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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

4chewnut 11 months ago

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

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toe 11 months ago

Ineffective and fired.

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WilburM 11 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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KU_cynic 11 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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Richard Heckler 11 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 .....

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2xhawk 11 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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fmrl 11 months ago

So KU is using state tax dollars to lobby for more state tax dollars. That doesn't sound right.

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toe 11 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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Scut Farkus 11 months ago

Maybe she can get something done in the private sector rather than working with a bunch of nut cases in the legislature.

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