Friday, March 17, 2000

N.Ky. chamber bash leads spending list

Lobbyist party exceeded $29,000

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has held the most expensive, eye-catching party for lawmakers thus far during the 2000 General Assembly.

        The price tag was $29,141.19.

        Such receptions account for part of nearly $4.4 million spent to lobby members of the General Assembly in the last six months, according to reports filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

        The chamber of commerce event was Feb. 3 at the civic center in Frankfort.

        Groups of Northern Kentucky residents and leaders were bused in for the party. Restaurant staffs from throughout the region came to Frankfort to cater the affair. More than 1,000 people attended, including about 90 state legislators and Gov. Paul Patton.

        “It was pretty flashy,” said Steve Stevens, vice president of public affairs for the chamber. “We bring everything under the sun down and try to show it off.”

        Events such as the one sponsored by the chamber also help get a message across, Mr. Stevens said.

        “I tried to get around and shake as many hands as I could that night,” Mr. Stevens said. “I must have shaken hands with 50 legislators.”

        Overall, the chamber spent $45,163.98 — more than any group — to lobby in February, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader analysis of the reports that were due Wednesday.

        In addition to business-related issues, the chamber also is trying to get money for projects such as a pedestrian bridge between Newport and downtown Cincinnati.

        The chamber also has pushed an increase in the region's hotel-motel tax, to be used for stepped-up efforts to promote the area.

        Other groups held considerably smaller receptions for legislators in February.

        Lexington Center Corp., which manages Rupp Arena and Heritage Hall, held a series of receptions for small groups of legislators before and during halftime of three University of Kentucky games last month.

        The center is hoping to get approval for an increase in Lexington's hotel-motel tax to help expand Rupp and the convention center, as well as a $15 million appropriation in the state budget.

        Besides hiring a lobbyist for $5,000 a month, Lexington Center spent a combined $427 for its three receptions, which included cookies and hors d'oeuvres.

        In the last six months, the Cable Telecommunications Association spent $108,634.03 on lobbying, more than any group.


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