Until last night, we’d never heard of the Kentucky Gazette. And the first e-mails we got called it “The Frankfort Gazette.”

But people are going to know the Kentucky Gazette now as the news outlet with a huge story this week, a story the Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal seemed to have missed. (Shocker.)

At a time when the national economy is limping along, companies operating in the state somehow found the resources to spend almost $9 million in 60 days to lobby Kentucky legislators during the latest regular session of the General Assembly, an all-time record!

The total includes money companies and groups spent from January to April, and include the 60-day regular session and a week-long special session that followed, according to the article by Randy Patrick.

From Patrick’s story:

During the 2012 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly, legislative agents earned a record-breaking $7,525,615 to lobby state lawmakers. That amount makes up the bulk of the total $8.8 million the lobbyists’ employers spent, which can include expenses such as receptions, according to reports filed with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

The projected total spent on lobbying for the full year is about $17.5 million, according to the Gazette.

Pure numbers aside, here’s the most interesting bit: One of the big companies throwing around big money is Coventry Health Care, the Bethesda, Md.-based health insurer at the middle of a feud over the botched implementation of a Medicaid managed care plan by the Beshear Administration.

In June, a federal judge issued a scathing finding against Coventry, saying the MCO sought to essentially dump coverage of thousands of expensive Medicaid patients by cutting ties to Appalachian Regional Healthcare, the largest hospital network in the extremely poor sections of Eastern Kentucky.

Coventry officials have announced they’ll also cut and run by November 1 from deals with other provider groups including Baptist Healthcare System, based in Louisville. Coventry has reported huge losses due to its Kentucky MCO contracts. That it’s trying to gain the advantage by whispering in the ears of legislators is no surprise.

Another name that leaped off the screen, so to speak, is Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, who reported making $120,090.

Wiederwohl, you’re recall, has found a cozy home in the Fischer Administration. Our Brian Tucker noticed last month when she was named “chief of strategic initiatives,” and Brian tied her back to Tax Ease Lien Investment, a Dallas-based company that uses questionable tactics (not to mention ethics) to get hold of properties by buying small tax liens.

Here are some more highlights from the Gazette piece:

The highest-paid lobbyist in the 2012 regular session was Bob Babbage, who has topped the list for a number of years. Babbage, a former Lexington city councilman, state auditor, secretary of state and candidate for governor, has a large and diverse list of clients, including Coventry Health Care, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, International Game Technology (IGT), GlaxoSmithKline and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. During the session, Babbage earned $300,500.

Babbage wasn’t the only former elected official registered as a lobbyist. John Y. Brown III, former secretary of state and son of former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., is on the list. He was ranked ninth in earnings at $150,461. In all, 18 lobbyists received more than $100,000 in compensation for the 60-day session.

• Bob Babbage, $300,500

• Warren G. McLean, $266,569

• Ronald J. Pryor, $222,278

• John P. Cooper, $207,314

• Sean M. Cutter, $197,873

• Patrick M. Jennings, $174,378

• John T. McCarthy III, $171,054

• Karen Thomas-Lentz, $156,803

• John Y. Brown III, $150,461

• Chris Nolan, $132,036

• Ellen C. Williams, $131,193

• Kelley Abell, $128,178

• Marc A. Wilson, $125,250

• James W. “Jitter” Allen, $124,233

• Mary Ellen Wiederwhohl, $120,090

• Leigh A. Thacker, $119,700

• Kevin W. Payton, $115,500

• Rachel P. Bayens, $100,268

Top spenders

The 15 entities that reported spending the most on lobbying in the regular session were:

• Consumer Healthcare Products Association, $486,053

• Kentucky Hospital Association, $134,473

• Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, $121, 525

• Altria Client Services, $104,729

• AT&T, $87,441

• Kentucky Medical Association, $84,880

• Kentucky Retail Federation, $78,060

• Kentucky Education Association, $74,543

• Kentucky Association of Healthcare Facilities, $73,337

• Kentucky Bankers Association, $72,320

• Kentucky Optometric Association, $70,169

• Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, $64,401

• Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, $57,409

• Kentucky Justice Association, $56,875

• CSX Corporation, $51,569