A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

John Schaaf: Court of Appeals refusal to rehear Schickel case sends strong pro-ethics message

Kentucky’s Legislative Ethics Commission (KLEC) recently scored several more important wins in the federal court case filed against the members of KLEC by Sen. John Schickel, whose lawsuit claims he has a constitutional right to accept meals, beverages, and campaign contributions from legislative lobbyists. First, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied Schickel’s request that his...

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sides with Legislative Ethics Commission on contribution and gift ban

By Tom Latek Kentucky Today The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the constitutionality of the contribution and gift bans in the Kentucky Code of Legislative Ethics. The three-judge panel ruled on Thursday that the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect its citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution,” and reversed a lower court ruling, which...

John Schaaf: Legislative Ethics law — related to lobbyists — being defended in federal court

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission met in Frankfort this week to review several issues, including the Commission’s recent trip to federal court in Cincinnati to defend key provisions of the ethics law, which were challenged by State Senator John Schickel of Boone County. Schickel filed a federal lawsuit in 2015, arguing that his constitutional rights are violated by the ethics law prohibition...

House votes 90-0 to disband seven-member committee investigating former speaker Jeff Hoover

By Tom Latek Kentucky Today A special committee appointed to investigate former House Speaker Jeff Hoover is no more. House colleagues voted 90-0 on Wednesday to repeal a rule that authorized the formation of the 7-member panel to look into a claim that Hoover sexually harassed a former staffer, triggering a scandal that led to his resignation from his leadership post. Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover...

Ethics Reporter: New, expanding companies received $173 million in incentives from state in 2017

In the recently completed fiscal year, Kentucky state government gave final approval to 334 companies to receive $173.6 million after the companies promised to locate or expand in the state. In FY 2016-17, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) approved 49 of those companies to receive over $1 million in incentives, some by direct payment and some by allowing companies to retain...

Ethics Reporter: State government contracts worth $2.4 billion issued halfway through budget cycle

Halfway through its 2016-18 budget cycle, Kentucky state government has issued $2.4 billion in contracts. That’s nearly identical to the amount of money allocated for contracts in the first year of the prior biennium, so the state appears to be on track to match the $3.7 billion spent on contracts in the most recent two-year budget cycle. According to information from the Legislature’s Government...

Legislative Ethics Commission to appeal ruling allowing lobbyists to donate to state lawmakers

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission unanimously voted to appeal a recent federal court ruling that allows lobbyists to give gifts and campaign donations to state lawmakers. “We thought it too important not to appeal,” said commission chairman George Troutman after the panel met in closed session for 23 minutes to discuss the litigation. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge William O....

Ethics Reporter: State Chamber of Commerce leading lobbyists in spending on legislators

More than $8.6 million was spent on lobbying in the first four months of 2017, including a 30-day legislative session. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce spent $158,306, which is six percent more than the Chamber has ever spent in a comparable period, including in even-numbered years with 60-day sessions. Altria (Philip Morris) is the second-leading spender to this point, at $112,722. U.S. Justice...

Lobby spending exceeded $6.9 million during 2017 session; money total matches record set in 2015

Lobbyists and their employers reported spending $6.98 million in the 2017 session of the General Assembly. The total matches the record spent in the 2015 session, the most recent 30-day odd-year session. In the past year, the number of lobbying organizations has increased by nine percent, as Kentucky follows the national trend toward more state lobbying by businesses and interest groups, and more...

Ethics Reporter: Lobbyists combined to spend $4.6 million over just 20 days of 2017 short session

Although the General Assembly was in session for just 20 days, $4.6 million was spent on lobbying in the first two months of the 2017 short session. Once again, the top spending lobbying organization was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $88,090, 19 percent more than the Chamber spent in the same period in last year’s long session. In the most recent reporting period, the Chamber reported...

