Organizations spent more than $2.5 million trying to influence Frankfort legislators during the first month of the Kentucky General Assembly, according to state lobbying records.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce took its usual place atop the list of the biggest spenders lobbying the legislature.
Next in line are two organizations devoting considerable sums to advertisements pushing the passage of a victims’ rights law and a bill to legalize sports betting.
Records from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission show the statewide business chamber spent $55,465 lobbying the legislature in the first month of the 2020 session, after leading all organizations in such spending three out of the past four years.
The chamber has pushed a wide variety of legislation this session, including bills supporting public pension reform, raising revenue for transportation infrastructure spending, legalizing sports betting and raising tobacco taxes.
The chamber also spent $48,537 on compensation for its 13 registered lobbyists, which was more than double that of the next largest spender in the state.
In total, organizations spent $2.52 million on Kentucky lobbying in January.
More than 87% of that went to compensation for lobbyists, with the rest going toward lobbyists’ expenses, advertisements for legislation, and receptions, meals and events for legislators.
Here’s more on how the spending shakes out:
Sports betting and race tracks
The Kentucky Raceway (which owns Kentucky Speedway) placed second in overall spending on legislative lobbying in January with $50,560. Most of that went toward advertisements backing the passage of House Bill 137, which would legalize betting on sports, fantasy sports and online poker in the state.
Under HB 137, only the auto racing track in Sparta and six horse racing tracks would be eligible for licenses to allow sports betting at their facilities. A mobile phone application could also be downloaded at these facilities and then used anywhere else in the state to bet on sports.
Kentucky Downs, a horse racing track in Southern Kentucky, and FanDuel, a fantasy sports website, also spent a combined $23,370 on digital and radio advertisements promoting HB 137. FanDuel finished eighth in total lobbying spending with $21,580, while Kentucky Downs finished 11th with $19,790.
Other major lobbying spenders from the horse racing industry included Keeneland (19th in overall spending with $16,500), Kentucky Equine Education Project ($11,548), Churchill Downs ($7,805) and The Red Mile ($4,000).
Marsy’s Law and ACLU
The third-largest lobbying spender in January was Marsy’s Law for All, an organization supporting the crime victims’ bill of rights legislation that first passed as a constitutional amendment in 2018 but was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court last year.
More than 84% of the $39,727 spent by the Marsy’s Law organization in January was devoted to advertising supporting its passage again this session under Senate bills 15 and 80. The organization previously spent $314,655 lobbying the legislature in the 2016 and 2017 sessions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky placed fourth, with $37,467 — more than double what the organization spent in all of 2019.
Most of these ACLU of Kentucky funds were spent on compensation for its seven registered lobbyists, who have advocated for criminal justice reform bills and against legislation restricting abortion and enforcing so-called sanctuary policies on immigration, such as Senate Bill 1.
The ACLU of Kentucky has not placed in the top 20 of lobbying spenders in the last three years.
Altria, tobacco and vaping
Tobacco giant Altria placed fifth in total spending on lobbying in January, with $31,631. Altria has placed either first or second in spending in each of the last four years.
Altria spent a record $552,103 in the last 60-day budget session of 2018, in which lawmakers proposed a $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes and ultimately passed a 50-cent tax increase.
This session, Gov. Andy Beshear’s two-year budget proposal includes a 10-cent increase on packs of cigarettes. The governor’s budget also doubles the per-unit tax on non-smokable and chewable tobacco products, as does House Bill 32 from Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.
Beshear’s and Miller’s plans also propose two different ways to increase taxes on electronic cigarettes and vaping products.
The Cigar Association of America spent $10,375 lobbying in January, while vaping company Juul — a subsidiary of Altria — spent $8,580. The Kentucky Smoke Free Association, made up of vape shop owners, also spent $4,000 lobbying the legislature.
EdChoice Kentucky placed 15th in spending on lobbying in January, including $11,730 spent on billboards and digital ads promoting legislation giving tax credits to those who donate to groups who give scholarships to private K-12 schools.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky spent $13,810 lobbying the legislature, with $5,060 also spent on ads supporting the same bills.
The Kentucky Education Association, the labor organization for public school teachers that opposes the tax credit bills, placed one spot behind EdChoice Kentucky with $17,934 spent lobbying the legislature last month.
The top 23
Here is a list of all the groups spending more than $15,000 on lobbying the state legislature in January:
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce — $55,465
Kentucky Raceway — $50,560
Marcy’s Law for All — $39,727
ACLU of Kentucky — $37,467
Altria Client Services — $31,631
Kentucky Justice Association — $25,626
Legalize Kentucky Now (pro-medical marijuana bill) — $23,500
Fan Duel — $21,580
Kentucky Hospital Association — $21,430
Google — $20,000
Kentucky Downs — $19,790
Kentucky League of Cities — $19,195
Kentucky Association of Electronic Cooperatives — $18,822
Kentucky Association of School Administrators — $18,549
Edchoice Kentucky — $18,030
Kentucky Education Association — $17,934
Home Builders Association of Kentucky — $17,344
Kentucky Medical Association — $16,935
Keeneland Association — $16,500
Humana Inc. — $15,882
Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky — $15,523
LG&E and KU Energy — $15,012
Anthem — $15,000