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Loophole allows organizations to pay for legislators’ out-of-state travel without disclosing amounts

The Capitol building in Frankfort | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Outside groups picked up an estimated $100,000-plus tab in 2017 to send Kentucky legislators to out-of-state conferences and events, an Insider Louisville analysis of state records shows.

However, due to a loophole in the state’s ethics law, a large majority of these travel expenditures covered by private organizations are not required to be disclosed by legislators to the Legislative Research Commission — the bureaucratic arm of the state legislature — or the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

According to KLEC Executive Director John Schaaf, this reporting loophole occurs when those groups pay in advance for legislators’ travel, as “there is no disclosure required of expenses prepaid for transportation, food and lodging.”

In some cases, legislators must report if a private organization has paid for their approved out-of-state travel, such as when that group reimburses the legislator for any of part of their travel they initially paid for themselves. According to LRC records, legislators reported receiving over $22,123 in reimbursements from outside groups for at least part of their expenses on 38 trips — although a much larger amount is outside the scope of this required disclosure.

The events of outside groups, including those with an ideological or partisan political mission, are sometimes funded by businesses and interests that lobby the legislature in Frankfort.

Still, most of the legislator trips continue to be publicly funded.

Nearly two-thirds of the 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly took over 200 approved out-of-state trips related to their legislative duties in 2017. Theses legislators either took a salary or had their at least part of their travel expenses covered with public funds — together coming to a total of nearly $290,000. The remaining members did not report any travel.

According to LRC records obtained through open records requests by Insider Louisville, legislators requested and received a per diem salary for 580 days on 195 of these trips, totaling $110,865. Taxpayers also picked up the tab for $179,127 of legislators’ travel expenses, including flights, hotels, meals and conference registration fees.

Investigative reports by the Courier Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader over the past decade have documented similar public spending on legislators’ travel — mostly involving nonpartisan and ideologically neutral conferences — and nine legislators who amassed the biggest public tabs on salary and travel expenses this year told Insider that such trips are a vital part of their duties to educate themselves on policy and trends in other states.

Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission Chairman John Schaaf discussed their recommendation to add new reporting requirements for approved out-of-state travel on legislators’ annual financial disclosure forms at a KLEC meeting last week in Frankfort | Photo by Joe Sonka

Some states do require legislators to report how much outside groups spend on their travel, documenting certain cases when political advocacy groups spent over $10,000 on just one international trip.

A report this year found that groups spent $108,000 on Oklahoma legislators’ out-of-state travel over a two-year period, while in Wisconsin, such groups paid for more than $164,000 of the airfare, lodging, meals and other travel expenses of state legislators in just 2017.

Kentucky legislators are required to send a formal request for approval of such trips to either the House speaker or Senate president, which in many cases detail the specific travel expenses that would be covered by the group hosting the event. These requests, along with LRC records showing trips where expenses were not picked up by the state or reimbursed by outside groups, indicate that these hosting organizations likely prepaid for all or most of legislator travel expenses for as many as 70 trips last year.

Insider estimates that the undisclosed spending on such trips by outside groups likely ranges somewhere between $75,000 to $100,000. That estimate is based on reimbursement records and some prepaid amounts that were reported by legislators despite no requirement to do so, in addition to comparable travel expenses that were paid for entirely by public funds, averaging roughly $1,400 per trip.

The general counsel of the LRC elected to give Insider a copy of the travel requests of legislators for 21 trips in which they did not take a salary or use any public money for their travel, but he still maintained that such records remain exempt from public disclosure under the Kentucky Open Records Act and the Kentucky constitution due to being “preliminary records” and “confidential” documents.

If the LRC chooses not to waive this exemption for future open records requests of such approval letters and forms, the public might never find out that trips paid for by outside groups even happened.

For example, much of the public might only know about Sen. Damon Thayer’s controversial GOPAC trip overseas to London with lobbyists last summer by mere accident. The LRC initially chose not to provide his formal travel request in Insider’s first open records request for all legislator requests in 2017.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown | Photo via LRC Public Information

In April, Insider happened to recognize Thayer’s face in a photo of legislators in London. The image was part of a Cincinnati Enquirer story on Cliff Rosenberger, who had resigned two weeks earlier from his position as Ohio’s state House speaker amid reports that he was under FBI investigation related to his international travel and lavish lifestyle allegedly paid for by lobbyists.

