Lobbyists spent more than $145,000 during the first month of the 2016 session treating Kansas lawmakers and their staff to dinner, drinks and basketball games.
Rep. Willie Dove is off to an early lead in the competition to see which Kansas lawmaker receives the most in food and other niceties from lobbyists this session.
The Bonner Springs Republican received $866 in hospitality – nearly $300 more than any other lawmaker – from lobbyists in January, according to data from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
“Really?” Dove replied when told he was No. 1 for the month.
“He’s working hard,” said House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, who was within earshot. “It shows that people want to talk to him.”
Dove said he wasn’t aware that he had been treated to more meals during the first month than any other lawmaker. He credited it to his work on an industrial hemp bill and his recent elevation to vice chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
“With more responsibility, I guess, comes more activity,” Dove said, explaining that he uses the dinners and lunches as an opportunity to ask questions about legislation. “It’s been necessary for me to ask a lot more questions.”
Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, the House Health chair, was in the second spot for the first month.
“I beat Dan?” Dove asked with disbelief.
The majority of the money spent can’t be tied to a specific lawmaker. More than $115,000 was unitemized and likely includes money spent on box lunches at the Capitol and after-hours receptions for groups of lawmakers.
Of the money that can be tracked, the lawmakers who received the most in hospitality in January were:
All of them are Republicans, the party which controls both houses of the Legislature.
The Eagle plans to track lobbyist spending each month this session and will publish the totals as they become available.
Some legislative staffers also received hospitality from lobbyists. Roderick Patton, Vickrey’s chief of staff, received more than $400 in meals and entertainment from lobbyists during January. His boss received $265 during that same period.
Rep. Kevin Jones, a Republican from Wellsville, was treated to least amount of free food during the first month of the session, a $10 lunch from the Kansas Rural Independent Telecommunications Coalition during January.