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Archive for Monday, May 20, 2013

KU makes sudden change in Statehouse presence

May 20, 2013

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— In the middle of a crucial fight in the Legislature over proposed budget cuts to higher education, Kansas University officials have changed their strategy in the Statehouse—and the lobbyist leading it.

Last week, Kathy Damron was reassigned from her work lobbying legislators on behalf of KU. Instead, she will focus on outreach "with key stakeholders and community leaders across Kansas on behalf of the university," said Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs. He said this was part of KU's effort to deepen relationships throughout the state. He said Damron's efforts "on our behalf have resulted in tremendous gains for the university."

"It's something that will be a good change for the university and me personally," said Damron, a veteran lobbyist and campaign consultant, who will now have the title of KU's director of state affairs.

KU recently hired Riley Scott to join Damron and Mandy Miller, who also works for Damron's consulting firm, Strategic Communications of Kansas, to lobby for KU. Scott had worked for Brownback when he was in Congress, and was deputy chief of staff and state director for U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. He is also the son-in-law of Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

Caboni said Scott will continue to lobby for KU.

The change came suddenly amid negotiations between the House, Senate and Gov. Sam Brownback, in which higher education funding is one of the major sticking points.

The House has proposed a 4 percent across-the-board cut for each of the next two years, while the Senate countered with a 1 percent cut in each of the next two years.

In addition to the proposed across-the-board cuts, the House plan diverts millions of dollars in lapsed funds from universities. The total cuts to universities would be $42.1 million, or 7.4 percent, according to figures provided by the Kansas Board of Regents. KU and the KU Medical Center would take a combined hit of nearly $20 million.

KU officials have said the proposed House cuts would be devastating and Brownback has opposed cuts to higher education.

During the session, conservative Republicans in the House and Senate have said higher education could absorb cuts. KU has been a specific target on occasion.

Early this year, conservatives removed Brownback's funding plan of $10 million over two years to help start construction of a health education building at KU Medical Center.

At the time, state Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, said KU had been fiscally irresponsible and recommended a full legislative audit of costs at the school. And House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, has said higher education could take a 4 percent cut without getting hurt.

Caboni said KU spent $205,000 lobbying the Legislature in fiscal year 2013. That included $195,000 to Damron's company, Strategic Communications of Kansas, and $10,000 to Scott Consulting.

He said Damron's pay for being director of state affairs has yet to be determined.

Damron started lobbying for KU in 2005 and has helped guide through the Legislature numerous initiatives including expansion of the School of Pharmacy, increasing the number of engineering graduates, the annual $5 million appropriation for the KU Cancer Center, and many others.

"The record of success we've had is a reflection of the hard work and talents of many people at KU, along with governors and legislators who were strong partners, interested in seeing our state's flagship flourish," Damron said.

Comments

toe 1 year, 4 months ago

KU has almost no goodwill at the Statehouse outside of local reps. This is the fruit of years of one party support.

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adastraperapathy 1 year, 4 months ago

KU has enjoyed quite a bit of bipartisan support around the state for years.

It seems that it is only this recent group of legislators who are bent on cutting KU's public funding.

Then they point at KU's overall expenditures to argue that KU should be able to afford the cut easily.

But KU is able to have a much larger overall budget than what the state provides the University because of KU's successful private fundraising efforts and research success.

Do these legislators expect the University of Kansas to use the proceeds from its private fundraising and research to cover the loss in public funding?

And I thought Republicans were against punishing success.

There used to be more of those Republicans in office in Kansas.

Seems like the new so-called "conservative" Republicans who are now in charge of the House, Senate, and Governorship in Topeka only value private sector success if it directly benefits them and serves their political interest.

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question4u 1 year, 4 months ago

This legislature, likely the dumbest ever, probably IS motivated by vindictiveness rather than common sense. That would certainly explain the boneheaded proposal to cut funding to institutions that return three dollars on every state dollar invested. Brownback is no liberal, nor is he interested in anything bipartisan, but even he doesn't advocate arbitrarily cutting funding to higher education at this point. But as long as there are noses there will be people dimwitted enough to cut their own off for spite.

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Scott Tichenor 1 year, 4 months ago

No, that's the way it works in this state, or every state, really. You want something, you pony up the big bucks to the folks that got elected. It's as simple as that. It's taxation without representation, plain and simple. Representation is achieved by legalized bribery, sorry, that's contributions.

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Jack Martin 1 year, 4 months ago

The state relations contracts detailed in the article are paid with private funds.

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2xhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Remember when you thought Bob Dole was an ultra-right-wing conservative? Wouldn't you like to think that again?

(P.S. Wagle's son-in-law? Gag me.)

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

"KU recently hired Riley Scott to join Damron and Mandy Miller, who also works for Damron's consulting firm, Strategic Communications of Kansas, to lobby for KU. Scott had worked for Brownback when he was in Congress, and was deputy chief of staff and state director for U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. He is also the son-in-law of Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita."

"Caboni said Scott will continue to lobby for KU."

I don't see a lot of influence hiring these people. They seem to be more of the Rt Wing Anti Women Libertarian Neocon Fundamentalist Tea Party backed by ALEC Economic Terrorism mindset.

Like the foxes in the chicken coop are hard at work .....

3

KU_cynic 1 year, 4 months ago

This story seems incomplete. The first paragraph says, "...Kansas University officials have changed their strategy in the Statehouse—and the lobbyist leading it."

What is the change in strategy? Please tell us. And, okay, Kathy Damron is not leading the Statehouse lobbying anymore. But who is? Riley Scott (Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle's son-in-law) or Mandy Miller or someone else? How about some specifics?

I'm sorry, but this looks like Damron has been politely fired and given a temporary title to save face. Or am I missing something?

And, while it's nice to get Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Tim Caboni on record, what about Chancellor Gray-Little? After all, isn't it her job to conduct outreach "with key stakeholders and community leaders across Kansas on behalf of the university"?

Keep digging, Mr. Rothschild.

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WilburM 1 year, 4 months ago

Kathy Damron has been very effective, and she works hard go get along wih everyone. Still, the Legislature has moved way right, and her natural hod is among moderates. Not an entirely surprising move, but mostly a sign of he times.

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adastraperapathy 1 year, 4 months ago

Did you notice this part?: "Damron started lobbying for KU in 2005 and has helped guide through the Legislature numerous initiatives including expansion of the School of Pharmacy, increasing the number of engineering graduates, the annual $5 million appropriation for the KU Cancer Center, and many others."

If the state wasn't giving out multi-thousand dollar tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthiest Kansans, we could begin to make more investments in our state's education system like other states and countries have begun to do again since the Great Recession.

But with the current lot in Topeka, I doubt it. The benefits of cutting theirs and their buddy's taxes are just easier to grasp.

I mean, is a University going to write them a reelection check? Are college students going to buy them a vacation?

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4chewnut 1 year, 4 months ago

And while you are reporting, where has Mr Todd Cohen gone?

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