Lobbyists spent record $9.3 million in short legislative session

Published 10:29 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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The Legislative Ethics Commission says the trend of higher spending continued this year, as lobbying interests spent a record $9.343 million for the 2023 short legislative session, topping the previous record of $8.548 million set in 2022 for the first three months of a year.

Odd-year or short sessions contain 30 legislative days, with four days during the first week of January including leadership elections in each chamber.  They then recess until February, with the remainder of the session wrapping up at the end of March.

The long sessions, held in even-numbered years, consist of 45 legislative days, which are held from the first week of January through April 15.

Total spending on advertising supporting or opposing legislation during the 2023 session was $1,030,802, an all-time record driven by the legislative debates over gaming. The previous record of $1,017,588 was set in 2015.  In 2014, the General Assembly amended the Ethics Code to require such reporting by lobbying groups during any legislative session.

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The top two overall lobbying spenders in March were over legislation to prohibit so-called “gray machines,” which ultimately passed.  KY Merchants and Amusement Coalition, Inc. spent $483,324, mostly on advertising opposing a ban, to the tune of $476,994.  This was the highest amount spent on advertising during the session, which included an RV rental that allowed legislators and others to try out the games at issue.

The second-highest overall spender, at $348,263, Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling, paid all but $1,500 of its lobbying expenditures on advertising favoring the gray machine ban, garnering the second-highest ad spending.

The third-highest spender was the KY Chamber of Commerce, at $150,896. The Chamber also reported the highest cumulative compensation for its 14 registered lobbyists, which was $137,160. The Chamber also hosted, along with other sponsors, the most expensive event to which legislators were invited, the Chamber Day Dinner for $18,379.

Rounding out the top five were the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky at $138,982 and Pace-O-Matic, a gray machine manufacturer.

Spending disclosures, along with a searchable database of lobbyists and their employers, may be found on the KLEC website, at klec.ky.gov.