Archive for Monday, October 17, 2005

Reviews of Corkins as lobbyist are mixed

October 17, 2005


— New Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins has frequently cited his past experience as a lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry as evidence that he can work well with diverse interests.

The statewide organization has numerous, sometimes competing, interests among big, medium and small businesses, he said.

"I do have a lot of experience dealing with a wide range of people," he said last week to a group of school superintendents, some of whom expressed concern that his conservative politics and lack of an educational background would be a detriment in his new job as education commissioner.

But his record as a lobbyist for the chamber is mixed.

Some who worked with him said he was talented and effective, while others said he was confrontational and close-minded.

Banned from office

The former chairwoman of the Senate Tax Committee Audrey Langworthy, a moderate Republican from Prairie Village, banned Corkins from her office in the late 1990s.

Langworthy said Corkins was argumentative and under-handed. "Bob was definitely working with the ultraconservatives in the House," Langworthy said.

"Lobbyists are supposed to present their clients' position. I did not feel he was being accurate in representing the Kansas chambers' position," she said.

Corkins lobbied the Legislature on tax issues for the statewide business organization for more than eight years from 1989 to 1998, the longest time he has spent at one job.

His then-boss at the chamber, Bud Grant of Topeka, described Corkins as "a bright guy, a real asset."

But Grant, the former vice president of the chamber, added, "I'd have to sit on him on occasion. It took me a while to teach him that you make your point with legislators and get out. You don't argue with them."

Corkins' background has been under the microscope since the conservative majority on the State Board of Education appointed him to the $140,000 per year job of education commissioner.

His past dealings with lawmakers could have a big impact on how effective he is when the education board seeks legislative help.

Sen. Janis Lee, of Kensington, who has been the ranking Democrat on the Senate tax committee for 17 years, said Corkins was sometimes confrontational and disrespectful when testifying to the committee.

Lee mentioned the run-in between Langworthy and Corkins.

Grant, who was vice president of the chamber at the time , said there was "bad blood" between Langworthy and Corkins. He said the incident arose when Corkins was trying to work out differences in a bill between Langworthy and former House Speaker Tim Shallenburger, a conservative Republican.

Grant said Langworthy perceived that Corkins was acting as an advocate for Shallenburger.

Former Senate President Dick Bond, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, said he remembered legislators unhappy with Corkins.

"I do recall many of the (tax) committee members didn't have a lot of respect for his testimony and questioned at times the information he gave the committee," Bond said.

But, Bond said, he could remember no specifics.

Always the truth

Corkins was out of town Friday when contacted for this article, but said through State Department of Education spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes that he never provided false testimony to the Legislature.

According to Corkins "there was an instance where Senator Langworthy did become angry" with him.

But, he said, he and Langworthy have had several pleasant conversations since.

When asked about that, Langworthy said she had no recollection of having any pleasant conversations with Corkins after she banned him from her office. She said Corkins was the only person in her more than 15 years in the Senate that she asked not to come back to her office.

Corkins left the chamber in 1998 and started a career heading conservative think tanks where he fought against increased school funding.

Most recently he headed a one-person think tank funded predominantly with dues paid to the organization by dozens of conservative Kansas state legislators.

Jim Edwards, a former chamber lobbyist who now works for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said Corkins' philosophy didn't fit the chamber's philosophy at the time.

"During that time there was a strong interest and support of public education and highways. Those things cost money. Bob has always felt that taxes should be lower," Edwards said.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 6 months ago

The man is unqualified which makes him over paid. The KsBOE has poor skills for manging money. Allowing Connie Morris to live extravagantly while away in Florida supposedly on business directly connected to her job is more evidence the majority of this group is irresponsible.

It's likely time to disband the KsBOE.

BDub 12 years, 6 months ago

I couldn't agree more, merrill. The KS Board of Ed needs to be erased from our political landscape. They're far more trouble and expense than they're worth. We don't need them.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 6 months ago

They should make Bob Corkins halloween costumes...after all, what's scarier than an overpaid idiot who has no experience and opposes properly educated kids?

jimpfaff 12 years, 6 months ago

Seems to me that not only Mr. Corkins but Fmr. Sen. Langworthy may have closed minds. Or is it just Sen. Langworthy?

The Superintendents and others (including Sen. Langworthy) need to stop attempting a smear campaign on Corkins before he even hardly starts the job. He clearly has strong capabilities already, and we need to give him a chance to do his job.

John1945 12 years, 6 months ago

The hypocrisy of this article is just astounding. When David Adkins, arguably the most corrupt politician in the state of Kansas, was made a vice-chancellor there wasn't this litany of articles one after the other.

He didn't have the credentials to become a vice-chancellor. The job was as an assistant to someone who was no longer there, and he had never earned anywhere near the figure he's being paid.

This reflects not only the hypocrisy of the Journal-World, but its slavishness to KU and the government school bureaucracy.

Don't talk to conservatives about Corkins until you're ready to talk about David Adkins.

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Hey John1945:

You have been tooting this horn for a long time and I wanted to call you on it.

I guess I am having a hard time understanding what the credentials for a vice-chancellor are. Lets see someone who oversees alumni and community relationships with specific experience in government and marketing. So what are the credentials for such a position? Certainly someone who has experience in the government and who has had close contacts with the alumni of KU and the community associated with KU. I don't know, sounds like David might know something about that. Oh please fill us in on what the assistant to someone who was no longer there did, and he acutally earned.

The other thing I am wondering about is how important is this position relative to the educational commisioner. I mean, who cares about the assistant vice-chancellor of KU Med Center. How does that impact the public? Whereas I would think the educational commisioner has a lot more public interest since it directly impacts the education of children. So I am sure the Journal World is looking at that and thinking this is going to sell more papers. So you could sit there and talk about hypocrisy when really it just boils down to a business decision.

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Sorry I did not proof read my response - I meant to say what did the assistant actually earn.

I also forgot to ask what is it that makes David Adkins "arguably the most corrupt politician in the state of Kansas". Please elaborate on this statement. Show us specific examples of this corruptness and how is it the most corrupt. Just need some clarification here.

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the info Arminius.

From reading the article, he does seem to be well-supported by moderate republicans. It seems the conservative republicans are the ones that are unhappy with his performance. As you say, no evidence of being corrupt. Just evidence for party politics.

james bush 12 years, 6 months ago

Is Corkin a communist? Get over it or march with the phelps bunch and damn us all to "their" hell~!

Kodiac 12 years, 6 months ago

Sorry Arminus when you said "That's not necessarily evidence of corruption" I thought that is what you were saying. As far as being ethical, I can only say that those types of judgements depend on your point of view and can ultimately be indicative of party politics. I guess I am not sure what you mean by political issues. Politics has been and continues to be a partisan affair. One only has to look at what is happening to Tom Delay as an example of that.

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