This article originally provided by Public Campaign

May 8, 2006

Phil Kabler

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 disappointed.

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 $59.32 each.

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, D-Mingo.

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 Diane Holley.

To contact staff writer Phil Kabler, e-mail or call 348-1220.


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