Lobbyists spent more than $350,000 from January through March treating Kansas lawmakers to meals, drinks and college basketball games.
The data compiled by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission shows that more than $254,000 of that spending was unitemized, meaning it can’t be tied to a specific lawmaker, a figure that reflects the free lunches at the Capitol and after-hours cocktail receptions at nearby hotels that take place throughout the session.
Lawmakers in leadership positions are the top recipients of the spending that can be tracked. House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle are both near the top for the session through March, a period that covers most of the legislative session. The other lawmakers in the top 10 all hold either a committee chairmanship or vice chairmanship. All are Republicans.
The Kansas Bankers Association leads all lobbying organizations in spending, paying $18,736 through March for meals and other niceties for lawmakers, nearly $7,900 more than the next closest organization. The top-spending organizations also include the Greater Kansas Racing Alliance, which unsuccessfully pushed for a bill that would have enabled another vote on slot gaming at the Wichita Greyhound Park.
The list of top-spending lobbyists corresponds closely with the list of top-spending organizations, but it also includes contract lobbyists who serve more than one client. Jason Watkins and Scott Schneider, partners in a contract lobbying firm, work for a broad range of clients, including Sedgwick County’s government.