Legislative Receptions Total More Than $458,000

Tennessee businesses, professional and trade groups as well as other organizations spent at least $458,000 on legislative receptions during this year’s General Assembly, records show. (Note: that doesn’t include a few that haven’t filed reports.)
Andy Sher took a look:
Expenditures ranged from breakfast, luncheon and dinner receptions to an ice cream “social,” heart health screenings and the opportunity to ride in a Nissan Leaf electric car. All told, there were 67 such events by the time lawmakers adjourned May 1.
It’s all legal provided all 33 senators and 99 representatives are invited and the spending is disclosed publicly. That move was made in the mid-1990s when lawmakers banned entertainment of individual lawmakers by special interests because it appeared a little too cozy to the public.
Tennessee Ethics Commission filings show telecommunications giant AT&T had the highest priced single event — a Jan. 10 welcome-back-to-Nashville gala featuring an “open bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres” on the 27th floor of the AT&T Tower in downtown Nashville.
The annual event carried an equally heavy $23,537 price tag, according to AT&T’s filing. Not all of that was for lawmakers, emphasized AT&T Tennessee spokesman Chris Walker.
“Invited guests included policy experts, business leaders, employees, representatives of phone companies and Internet providers across Tennessee, and members of the Tennessee General Assembly,” Walker said in an email.
He said the reception “presented an opportunity to discuss a broad range of technology and telecommunications issues that affect Tennessee consumers.”
Among AT&T interests this year was a flap over costs the company incurs to attach its gear to electric utility poles. It didn’t get very far.
The No. 1 spender overall was the Tennessee Development District Association, which spent a total of $25,375 on a breakfast and a dinner for lawmakers in a hotel ballroom.

Note: The Tennessee Ethics Commission list of 2012 legislative receptions is HERE.

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