Politics & Government

Lobbyist spending in Topeka nears $300,000 after two months

Lobbyists spent more than $280,000 treating lawmakers to dinner and legislative staff members to meals, drinks and basketball games during the first two months of the 2016 legislative session.

Most of that spending can’t be traced to specific recipients.

Under Kansas law, lobbyists must report regularly how much they spent on food, beverages and other forms of hospitality to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. But when an organization hosts a cocktail reception or luncheon, those expenditures are reported as un-itemized, meaning they can’t be tied to the lawmakers who participated in the event.

“I think it would be real difficult for them to keep track of those big groups. That would be tough,” Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, said when asked whether there need to be stricter reporting requirements.

Looking only at itemized expenditures, Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, was the top recipient for February, receiving $593 in hospitality from lobbyists, according to data released by the commission late last week.

Hawkins, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, leads all lawmakers for the session after two months, having received $1,174 worth of meals and other hospitality from lobbyists. The committee’s vice chairman, Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, is in the second spot for the session at $1,080.

“Jiminy Christmas,” Hawkins said, explaining that he’s had dinner meetings with lobbyists on a variety of health issues, including Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to enact step therapy for Medicaid recipients as a cost-saving measure.

Step therapy is a program in which patients must first try lower-cost drugs to see whether they work before they can be approved for more expensive treatments. The Brownback administration estimates that enacting it for Medicaid could save $11 million next fiscal year.

“That step therapy’s had a lot of play. A lot of different people want to get their 2 cents in on it,” Hawkins said. “Once I get there in the morning, I have no time. I have 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes afternoon. If somebody wants to talk to me, we have to do it either at a lunch or a dinner.”

The top-spending organization for both February and the session so far is the Kansas Bankers Association, which has spent $15,193 on lawmakers.

Doug Wareham, the association’s executive vice president in charge of government relations, said the bulk of that can be attributed to the association’s annual reception, which was attended by lawmakers and bankers from around the state. The event, hosted at the Topeka Country Club on Feb. 3, cost $10,810.

“Our folks like to have nice receptions and events to meet and visit with folks about issues,” Wareham said. “And that’s what we do.”

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

Top Kansas lawmaker recipients*

Here are top recipients of itemized spending for January and February. *Most of lobbyists’ spending – $220,465.28 – is un-itemized.

Rep. Daniel Hawkins, R-Wichita

$1,174

Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs

$1,080

Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe

$1,028

Rep. Erin Davis, R-Olathe

$869

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson

$843

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita

$819

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene

$800

Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita

$792

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell

$784

Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City

$770

Source: Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

Top-spending lobbying organizations

Totals are for the first two months of 2016.

Kansas Bankers Association

$15,193

Kansas State Council of Firefighters

$10,563

Heartland Credit Union Association

$9,515

Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association

$8,554

Kansas County Treasurers Association

$7,869

Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association

$7,523

Greater Kansas Racing Alliance Inc.

$6,973

Kansas Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association

$5,792

Kansas Soybean Association

$5,701

Kansas Livestock Association

$5,485

Source: Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

Top-spending lobbyists

Totals are for the first two months of 2016.

Dennis Phillips, Kansas State Council of Firefighters

$10,563

Steve Kearney, Kansas County Treasurers Association, etc.

$9,284

Scott Schneider, Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association, etc.

$8,718

Haley Davee, Heartland Credit Union Association

$8,392

Doug Wareham, Kansas Bankers Association

$8,216

John Federico, Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association, etc.

$7,939

Jason Watkins, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, etc.

$7,099

Kathy Taylor, Kansas Bankers Association

$6,977

R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, Kansas Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association

$5,792

Melissa Wangemann, Kansas Association of Counties

$5,457

Source: Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

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