One of those trips under scrutiny was this same London trip paid for by the Republican political organization GOPAC, which was itself funded by businesses that spent $25,000 to send their lobbyists to London with legislators.

Along with its release of Thayer’s approval request for the GOPAC trip to London, the LRC also sent out three more of the GOP Senate majority floor leader’s requests to attend GOPAC events that year in Austin, Indianapolis and Santa Barbara. Among the 21 approved travel requests was another expenses-paid GOPAC trip for Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, along with three of his other trips organized by conservative political groups.

Thayer and a number other legislators declined to tell Insider exactly how much these private groups spent on their travel, and because of the reporting loophole in state ethics law, such precise figures will likely remain unknown.

However, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission wants to close the loophole as other states have done in recent years. Last week, its members voted unanimously to recommend that the General Assembly amend this law to require that legislators add information about all of their approved out-of-state travel on their annual financial disclosure statement filed with KLEC.

KLEC member Pat Freibert

The reasoning behind such a move — which will be discussed by the interim state government committee in Frankfort on Wednesday — is not just to close the loophole, but allow citizens of the state to easier access such records, which are currently only available through an open records request.

KLEC member Pat Freibert, a former legislator who worked to form this specific recommendation, told Insider after their meeting last week that such information “should be easily available to the public. The costs of travel, the amount of it, any travel that’s related to your position as a legislator.”

“There are some who take their public office as an opportunity to just see the country and sometimes see the world because they can,” said Freibert. “Everybody needs to report every trip.”

From Boston to Biloxi

Though some of legislators’ approved out-of-state travel in 2017 involved events of ideological and political groups — paid for by both those groups and taxpayers — an overwhelming majority such trips involved middle-of-the-road policy conferences.

Many of these conferences are organized to cover a broad industry or issue, such as education, energy and insurance, though there are also quite specific ones, such as the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators. Others involved specific legislator caucuses of women, African-Americans and “sportsmen,” while some trips merely involved traveling to D.C. to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, join a local Chamber of Commerce visiting the capital or attend the National Prayer Breakfast.

However, roughly half of legislators’ trips last year involved the two premier nonpartisan policy conferences: the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Legislative Conference. In fact, over 60 percent of total public expenditures for out-of-state travel went toward the annual conference of each last summer.

A total of 46 legislators attended the annual summit of the NCSL in late July and early August in Boston, while 40 attended the annual summit of the SLC in Biloxi that July.

Legislators took a combined 283 salary days at those two events, amounting to over $53,000, or 48 percent of all the salary expended for out-of-state travel that year. The state also picked up the tab for over $121,000 of the travel expenses for just these two events, which is over two-thirds of the total for all publicly supported travel.

For NCSL, there were also 18 other smaller events throughout the year that legislators were approved to attend, totaling 23 trips with 56 salaried days. However, much of the expenses for these trips — included some for the annual summit — were covered by NCSL.

LRC records show that NCSL reimbursed 12 trips of legislators for a total just shy of $10,000, but likely prepaid for a much larger amount of travel expenses that did not have to be reported because of the ethics law loophole.

For example, Rep. Diane St. Onge indicated in her approval request to the House speaker that NCSL was providing her with a scholarship to cover up to $1,500 of her travel expenses to attend its broadband and cable policy summit in Denver that October, but did not report being reimbursed. Though she provided the specifics of the amount that NCSL was prepaying for her airfare and lodging, she wasn’t under a strict obligation to do so, just as many other legislators only noted that travel expenses would be covered by the group or simply checked a box indicating that they would receive a scholarship.

A spokesman for NCSL did not return an email and voicemail from Insider seeking information on how such scholarships are doled out and how such funds are raised, but the organization’s website suggests that these are funded by corporate sponsorships that are sold on the promise of providing their agents with unique access to state lawmakers.

On a page pitching their platinum, gold and silver sponsorships of conferences and meetings, the group states that its NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures “positions your government relations team to have the most effective impact on the state legislative process.”

