobbying this year are partly a result of more organizations establishing a lobbying presence in Frankfort and using lobbyists with more frequency than they have in the past, Schaaf said.
“It’s kind of a universal increase,” he said.
There are 630 employers and 586 lobbyists registered with the ethics commission. Comparatively, in April 2004 there were 543 employers and 667 lobbyists registered with the ethics commission.
While the numbers have not changed that much, Schaaf said he believes the lobbyists that are in Frankfort are more active and there is a larger number of what he called “contract lobbyists” who work for multiple organizations.
The way in which lobbyists get their message to legislators is also changing, with more of an emphasis on generating responses from legislators’ constituents, he said.
“Grassroots-type lobbying has always been an effective way of lobbying,” Schaaf said.
During the 2012 legislative session, for example, the biggest spender was Consumer Healthcare Products Association. The group spent $486,053 during the session and set a record for spending by a single employer during a legislative session, in part from spending money on things such as phone banking and website advertising, putting citizens in contact with legislators.
CHPA represents over-the-counter medicine manufacturers and distributors such as Bayer Healthcare and GlaxoSmithKline and lobbied to change or defeat legislation to require a prescription to purchase products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, according to the newsletter.
CHPA dropped out of the top employers for lobbying spending in the latest reporting period, according to the newsletter.
The top spender from May 1 to Aug. 31 was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent about $95,906. Altria Client Services is next on the list, having spent about $90,967. The ethics commission online registry lists tobacco as the nature of business for Altria and the real parties behind the organization as Philip Morris USA, John Middleton Co. and US Smokeless Tobacco Co.
The Kentucky Medical Association is the next biggest spender, having spent about $57,271 during the reporting period, followed by CSX Corp., which spent $47,416, according to the newsletter.
Houchens Industries, based in Bowling Green, was the fifth-highest spender during the most recent reporting period, having spent about $44,000.
The ethics commission also reports that this summer a large number of organizations registered to lobby in Frankfort joined forces to sponsor an event called “Kentucky Night” at two legislative conferences. At least 52 lobbyist employers contributed to the event at both the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit in Chicago and the annual meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference. About $15,000 was spent at the NCSL event and about $3,500 was spent a the SLC event.
Among the contributors were the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Altria Client Services.