Power plant debate helps push lobby spending to new high for Kentucky legislature

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


FRANKFORT — Legislation affecting power plant retirements helped drive spending to lobby the Kentucky legislature to a new high of $12.4 million during the 2024 session.

A bill that created new hurdles for utilities that want to retire power plants fired by fossil fuels spurred investor-owned utilities and power cooperatives to spend much more than usual in trying to influence state legislators.

The Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives ranked third in lobbying spending during the session at $129,400, and LG&E and KU Energy came in fourth at $123,400, according to Kentucky Lantern’s review of reports filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission covering the period of Jan. 1 through April 30.

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Duke Energy came in eighth place at $100,600 while East Kentucky Power Cooperative ranked 11th at $85,000.

About 900 companies, trade associations and other groups registered to lobby during the 2024 session, ethics commission records show. And the combined spending of those groups was roughly $1 million higher than the previous record spent lobbying during the 2023 session.

The top spender of all in this year’s session was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies scores of bills affecting business each year and is always at or near the top in lobbying spending. For the 2024 session it reported spending $201,300. Among its top priorities this year were budget bills designed to keep the legislature on track to continue lowering the state income tax.

Greater Louisville Inc., the chamber of of commerce for the state’s largest metropolitan area, is also a top lobby spender every year and in the 2024 session if ranked seventh at $104,900.

But the distinctive characteristic of the list of top lobbying groups for this year’s session is that utilities spent more.

The main reason for that was Senate Bill 349 that created a new commission — with significant fossil fuel industry representation — to review a utility’s plan to retire a power plant fired by fossil fuels before that plan could be presented to the state’s official utility regulator, the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

The investor-owned utilities opposed the bill. The member-owned cooperatives supported it.

SB 349 passed both chambers and was later vetoed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear who said it was the wrong approach to helping assure a reliable supply of electricity to Kentucky homes and businesses. But Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate easily overrode Beshear’s veto.

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Another big spender in this year’s session was newcomer Frankfort Plant Board, which ranked 12th in lobby spending at $81,000 — all spent to successfully defeat legislation unveiled last December by Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, that in its original form would have forced the board to sell its telecommunications services to a private company.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky was the second highest spender on the list. It reported spending $150,700 through the first four months of the year. Its priorities included opposition to House Bill 5, the Safer Kentucky Act, which will increase criminal penalties and create new crimes including street camping. The ACLU also opposed  bills banning diversity, equity and inclusion programs in public schools and universities.

Pharmaceutical Care Management Assn., of Washington, reported spending $102,700 with most of that spent on advertising in opposition to legislation that tightened regulations on pharmacy benefit managers.

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Others in the top 10 in lobby spending this year were:

  • Kentucky League of Cities, which reported spending $109,100.
  • Kentucky Hospital Assn., $105,500, whose lobbying efforts included successfully opposing legislation that would have loosened certificate of need requirements on health care providers.
  • Altria Client Services, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, $99,920, which lobbied for new restrictions on vape retailers enacted by the legislature and signed by Beshear.

Here is a list of the companies, associations and other groups that reported spending the most on lobbying expenses during the first four months of 2024, according to updated data posted Monday on the ethics commission website.

Nearly 90 percent of the total spending was on compensation for lobbyists, according to the ethics commission website.

Following the list of top lobby spenders is a list of individual lobbyists who received the most in lobbying fees. The ethics commission website shows that there are slightly more than 700 registered lobbyists. Each of those on the list below is a contract lobbyist who represents numerous clients. The list shows the total number of clients represented by the lobbyist and three of the lobbyists’ larger clients.

Groups that spent the most lobbying

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Frankfort, business                                    $201,292

ACLU of Kentucky, Louisville, non-profit                                                           $150,726

Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, Louisville, utility                 $129,416

LG&E and KU Energy, Louisville, utility                                                             $123,427

Kentucky League of Cities, Lexington, city governments                                $109,113

Kentucky Hospital Assn., Louisville                                                                     $105,490

Greater Louisville Inc., Louisville, business                                                        $104,900

Pharmaceutical Care Management Assn., Washington, pharmacy issues   $102,693

Duke Energy, Cincinnati, utility                                                                           $100,577

Altria (Philip Morris USA), Richmond, VA , tobacco                                       $99,920

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Winchester, utility                                   $85,634

Frankfort Plant Board, Frankfort, utility                                                            $81,032

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, London, non-profit                           $79,318

Elevance Health (Anthem), Louisville, insurance                                            $78,946

Kentucky Retail Federation, Frankfort, retail stores                                       $77,900

Kentucky Justice Assn., Frankfort, justice issues                                             $67,141

Kentucky Education Assn., Frankfort, teachers                                               $65,181

Kentucky Primary Care Assn., Frankfort, health care                                    $64,138

Americans for Prosperity, Louisville, conservative advocacy group           $62,788

Kentucky Medical Assn., Louisville, doctors                                                    $62,439

 Top paid lobbyists

Patrick Jennings,  $366,209, representing 72 clients including Kentucky Hospital Assn., AT&T, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Bob Babbage, $333,500, 48 clients including MCGlobal Holdings, Underdog Fantasy, ROBLOX.

Stephen Huffman, $323,700, 25 clients including Keeneland, Revolutionary Racing, Red Mile.

John McCarthy, $281,454, 108 clients including Churchill Downs, Altria, Netsmart

Ronald Pryor, $242,795, 11 clients including HCA Healthcare, Kentucky Hospital Assn., LifePoint Health.

Sean Cutter, $238,805, 60 clients including Google, Kinder Morgan Energy, RAI Services.

James M. Higdon, $223,494, 60 clients including Unite US, Centigix, YDK! Action.

Kelley Abell, $223,069, 26 clients including Brightspring Health, Dish Network, Ky. Assn. of Adult Day Centers.

Jason Bentley, $218,311, 55 clients including Kinder Morgan Energy, RAI Services, Ky Distillers Assn.

Katherine Hall, $218,064, 70 clients including Ky. Assn. of Health Care Facilities, Necco, Satoshi Action Fund.

Chris Nolan, $214,699, 58 clients including Good Rx, Humana, Ascend Elements.

Jason Underwood, $206,200, 8 clients including Enervenue, United Healthcare, Airbnb.

Laura Owens, $183,250, 34 clients including Archer Gaming, Baptist Health, Cooper Surgical.

Amy Wickliffe, $176,512, 94 clients including Churchill Downs, Al J. Schneider Co., Kentucky American Water.

Mike Biagi, $166,236, 19 clients including Kentucky Downs, Appalachian Regional Health, Ky. Credit Union League.

Trey Grayson, $160,150, 28 clients including Secure Elections Project, Academic Partnerships LLC, Kentucky Competes.

Dustin Miller, $151,587, 26 clients including Elevance Health, Ky. Consumer Finance Assn., Altria.

John Cooper, $144,514, 22 clients including Ky. Bankers Assn., Ky. Medical Assn., Toyota.

Timothy Corrigan, $141,336, 23 clients including Dow Chemical, Continental Refining, Outfront Media.

Rebecca Hartsough, $136,800, 41 clients including Grant Ready Ky., Novo Nordisk, SidePrize LLC.

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