This article originally provided by
May 8, 2006
Lobbyist spending reports come in
Lobbyists' spending disclosures are rolling in from the 2006 regular session,
the first 60-day session under the new state ethics law requiring them to report
first-dollar spending on legislators and elected officials.
Anyone expecting the disclosures to shed new light on the feeding habits of
legislators with long itemized lists of dinners and bar tabs will, frankly, be
With about 160 of the 407 lobbyistsí disclosures already submitted to the
Ethics Commission (the deadline is May 15, but the reporting period closed on
April 30), only a handful show direct spending on lawmakers.
Perhaps, as some lobbyists said, the new law gave them a perfect excuse for
not picking up the tab, since most legislators were not keen on seeing those
disclosures show up in some future opponentís campaign ads.
Group entertainment, which does not require disclosure of names under the new
law, remains the mainstay of lobbyistsí spending.
The biggest filed to date is the West Virginia Business and Industry Council,
which spent $11,338 for a reception on Jan. 11. Total attendance was 371; 230 of
those were legislators and elected officials, at a cost of $7,038.
Next-biggest on file was the West Virginia Society of CPAs reception Jan. 26,
attended by 180 at a cost of $10,677. That included 66 public officials, whose
cost was $3,915.
Then came the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundationís reception and
dinner on Feb. 6 at the Clay Center. It cost $8,893 for 182 attendees, including
$2,443 for 50 public officials.
The state Library Association reception Feb. 2 at the Cultural Center cost
$7,355 for 300 attendees, including 50 public officials at $1,226. (Wonder if it
was the same 50 who went to the public broadcasting fete?)
The West Virginia Health Care Association spent $7,231 for a Feb. 8 reception
for 180. That included 54 public officials at a cost of $2,169.
The association also provided a table in the rotunda offering cookies and
coffee on the last night of the session. Lobbyist John Mullins listed the cost
at $157.31, and then for reporting purposes, assumed that all 134 legislators
had partaken of the freebies, at a cost of $1.17 each.
Mullins also listed a $24.36 expense, the cost of a glass bowl presented to
Gov. Joe Manchin for speaking at an association breakfast. That would have
squeaked under the $25 threshold in the old ethics law.
In terms of cost per person, the CPAsí reception is the priciest to date, at
At the other extreme, the West Virginia County Commissioners Association
spent only $5.30 per person for its Jan. 16 reception. It drew 140 people,
including 40 public officials, at a total cost of $741.
Lobbyist Vivian Parsonsí disclosure reports that most of the food for the
reception was bought at Samís Club and Wal-Mart. (Perhaps lawmakers took offense
at the cheap fare when they passed the metro government bill over the
associationís strong objections.)
Parsons also reported a first-dollar disclosure: the cost of a $15.95 lunch
for Manchin, who spoke at the associationís annual meeting in Charleston.
There were other first-dollar disclosures. Marc Harman, lobbying for Charles
Town Races and the state Association of Directors of Senior Community Services,
has the longest list of meals and beverage disclosures.
It includes: Sen. Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis, $12.95; Delegate Bill Stemple,
D-Calhoun, $5; Sen. Andy McKenzie, D-Ohio, $88.08; Delegate Steve Kominar,
D-Mingo, $22.40; Delegate Scott Varner, D-Marshall, $22.40; Sen. Mike Oliverio,
D-Monongalia, $41.57; Delegate Mike Hall, R-Putnam, $41.57; and legislative
counsel Marty Wright, $88.08.
Marc Meachum, with the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, reported the
only other first-dollar disclosure of any note.
He reported spending $42.71 apiece on Delegate Marshall Long D-Mercer;
Delegate Eustace Frederick, D-Mercer; Delegate Tom Porter, R-Mercer; Sen. Jesse
Guills, R-Greenbrier; Sen. Don Caruth, R-Mercer; and Sen. Truman Chafin,
At the other extreme, Norm Steenstra, with the West Virginia Citizens Action
Group, reported spending a grand total of $5 on Sen. Jon Blair Hunter,
D-Monongalia. Just a wild guess here, but that would approximate the cost of two
domestic beers at the Red Carpet Lounge.
Finally, you canít say the Capitol is full of dim bulbs anymore.
General Services Division workers are completing replacement of all
incandescent bulbs in the building with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.
Itís part of the $13 million contract with Johnson Controls of Nitro to
weatherize and upgrade heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems at the
Capitol Complex. That contract guarantees roughly $18 million in utility cost
savings over 15 years.
Though noticeably brighter, the new bulbs are supposed to reduce lighting
costs by about 30 to 40 percent, according to the Department of Administrationís
To contact staff writer Phil Kabler, e-mail
email@example.com or call 348-1220.