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Kentucky’s lobbyist registration deadline approaches

The Kentucky State Capitol building in Frankfort houses the three branches of Kentucky's state government.
The Kentucky State Capitol building in Frankfort houses the three branches of Kentucky's state government.

People who lobby legislators in the Kentucky General Assembly need to register with the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission by Dec. 16.

Only people who are paid to lobby lawmakers, and their employers, are required to register. They also have to file regular financial disclosures starting in January, documenting how much they’ve spent to influence specific bills.

Lobbying registration and disclosure has been required in Kentucky since 1996, when the state legislature passed sweeping ethics reforms. That followed an FBI investigation known as Operation Boptrot in 1992. Dozens of lawmakers and lobbyists were indicted for taking and receiving bribes.

Laura Hendrix, executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, said that no legislator has faced similar indictments since then. She said state ethics rules also include restrictions on gifts and campaign donations by lobbyists.

“The end result is hopefully public policy that’s built on whatever ideas are out there, as opposed to who has money or who’s maybe treating legislators,” she said.

Hendrix said people outside Kentucky see its ethics laws as some of the best in the country. She gave some credit for that to the existence of the commission and the educational part of their mission.

The commission has online training for lobbyists and legislators, and it can provide advisory opinions to people who may be confused about what actions are covered by ethics rules.

In addition to helping lawmakers avoid conflicts of interest, Hendrix said lobbyist registration and disclosure ensures Kentucky residents know what’s going on in Frankfort.

“They know who is asking legislators to pass what types of legislation,” she said. “They can see if they feel the same or, if they feel differently, they can of course come to [the state house] at any time.”

Anyone required to register as a paid lobbyist can do so online at the commission’s website. People paid to lobby the governor or executive branch departments are also required to register.

The 2024 legislative session will begin on Jan. 2.

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