Unfortunately, one of the only conservative think tanks in Kansas appears to be in contract discussions with a company owned by elected Republican Senator Julia Lynn, despite ongoing questions about whether Sen. Lynn, in 2008, sold her very first vote as a duly-elected official for around $50,000 to the far-left Senate leadership.
Apparently, a key state-wide conservative think tank, the Kansas Policy Institute, is making a job offer to Sen. Lynn. What little we know of the situation can be found here and here. Sen. Lynn has asked the state ethics commission (the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, or GEC) for an opinion about a "potential contract."
State Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) asked the Commission for an advisory opinion about potential contract work between her company, Lynn Communications, and "an independent think-tank that advocates for free market economic solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans."
That "independent think-tank" is later explicitly named as the Kansas Policy Institute.
I've contacted the KPI about why, out of all the contracts they could offer, why does this make sense, but KPI leaders won't reply. A KPI ally, a person critical of my Email questioning toward KPI, replied to me in an Email message that included this helpful line -- "Your statement 'the Kansas Policy Institute has offered a contract to Kansas Sen. Julia Lynn' is not factually correct to the best of my knowledge." Fine. What shall we say, "discussing the idea of offering a contract..."? Clearly, Sen. Lynn would not have requested an advisory opinion from the state ethics commission about a "potential contract" unless there was a likely contract to be later offered by KPI.
Right now, it's not clear whether KPI wasn't aware of Sen. Lynn's questionable ethics, or whether KPI doesn't care.
Lynn was appointed (through precinct-based elections of a few dozen people) mid-term in 2006 to replace the conservative Sen. Kay O'Connor. Lynn had the backing of Sen. O'Connor, and Lynn even ran to the right of and beat out a Kansans for Life official to win the appointment to finish the remainder of O'Connor's four-year term.
Move forward to mid-2008. It became increasingly clear that Julia Lynn was not going to fulfill her pledge to be a reliable conservative vote. Indeed, she was going to put pro-tax, pro-judicial activism, pro-abortion, openly-pro Democratic Republicans back in control of the Senate. The Kansas Senate is dominated by incredibly liberal Republicans. Over 30 of the 40 Kansas Senators are Republican, but perhaps only 13 or 14 are remotely conservative. Here's Senate President Steve Morris in The New York Times, discussing former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who became the first governor in United States history, to my knowledge, to block the construction of coal plants based on the theory of carbon-based, man-made global warming:
Steve Morris, a Republican who is president of the State Senate and represents the part of the state where the power plants would have been situated, disagreed with Ms. Sebelius about them.
"But that's the only major disagreement we've had since she took office," Mr. Morris said. "She knew she would have to work with Republicans when she came in, and she's done pretty well doing that."
It became clear that incumbent Sen. Lynn was going to support the current liberal leadership. Why? From The Kansas Liberty:
During the campaign, Lynn admitted she had received substantial financial help from the Kansas Republican Senatorial Committee, controlled by [Senate President Steve] Morris and [Senate Vice President] Vratil. Lynn didn't disclose the amount, but records show that she received far more from the Kansas Republican Senatorial Committee than any other candidate - perhaps as much as $50,000, including three contributions totaling $25,000.
This Senate leadership group isn't a "Republican" PAC by any sense of the word. The same Kansas Republican Senate PAC sending $50,000 towards Julia Lynn donated $45,000 to a group called the "Kansas Traditional Republican Majority" (as I recall, part of the Republican Mainstreet Partnership in DC) that, in its 2008 campaigning, labeled as "racists" Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, incumbent Congressman Jim Ryun, and former Attorney General Phill Kline. The KRA, Erick Erickson at RedState, and Erickson at Human Events wrote about the KTRM intolerance. KTRM's mailings included nooses around the necks of conservative candidates.
Well before the November 2008 general election, Lynn lost the support of former Sen. Kay O'Connor (who publicly said she didn't vote for any candidate), Americans for Prosperity (which later documented the leadership vote here), and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. In the eyes of many, it was far better for Lynn to lose -- for the entire chamber to have one less liberal Republican, but for the Republican caucus to be stronger -- than for Lynn to win. Lynn narrowly won the election, in which she faced a popular Republican-turned-Democrat school superintendent.
As The Kansas Liberty noted, Lynn was rewarded for her leadership vote:
The Americans for Prosperity list of legislators who supported Vratil and Morris includes 18 senators, and from that list of legislators there were 13 chair appointments made and 12 vice-chair appointments. Lynn received two of those.
From the 13 legislators expected to have voted against Morris and Vratil, there was one chair appointment and four vice-chair appointments.
In the 2010 Senate Republican primary, Lynn supported Jerry Moran, until she later supported Todd Tiahrt.
If you're reading this, and considering starting a think tank in Kansas, by all means move forward with your plans. We've got lots of elected Republicans, but few economic conservatives in office or in positions of education. We need more groups who will educate voters. I'm still hopeful that the Kansas Policy Institute can be one of these groups.
Connect with Benjamin Hodge at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas. He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011. His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters,the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRA, Kansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).