As a sponsor, companies are offered the opportunity to “build relationships with policymakers” and “promote your positions, offer experience and add your own voice to critical discussions on the issues that matter to you.”

“Position your organization in front of legislators from across the country,” continues the NCSL sponsorship pitch. “No other organization offers you many opportunities to meet face-to-face with policymakers throughout the year.”

For example, a platinum sponsorship of $25,000 includes dozens of invitations and complimentary registrations to NCSL meetings and special receptions throughout the year. The listing of current corporate sponsors on NCSL’s website shows dozens of businesses and organizations that currently employ legislative agents who are registered to lobby the Kentucky General Assembly.

Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville

In 2014, the General Assembly passed an amendment to the state ethics law that prohibited any currently registered lobbyist or employer of such a lobbyist from paying for any out-of-state travel expenses of legislators, with certain exceptions.

Several legislators noted to Insider that one such exception happens on what is known as “Kentucky Night” at the annual NCSL and SLC conferences, when businesses employing lobbyists in the state host a reception for legislators and provide them with complimentary food and cocktails. This is outside of the ethics law’s prohibitions due to the fact that all legislators attending the conference are invited, and not just certain individuals.

Despite the new prohibition passed in 2014, Insider discovered at least one instance in 2017 where the employer of a lobbyist registered at the time might have paid for at least a portion of a legislator’s out-of-state travel.

In his request to attend the annual conference of the National Council on Compensation Insurance in Orlando that May, Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, wrote that “the airfare, lodging, and registration fee are being covered by NCCI.” LRC records do not show that Riggs was reimbursed by NCCI for any expenses, though taxpayers covered just $100 of those costs.

At the time, NCCI employed four registered lobbyists in Kentucky, eventually paying $84,000 for their services that year.

Riggs — noting that he was president of the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) at the time and is currently the senior and ranking member of the House Banking and Insurance Committee — told Insider that it is “usual and customary” for groups to pay for the room and travel expenses of lawmakers in such leadership positions to attend their events. He added that he “was not aware that NCCI employed a lobbyist in Kentucky.”

State Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, traveled in D.C. in May to accept a “Champions for Charters” award at a ceremony of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Wilson sent the request in early April, just two weeks after the bill he co-sponsored authorizing charter schools in Kentucky was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin.

LRC records show that taxpayers only picked up the tab for $164 of Wilson’s trip, and NAPCS has employed a legislative lobbyist in Kentucky since 2016. However, Wilson told Insider that he did not stay in D.C. overnight and LRC paid for the cheap round-trip flight, so he avoided any payment or reimbursement from the nonprofit and complied with this provision of the ethics law.

Wilson took 11 different out-of-state trips in 2017 and received $6,023 in salary for 32 days on such travel — easily the largest totals among all members of the General Assembly. His travel expenses for these trips are a prime example of the reporting loophole in the state ethics law, as LRC records show that taxpayers likely only picked up most of the tab for three of his 11 trips, which means that outside groups could have spent well in excess of $10,000 to fly him out to their events without the exact figure being disclosed.

When asked who paid for his travel and lodging to attend three NCSL meetings and three meetings of the Southern Regional Education Board that year — where he spent multiple days and almost no public expenses were reported for his travel — Wilson said that he could not remember, as it was a long time ago.

When asked what organization organized and entirely paid for his two-day trip to study trade at the Canada border — documented in LRC financial records, though not in any formal request to the Senate president — Wilson also said he could not remember.

Education, Energy and Estimates

After NCSL and SLC, most of the conference trips in which legislators were paid a salary last year were industry-specific ones like NCOIL.

While legislators’ travel expenses for many of these trips were paid for by the taxpayers, some groups picked up the tab for a majority of the expenses, though their exact amount remains uncertain due to the prepayment loophole.

The education nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) hosted 11 different legislators on 18 trips at their meetings, with most going to their annual conference in New Orleans that June, but others attending meetings in Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Fla. Legislators received a salary for 63 days while attending SREB meetings, which totaled $11,857 — the third highest among all groups under NCSL and SLC.