Ethics Reporter: Lobbyists spent a record $2.1 million during first month of legislative session

Although the General Assembly met for only five days in January to begin the 2017 session, the $2.1 million in lobbying spending broke the spending record for the first month of an odd-year legislative session. This year’s total is a 14 percent increase from the $1.8 million spent in the first month of 2015, the previous odd-year session. January 2017 spending almost reached the total spent in...

Ethics Reporter: Lobbyist spending for General Assembly reached all-time high of $20.8 million

Lobbying spending in Kentucky hit an all-time high in 2016, as $20.8 million was paid by businesses, organizations, and lobbyists pursuing their interests with the General Assembly. In the largest spending category, $18.7 million was spent last year by employers compensating lobbyists, a 10 percent increase over the $16.8 million in compensation paid in 2014, the previous even-numbered year with a...

Ethics Reporter: Total of 688 businesses and organizations registered to lobby 2017 Legislature

There are 688 businesses and organizations registered to lobby the 2017 General Assembly, according to the Legislative Ethics Commission. Those which have recently registered include: Balanced Budget Amendment Inc.; Black Hawk Mining, LLC; BPM Lumber; CIOX Health, LLC; Consumer Technology Association; Dell Technologies, Inc.; Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund; Greenwich Biosciences, Inc.; Kidz...

Ethics Reporter: State has approved over $170 million in taxpayer assistance to businesses

In the first 10 months of this year, Kentucky state government has approved more than $170 million in taxpayer assistance to businesses that are locating, expanding, or training employees in the state, according to the Legislative Ethics Commission. The biggest award approved so far this year by the Kentucky Economic Development and Finance Authority is $14 million for Clinical Trial Services, Inc....

Ethics Reporter: Spending by lobbyists for businesses, organizations on record-breaking pace

Lobbyists and the businesses and organizations that employ them spent $15 million in the first eight months of 2016, and lobbying spending is on track to eclipse previous Kentucky spending records. The record for lobbying spending was set last year, when $19.3 million was spent. If spending continues at its current pace, at least $5 million will be spent in the last four months of the year, sending...

Ethics Reporter: 13 businesses that employ lobbyists contributed at least $50,000 to legislative conference

Earlier this month, nearly 1,500 state legislators, legislative staff, governmental officials, and family members from 15 states attended the four days of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) Annual Meeting in Lexington. SLC is the southern office of the Council of State Governments, which has its national headquarters in Lexington. Legislative organizations such as SLC, the National Conference...

Ethics Reporter: Legislative Ethics Commission approves use of social media fundraising

The Legislative Ethics Commission has approved a formal opinion (OLEC 16-01) responding to a question of whether it is permissible under the Code of Legislative Ethics for a legislator or legislative candidate to use crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe in conjunction with social networking websites to raise funds for legislative races. It is permissible under the Code of Legislative Ethics for legislators...

Ethics Reporter: Spending on legislative lobbying reaches all-time high of $9.53 million

The final numbers for the 2016 General Assembly are in, and lobbying spending hit an all-time high of $9.53 million, a nine percent increase over 2014, the most recent year in which there was a session that lasted 60 legislative days. During the session, 698 businesses and organizations were registered to lobby, and that is also a record number, and a five percent increase over 2014. The surge in spending...

Ethics Reporter: Spending on lobbying during legislative session is on record pace

Businesses, organizations, and legislative agents spent $7.5 million lobbying in the first three months of the 2016 General Assembly, and if April spending continues at that pace, total spending for the session will easily eclipse the previous spending record of $8.8 million, set in 2012. For the first quarter of the year, the leading lobbying spender is the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent...

Ethics Reporter: Spending on lobbying continues upward trend, shows 12 percent increase

Lobbying spending in Kentucky continues its upward trend, with almost $5 million spent on lobbying in the first two months of the 2016 General Assembly, a 12 percent increase over the same period in 2014 (the most recent 60-day budget session). The number of businesses and organizations which are lobbying also climbed to a record high, as 696 employers registered to lobby, a five percent increase...