A prominent Kansas lawmaker’s interest in a new job understandably raised eyebrows.
Ultraconservative Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita recently was named the choice to become executive director of the Kansas Family Policy Council, an advocacy group that strongly opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.
Ideology aside, the problem would be in Brunk — currently chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which considers topics ranging from abortion to guns — continuing as a lawmaker while promoting the Council’s interests.
Kansas law prohibits state lawmakers from serving as lobbyists, and for good reason. Lawmakers should not be paid by their employers to promote legislation.
Yet Brunk actually said: “One of the things that they want to do is impact legislation and so how better to do that than to have the person who handles all of that legislation actually be in the Legislature and actually be chairman of the committee?”
Would he also endorse the leader of the Kansas National Education Association, which lobbies for public schools — constant targets of Brunk’s ultraconservative alliance — chairing an education-related committee?
No, nor should he.
If Brunk takes the job, he should resign his House seat. Ideally, he’d also face a “cooling off” period that restricts how soon someone may work as a lobbyist after serving as a legislator.
That’s the law in most states. Yet in Kansas, it’s only becoming more difficult to tell lobbyists from policymakers.
Consider current Kansas Chamber president and CEO Mike O’Neal, a former House speaker.
As a legislator, O’Neal pushed through the reckless income-tax breaks of 2012 that gutted the state budget and led to damaging cuts to vital state services.
His influence on legislators and policymaking didn’t wane when he left the Legislature soon after to become Kansas Chamber chief.
O’Neal, Brunk and fellow ultraconservatives bullied their way to the tax and other extremist policies crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate bill mill that gathers lobbyists and legislators behind closed doors to work on Statehouse agendas.
Brunk suggesting he could remain a legislator and be paid by a special-interest group to further that cause proved ALEC followers would go to any length to radically change Kansas — and not for the better.