Top senator touts bill to reveal executive branch lobbying
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate’s top leader on Tuesday pointed to high-profile public corruption cases in pushing for ethics legislation to shed more light on efforts to lobby the executive branch.
Senate President Robert Stivers mentioned federal bribery and kickback cases involving an ex-lobbyist and a former high-ranking state official in advocating for stricter oversight of lobbyists when reaching out to executive branch agencies that craft regulations and award contracts.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in my 23 years up here, but this shocked me,” Stivers said in a Senate speech as lawmakers resumed their legislative session after a nearly monthlong break.
The Manchester Republican said his bill would require executive branch lobbyists to report who they’re working for, what matters they’re working on and how much they’re paid. The measure is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer.
The bill is among Stivers’ priorities for the legislative session scheduled to end in late March. The measure has been referred to a Senate committee. In making a case for the legislation, Stivers mentioned the criminal cases against Tim Longmeyer and James Sullivan.
Longmeyer was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to taking payoffs in return for getting state business for a company. Longmeyer served as Personnel Cabinet secretary for former Gov. Steve Beshear and was the top deputy to Beshear’s son, Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Sullivan, a former Democratic lobbyist, was sent to prison after being convicted of bribing Longmeyer. The trial revealed that Sullivan slipped $1,000 into the cup holder of Longmeyer’s SUV while the two were discussing a possible state contract for some outside law firms. Longmeyer secretly recorded the transaction for the FBI.
Those criminal cases could come into play during this year’s contest for governor in Kentucky. Andy Beshear is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Federal prosecutors have said that Andy Beshear did not know about the bribe or Longmeyer’s other crimes. Stivers, without mentioning the Beshears by name, referred to them in his speech, saying they were not implicated in the cases.
“There is nothing in any of these records that says any of two individuals at the top of those executive branch agencies knew what was going on,” Stivers said.
Andy Beshear’s spokesman, Terry Sebastian, said in a statement Tuesday that the attorney general supports “this and any other legislation that will provide more transparency and accountability for those either in or trying to influence state government.”
Reporting requirements for executive branch lobbyists are much more lax than for people who lobby the legislature, Stivers said.
“If you’re trying to influence the direction of an executive branch process, legally and if permissible, you need ... to report your fees,” he told reporters later. “You need to say who you are working for and what issue you are working on.”
Stivers said he’s looking at language that would restrict state employees involved in negotiating contracts from then going to work for companies that were the winning bidders.
“You shouldn’t be able to negotiate a contract, set the terms of the contract and then after your time in state government within a year or so you go work for that company,” he said. “That’s not right.”
Stivers acknowledged that his measure, if in place, might not have prevented the scandals.
“You don’t know what would or would not have happened,” he told reporters. “You just make it more difficult for those things to happen.”
The legislation is Senate Bill 6.