However, taxpayers only picked up a small fraction of the flight and hotel costs for these SREB trips, as two-thirds of them were almost entirely prepaid for by SREB, with most others having a significant portion of the expenses — $1,652 worth — reimbursed by the education nonprofit.

State Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort

Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, a retired teacher and past chairman of the House Education Committee, went to three SREB meetings, as he is one of several Kentucky members appointed by the governor to a four-year term on its board.

He submitted three reports to the LRC noting small reimbursements from SREB for travel costs, but also wrote on the form what SREB had prepaid for his flight and lodging on their largest two events — which both exceeded $1,300 — as well as $946 it prepaid for a smaller SREB meeting in Baton Rogue in November. These are the only LRC records reviewed by Insider that detailed a specific prepayment amount by a hosting organization, which again is not currently required to be disclosed under the state ethics law.

Assuming that the travel expenses of other legislators were a similar amount, SREB may have prepaid over $15,000 for these trips.

SREB spokeswoman Beth Day told Insider in an email that the education nonprofit does not have corporate sponsorships, instead funding its work through member state appropriations and foundation grants — such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which “may have covered some travel expenses through that grant.”

The Gates Foundation is known to be a strong advocate of Common Core learning standards, though it has also been supportive of charter schools as part of innovative new ways to improve K-12 education.

In an emailed statement to Insider, Graham lauded the work of SREB and says he was not aware of any lobbying at their meetings, adding that he “would not be opposed to any further transparency measures that would strengthen Kentucky’s already-strong ethics laws.”

Taxpayers also covered nearly $20,000 of the salary and travel costs to send seven legislators on 14 trips to NCOIL conferences, which ranked fourth among all groups hosting conferences. Unlike SREB, almost all of the transportation and lodging costs were covered by the state, with the exception of the three trips taken by Rep. Riggs, who was the national president of the organization.

On the other hand, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) paid for all or part of the travel expenses of the three legislators who took four salaried trips to their meetings. Two of these trips were taken by Riggs, with NAIC covering all of the costs of his flights, lodging and registration fee.

Several other industry or issue-specific organizations prepaid all or most legislators’ travel expenses, such as the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, which comped the flight and hotel of Rep. Wesley Morgan — a liquor store owner — to attend and speak on a panel at the group’s annual conference in Denver.

State Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority — a nonprofit assisting the man-made waterway connecting a route from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico — prepaid in full for the travel of the governor-appointed Rep. Kenny Imes to two of its meetings in Tupelo, Miss., and a resort in Point Clear, Alabama.

Three legislators also took a total of six trips to meetings of the Southern States Energy Board, which reimbursed Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, for one of his trips. Gooch told Insider that SSEB received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that went toward his travel, which he believes was the same grant that funded NCSL’s ability to prepay his travel expenses to the group’s meeting on solar power in May.

In this year’s legislative session of the General Assembly, Gooch sponsored a bill that would have cut the credits that utilities provide to customers who have installed solar panels for the extra electricity they produce, which fell just short of passing both chambers.

Friends (and Frenemies) of ALEC

Taxpayers also wound up subsidizing both the salary and travel expenses of legislators to attend the conference of a group that is universally regarded as ideologically and politically conservative, if not — according to many Democrats across the country — an arm of the billionaire Koch brothers set on winning legislative majorities, tax cuts and deregulation for the Republican Party at the local, state and federal level.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hosted 14 legislators at its annual summit in Denver last summer, all of which received a salary for their attendance, totaling $8,658 for 46 days. Taxpayers also funded nearly all of the airfare and lodging for these legislators, which reached $16,484.

The sum of public money for these ALEC trips exceeded $25,000, ranking it third behind the NCSL and SCL conferences and above the nonpartisan conferences like NCOIL and SREB.

The official travel reimbursement guidelines of the General Assembly even identifies the annual ALEC conference as one of the four “major” conferences that all legislators have the permission to attend if requested, along with NCSL, SLC and the Lexington-based Council on State Governments, which is the national organization of the SLC.

Despite the fact that ALEC leaders have bragged about how their corporate sponsorships fund the travel of legislators to their conference instead of tax dollars, LRC records show that the group reimbursed and prepaid for a much smaller amount of these expenses.

