This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

September 23, 2005

Lobbyists spend nearly $70,000, reports disclose

By Lawrence Messina
The Associated Press

Lobbyists have reported spending nearly $70,000 on legislators and other government officials under the new ethics law that took effect in July, reports filed with the state Ethics Commission show.

The bulk of the spending, more than $45,000, paid for two receptions for lawmakers and other VIPs during the Legislatureís interim meetings in Morgantown last month.

The reports also show that three lobbying groups ó the broadcasters, coal, and truck and auto dealers associations ó each paid the room tab for Gov. Joe Manchin and the first lady at The Greenbrier. The governor was a guest speaker at the groupsí respective annual meetings during the filing period. The world-class Greenbrier County resort proved a popular place for other lobbyists as well, the reports show.

But the reports, which were due Sept. 15, do not reflect the special legislative session that wrapped up last week. Spending during the seven-day session will show up on reports in January.

Among other measures, the law enacted this year requires spending reports from lobbyists every four months. Reports were previously due 30 days after a sessionís end. It also requires them to disclose all spending; previously, they only had to report an expense that exceeded $25.

The new law also demands more details about how the money was spent, and on whom. Nursing-home lobbyist Raymona Kinneberg, for instance, reported $69.44 in expenses but declined to say how she spent the money because they occurred before July 1.

Lobbyist Mike Garrison reported spending the most during the filing period, $8,061. The Morgantown lawyer and former chief of staff to then-Gov. Bob Wise helped cover both of the Morgantown receptions during August interims.

Garrison represents 18 clients at the Legislature, the most among the stateís 361 registered lobbyists. His clients include drug maker Mylan Laboratories, political operatives RMS Strategies and Morgantown-based Platinum Properties, all co-sponsors of the interim receptions.

ďItís important to note that the interims took place during this period and thatís the real reason behind the spending,Ē Garrison said.

Nine reports totaling $136.57 reflected spending below $25, which would not have been reported before this yearís law. They mostly covered meals and drinks for lawmakers.

Among other report highlights:

  • Mike Clowser, executive director of the state contractors association, reported spending $3,300 to lodge Transportation Secretary Danny Ellis and Highways Commissioner Paul Mattox at The Greenbrier for his groupís annual meeting in mid-July.
  • Gambling lobbyists Nelson Robinson and John Cavacini together spent nearly $1,000 to help co-host a hospitality suite and a dinner for lawmakers, state officials and their spouses during the Southern Legislative Conference annual meeting in Mobile, Ala.
  • Lobbyist Larry Swann reported spending $4,331 on lodging for legislative leaders, including House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, who spoke at the West Virginia Beverage Associationís annual meeting at The Greenbrier.
     
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