Audit samples spending on local governments on lobbying

The Kansas Division of Legislative Post Audit last week released a report on lobbying expenditures and reporting by six large school districts, cities and counties that could lead to changes in what and how public bodies are required to report. 

Post Audit staff reviewed expenditures, by Wichita USD 259, Olathe USD 233, Shawnee Mission USD 512; Shawnee, Sedgwick and Johnson Counties; and the cities of Overland Park, Kansas City and Wichita in three areas: direct payments to lobbyists, whether employed or contracted; payments to associations with known lobbyists, such as KASB; and payments to associations with no lobbyists or the entity did not know if the association engaged in lobbying. 

Payments to lobbyists or associations with known lobbyists totaled about $1.5 million in 2017 and averaged between 0.3 and 0.5 percent of expenditures by these local government bodies. However, it was stressed that dues paid to associations such as KASB and other groups representing districts, cities and counties provide many services in addition to lobbying, such as professional development and legal services. Therefore, the actual amount those bodies spent on lobbyist activities is less. 

The report also noted that while lobbyists are required to report public funds they receive for lobbying services, there are no standard guidelines for reporting lobbying activities. For example, KASB has several registered lobbyists who report a portion of salaries based on an estimate of time spent in direct lobbying, but not monitoring committees, research and general communications with members. 

The Post Audit report recommends the state ethics commission “provide additional guidance to registered lobbyists on what constitutes lobbying services and therefore what public funds received lobbyists should report.” The issue of lobbying by public bodies could also be reviewed by the Kansas Legislature.

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