Nursing-home industry cited as example of how campaign-funding lobbying interests get what they want from General Assembly

Lobbying groups’ political action committees gave almost 40 percent of the money that the campaign committees of the legislature’s party caucuses received in the last 18 months, Tom Loftus reports for The Courier-Journal.

“Much of the remaining 60 percent came in contributions from officers of corporations and associations representing highway contractors, nursing homes, coal companies, payday lenders and other interests with an active lobbying presence in the state capital,” Loftus writes. “The Senate Republican Caucus got at least $26,000 from about 30 owners or employees of Kentucky nursing homes.”

“It’s a part of the equation where we can’t compete,” Bernie Vonderheide, president and founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, told Loftus. “The only tool we have to compete with that is to try to make our case to the public and hope.” For several sessions of the legislature, the group has lobbied for staffing requirements at nursing homes, to no avail.

The winner of that lobbying battle is the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, which has a generic name but is in fact the main lobby for nursing-home owners. KAHCF President Betsy Johnson sent Loftus this statement: “We support candidates who have consistently supported Kentucky’s excellent caregivers, and in particular some of our most pressing issues including medical liability reform.”

Loftus reports, “The General Assembly’s two top leaders, who have been leading fundraising drives for their caucuses for the past month, say there’s no problem.” He quotes Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester: “Contributions do not influence policy. … It’s the policy that influences contributions.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told Loftus, “We tell them when we have our fundraisers that this doesn’t guarantee anything except that we will promise we will listen to your problems and we’ll try to be honest with you.” (Read more)

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