Frankfort Lobbying Changes Over Time
Like most things in life, lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly has changed considerably in the past three decades. There are a lot more lobbyists, a lot more businesses and organizations employing lobbyists, and considerably more money spent on lobbying today than in the 1970’s.
In 1988, The University Press of Kentucky published The Kentucky Legislature – Two Decades of Change, by Malcolm Jewell and Penny Miller. The authors wrote that between the mid-1960’s and the mid-1980’s, the Legislature “fundamentally changed” and became a more independent and co-equal branch of state government.
The shift in the balance of power between the Governor and the Legislature had “major, far-reaching implications for interest groups” according to Jewell and Miller. “In the past, lobbyists devoted much of their time to trying to persuade the administration to support or oppose bills,” they wrote. “The growth of legislative independence and power has made the job of the lobbyist more complicated. More decision makers must be contacted over a longer period of time. These changes have also made the decision-making process more open, enabling a wider variety of groups to participate in the process.”
According to the Attorney General, in 1974 there were 215 registered lobbyists. Jewell and Miller report that by 1986, there were 440 registered lobbyists representing 531 organizations. Today, there are 643 registered lobbyists working for 657 employers.
The authors report about $3.1 million spent on lobbying in the 1986 session and the five months leading up to it, and that was a time when the Legislature met in regular session for just 60 days every two years. By comparison, in 2008, businesses and organizations spent close to $15.7 million on lobbying, and $6.8 million to date in 2009, for an 18-month total of $22.5 million.
In addition to those numbers, there have been significant changes in the way in which lobbyists are organized. In 1988, more than 90 percent of the registered lobbyists represented only one group, and only 25 lobbyists represented more than two clients. While a few lobbyists worked full-time at the job, most of these contract lobbyists worked independently, and there were no firms devoted to lobbying.
By contrast, 110 lobbyists currently represent more than one organization, and 82 of those represent three or more clients, more than triple the number who did so in 1988. Many of these lobbyists with multiple clients are members of firms which include two or more lobbyists.
Beginning about 10 years ago, with the two political parties dividing control of the General Assembly, lobbyists began to join together in lobbying firms, some including lobbyists of differing political backgrounds.
Several of today’s lobbying firms include lobbyists who were organization employees or contract lobbyists 20 years ago.
Multi-lobbyist firms which have been created in recent years include Atticus Ventures, Babbage Cofounder, Capital Network, Capitol Links, Capitol Solutions, Commonwealth Alliances, Government Strategies, HCM Governmental Relations, JYB3, McCarthy Strategic Solutions, McLean Communications, Rotunda Group, and Southern Strategy Group. Additionally, firms such as Dinsmore & Shohl, McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, and Peritus Public Relations employ multiple lobbyists.