These records show that Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, was reimbursed by ALEC for $1,500 of his travel costs to another ALEC conference in May related to taxes and pensions, and was offered a scholarship that appears to have prepaid all of his expenses to attend the Denver conference.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, also received a $739 reimbursement from ALEC for his Denver expenses, one of the six trips he was at least partly reimbursed for last year by hosting organizations. His $3,566 in outside reimbursements for travel reported to LRC ranks the highest among all legislators, while the $5,573 in total public expenditures for his travel and 14 salaried days on seven trips ranks fifth in the Senate.

Whereas ALEC co-chairs in other states have led the effort to solicit corporate sponsorships that fund legislators’ travel, Kentucky co-chair Sen. Tom Buford told Insider over email that he has never raised funds for ALEC, and did not know who determined which legislators in the state would receive scholarships or reimbursements.

Despite the strong conservative bent of the ALEC conference, taxpayers even paid for three Democratic legislators to attend the conference: Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville, Sen. Dorsey Ridley and Riggs.

Neal and Ridley also happened to rank first and second among all members of the General Assembly when it came to taxpayers subsidizing their out-of-state trips, totaling travel expenses of $7,060 and $6,739, respectively. Adding the 13 days of salary received by Neal, his total public expenditures reached $9,507, while Ridley’s 12 salary days lifted him just shy of $9,000. Riggs took seven out-of-state trips — all but ALEC related to insurance, as the president of NCOIL — and used 15 salaried days, which was the fourth most among all legislators.

However, Ridley suggested in an emailed statement to Insider that his intent for this trip was more like opposition research, as he hoped to see what Republicans might have up their sleeves for the next session of the General Assembly.

Playing (and Paying for) Politics

Several other nonprofits that have an overtly conservative or liberal ideology hosted legislators who requested and received a salary for attending their events, though such groups usually prepaid for the bulk of their expenses.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, both received a salary for attending the annual summit that October of the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), which was held at the Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Naples, Fla., where the 501(c) (3) is headquartered.

FGA is a free-market research group that advocates work requirements and drug testing for welfare recipients, blocking Medicaid expansion and cutting government regulations.

Adams received a scholarship from FGA that reimbursed $550 of her travel expenses, while DeCesare’s scholarship covered the prepayment of his airfare and lodging for an unknown amount.

State Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins of Louisville took 10 different out-of-state trips in which she used 23 salaried days, totaling $4,329 — second only to Sen. Wilson. Half were to NCSL events — as she was co-chair its health and human services committee — though the organization appears to have prepaid for most of her travel costs.

Jenkins also attended meetings of two liberal 501(c) (3) organizations, the Public Leadership Institute (PLI) — focused on reproductive rights — and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a progressive nonprofit that has attempted to model itself as the Democrats’ version of ALEC that creates model legislation to take back home. However, Jenkins did not take a salary for her attendance at these events, and the organizations covered all of her travel expenses.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, another Democrat from Louisville, also attended the annual meetings of SiX and PLI at no cost to taxpayers. However, she did take a salary for her trips to the events of WiLL/WAND — a nonprofit that seeks to redirect military spending to fight poverty — and American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention.

However, a number of Republican legislators attended the events of groups that went beyond run-of-the-mills conservative advocacy, including “dark money” 501(c) (4) nonprofits, electioneering 527s, a Super PAC, and even the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Much like Sen. Mike Wilson’s invitation to travel to D.C. following the passage of the landmark charter school bill he co-sponsored in Frankfort last year, Rep. Bam Carney — the main sponsor of that legislation in the House — also was invited to attend the annual summit of the American Federation for Children (AFC) that spring.

State Rep. John ‘Bam’ Carney, R-Campbellsville

This 501(c) (4) was founded and funded by the wealthy conservative family of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and spends millions of dollars annually advocating for candidates who support school vouchers and charter schools.

Carney received two days of salary for his attendance at the AFC policy summit in Indianapolis that May, and was reimbursed with a scholarship from the group for at least a portion of his travel expenses.

Sen. Westerfield also received one day of salary for speaking on a panel at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” policy conference that summer, with taxpayers picking up the tab for his travel expenses that were just shy of $1,000. The Faith & Freedom Coalition is a socially conservative Christian 501(c) (4) that advocates in elections, founded by Ralph Reed as “a 21st century version of the Christian Coalition.”

