Lobbyist spending in Kansas doubles amid coal fight

KANSAS - Spending by lobbyists doubled in Kansas in the last year due to the dispute over a proposal for two coal-fired power plants.

A report from the state ethics commission said that lobbyist spending totaled more than $1,276,357 from January through August. During the same period in 2007, lobbyist expenditures were $570,038.

The added money was largely spent on efforts to get Kansas residents to pressure lawmakers over Sunflower Electric Power Corp.'s plan to build coal-fired plants in Finney County, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The biggest difference was in the areas of communications and mass media, such as television, radio and newspaper ads. Advertising increased more than 11-fold, from $49,577 to $553,356, and communications such as newsletters and mailings increased nearly ninefold, from $31,062 to $260,061. The bulk of those ads and mailings came from groups fighting over the coal project.

Last year, Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby denied an air-quality permit for Sunflower's project, citing concerns about global warming, which many scientists link to man-made greenhouse gases.

The Legislature passed three bills allowing the plants, but Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed each one. Supporters of the plants were unable to get the two-thirds majorities to overturn the vetoes.

Both sides expect to continue their efforts — and spending — when the Legislature convenes in January.

According to the ethics commission report, Hays-based Sunflower has spent $176,370 on mass media urging the public to support the project. The company also spent several thousand dollars more on meals for lawmakers.

"It's a matter of trying to get our story out," said Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller.

Sunflower was helped along by several groups backed by coal interests, such as the Alliance for Sound Energy Policy, which spent $106,403 on ads through August; Center for Energy and Economic Development, $44,298; the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, $44,297; and Kansans for Affordable Energy, $11,845. It also received help from some businesses.

On the other side of the issue, Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy was the group that spent the most, with $128,812 going toward communications and advertising.

"We came into existence because a lot of Kansans felt the need to tell the more broad story," said Scott Allegrucci, the group's executive director.


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