Record $18 million spent on lobbying in first 8 months of year

Published 11:03 am Thursday, October 5, 2023

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Following the trend of recent years, lobbying spending, as reflected in the reports filed by lobbying employers and legislative agents with the Legislative Ethics Commission, hit an all-time high for the first eight months of a year.

A total of $18,188,875 was spent on lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly from January to August 2023. The previous record for the same time span was reached last year at $17.8 million.

The top two overall lobbying spenders, both of whom were on opposite sides of the so-called “Gray Machines” issue, maintained their previous standings from May, although neither reported any additional spending since then. The Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition, Inc. spent $483,324, while the second highest spender, at $348,763, was Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling, Inc.  Legislation banning gray machines in the state was enacted by the General Assembly earlier this year.

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Rounding out the top five: the third-highest spender is the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ($313,750), followed by the Kentucky Hospital Association ($177,637), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky ($167,770).

Lobbying interests also spent a record $353,197 on receptions, meals, and events for the first eight months of the year.  Employers spent the bulk of this amount, $313,688, while lobbyists spent $39,509.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission (KLEC) was created by the Kentucky General Assembly as part of a sweeping ethics reform package in 1993, following a devastating federal investigation known as Operation BOPTROT, which involved legislators and lobbyists.

Twenty-one persons, including 15 legislators were convicted or pleaded guilty to such crimes as extortion, bribery, profiteering, racketeering, and lying to the FBI. The legislature created a Task Force charged with drafting a new Code of Ethics for the legislative and executive branches, as well as campaign finance and contracting laws.

The late Governor Brereton C. Jones called a special legislative session, and the General Assembly passed the Legislative Ethics Code as well as the Executive Ethics Code, ushering in a new era for ethics in Kentucky.

With the passage of the law 30 years ago, KLEC was established as the only ethics board for a state legislature comprised of no sitting legislators, ensuring independent and nonpartisan administration of the Code.