LRC records also show that Rep. James Tipton received two days of salary for attending the annual conference of Ag America, an agriculture-focused Super PAC that seeks to elect Republicans. Taxpayers picked up $131 of Tipton’s travel expenses to attend the event, though it is unclear how much the political action committee spent on him, as Tipton did not submit a reimbursement report — or even a request to attend the event to the House speaker.

GOPAC — the 527 that paid for Sen. Thayer’s trip to London — is largely funded by tobacco and payday loan companies that do business in Kentucky, according to a report by the Courier Journal’s Tom Loftus last month. That story also found that GOPAC contributed more than $200,000 to Republican candidates and committees in Kentucky during their successful 2016 election cycle that saw the party take back the majority in the state House, and added another $20,000 this April.

The amount spent by GOPAC on Thayer’s other three trips in 2017 are unknown — as is the amount it spent on Sen. Alvarado’s trip to Austin — as the ethics law loophole does not require the legislators or the 527 to report or disclose them.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester | Photo via LRC Public Information

Alvarado also received approval to attend a conference in Las Vegas last summer of Turning Point USA, a nonprofit that organizes conservative college students and manages a watchlist of professors said to advocate liberal beliefs or discriminate against conservatives in the classroom. He was also approved to attend an American Federation for Children event in Indianapolis and a Hispanic Heritage Month event in D.C. due to his membership in the National Hispanic Advisory Council, a creation of the Trump campaign.

Alvarado did not receive any salary or public money to travel to these events, though he did give some insights on the extent to which these groups covered his expenses in an email to Insider.

The Republican senator wrote that Turning Point USA “paid for a round-trip flight (economy ticket) and one night stay at a hotel” in Vegas, where he gave a speech to young conservative Latinos “regarding citizenship, their leadership, and conservative values in the Hispanic culture.”

While his initial travel request indicated that AFC would pay for his expenses to attend their policy summit, Alvarado told Insider that he drove to the event and paid for his own hotel, adding that he also paid for his own flight and lodging for the D.C. event.

Wined and Dined

According to Common Cause of Kentucky Chairman Richard Beliles, legislators who argue that they are saving taxpayer money by traveling on the dime of private organizations hosting conferences are “totally incorrect,” as “the taxpayers are indirectly paying for it” through the policies they pass into law after being treated to a junket.

“The thing of it is, the public’s not paying for it with tax dollars, but the public is paying for it in the cost of products, the safety of products … a lot of other ways, in terms of influencing legislation,” Beliles told Insider.

State Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville

According to longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville — who is retiring at the end of the year after serving in the state House for 28 years — the transparency recommendation of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission last week to close the reporting loophole is the very least of what’s needed.

However, in order for that recommendation to go into effect, it has to be passed in next year’s session of the General Assembly — and Wayne suspects this could prove to be difficult.

“Some legislators just love to be wined and dined and go to exotic places and have all of it paid for,” said Wayne, who said he only attended three conferences in his three decades in the state legislature. “That’s the temptation of these kind of conferences, especially ones that are fully paid for by the corporate elite and the Koch brothers and those types of groups.”

According to Rep. Gooch — the rural House member from western Kentucky who switched to the Republican Party two years ago — this KLEC recommendation for legislators to disclose details about all of their approved travel in their annual financial disclosure statement is unnecessary, as he already has to report all of his receipts from his travel to the LRC and they can be reviewed by the public through an open records request.

“I’m not for having to go back through my records and make a list of every trip I went on and how much it cost and who paid for it,” said Gooch. “I don’t see that as necessary.”

However, Gooch — whose $7,760 in salary and travel expenses picked up by the taxpayers in 2017 ranked the highest among all House members — did concede that he believes the public has a right to know what outside groups are prepaying for legislators to attend their events.

“I think in that instance I would certainly be for transparency, for that to have to be disclosed.”

Reposted from https://insiderlouisville.com/government/loophole-allows-organizations-to-pay-for-legislators-out-of-state-travel-without-disclosing-amounts/

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