Monday, January 14, 2002

Eyes ahead in PAC giving

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — It may not carry a high profile like Churchill Downs, but the Kentucky Optometric Association is first in recent political giving, a newspaper investigation found.

        The optometrists' political action committee has given $60,000 since Oct. 1, compared to Churchill's $41,000, making Churchill second on a list of PACs compiled by the(Louisville) Courier-Journal.

        All 119 state-registered political action committees showed that 54 PACs made $435,125 in contributions to legislators and state political parties in the three months before the 2002 General Assembly session opened last week, according to a report published Sunday.

        Thirteen PACs gave more than $10,000 each, according to the reports submitted to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

        Churchill Downs drew criticism last week after reports that it gave $41,000 to legislators, some up for re-election in November, and to state political parties as it proposes that tracks should be allowed to install slot machines. The total included $15,500 that was donated in the first week of January.

        The optometrists gave $300 to $1,000 to 109 of the General Assembly's 138 members, plus $2,000 donations each to the Kentucky Republican and Democratic parties in the last quarter of 2001, according to its disclosure report.

        Most of those contributions were made last month.

        Darlene Eakin, executive director and lobbyist for the Kentucky Optometric Association, said optometrists are not seeking any particular legislation this session. “But if something should come up that would be detrimental to what we think would be the visual welfare of the people in the state, then we would want to have a voice in it,” she said.

        The other 65 PACs listed made no contributions, and the figures do not include gifts from federal PACs that don't file with the state. PACs can give a maximum $1,000 to Kentucky candidates for office for a given election. They can give up to $7,500 a year to state political parties.

        Senate President David Williams, at his weekly news conference Friday with House Speaker Jody Richards, said it has been common for many PACs to pour in contributions shortly before a session begins.

        Mr. Williams, R-Burkesville, said he would not criticize any legislator for accepting such contributions.

        “If someone sends a $1,000 contribution or a $500 contribution, they anticipate that you'll appreciate it and that when you see them you'll speak to them in the hall,” said Mr. Williams.


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