Tobacco Industry Leads In Kansas Lobbying Dollars

Feb 25, 2016

Credit Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Big tobacco spent the most money of any Kansas organization lobbying the state government last year. Altria Client services spent $223,000.

From the AP:  

A group affiliated with the tobacco industry spent the most money last year lobbying Kansas state government, followed distantly by an organization that opposed efforts to expand the state's liquor laws.

Lobbyists spent a total of $1.74 million in 2015, far eclipsing the nearly $1.2 million in 2014 and the previous record of $1.4 million from 2010, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

While lobbyists must report what they spend to directly influence legislators and other state officials, they don't have to say how much their sponsors pay them or how much those clients lay out for travel or office expenses. Thus, what's reported is likely only a fraction of what's spent.

Altria Client Services LLC, whose clients include Phillip Morris, led all organizations with just over $283,000 in spending, the report said. It came in a year in which legislators were increasing cigarette taxes and enacting the state's first ever tax on e-cigarettes to help balance the state budget.

Roughly $145,000 of Altria's lobbying money went toward "mass media," or advertising on television, radio, print and billboards. The rest went toward "communications," a category in which there's been an upsurge in recent years, according to Carol Williams, executive director of the Governmental Ethics Commission.

Things that fall under "communications," include internal communications sent by companies to their employees urging them to lobby lawmakers, flyers sent by groups such as a medical society or bankers association to their members asking them to lobby legislators or groups like Americans for Prosperity sending mailers to lawmakers' constituents urging them to contact their legislators about a favored issue.

According to the annual report, lobbyists in 2015 spent nearly $610,000 on mass media and roughly $505,000 on communications.

The Kansas Association for Responsible Liquor Laws, which opposed efforts to expand sales of liquor, wine and full-strength beer to grocery and convenience stores, spent $184,824 on that campaign.

By comparison, UnCork Kansas, which sought expanded alcohol sales, reported spending $81,716.

Under state law, grocery and convenience stores in Kansas can sell only "cereal malt beverages," or beer with 3.2 percent alcohol. Stronger alcohol and beer can be sold only in the state's roughly 750 individually owned liquor stores.

Late in last year's session, the Senate rejected a proposal to expand alcohol sales while approving a bill allowing alcohol to be consumed at special events at the Statehouse.

Americans for Prosperity spent just over $180,000 last year, most of which was spent in the communications category, putting that group at third in total lobbying expenditures in 2015.

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Aileen LeBlanc is news director at KMUW. Follow her on Twitter @Aileen_LeBlanc.

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