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

Published 11:03 am Thursday, October 5, 2023

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.