Reports released by progressive groups are critical of Kansas Policy Institute

? The Kansas Policy Institute, whose research is used frequently by Republican leaders in Kansas, is cited in a report from progressive groups that says the think tank is part of a web of groups pushing a corporate agenda.

The report released Wednesday by the Center for Media and Democracy, which describes its work as investigating the undue influence of corporations and front groups on public policy, and ProgressNow, a network of state-based progressive organizations, focused on the State Policy Network and its state affiliates.

The reports described SPN as an umbrella group of right-wing think tanks and organizations that include Wichita-based Koch Industries, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and others.

“The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie,” said Denise Cardinal, executive director of ProgressNow.

In Kansas, the report focused on KPI, whose research on tax, budgetary and education policy has gained influence with Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP legislative leaders.

“The Kansas Policy Institute is SPN’s cookie-cutter think tank in Kansas,” the report says.

It notes that KPI President Dave Trabert also serves on ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy task force. George Pearson, the chairman of KPI, has worked for years in various positions in Koch Industries, and Jonathan Williams, an adjunct fiscal policy fellow at KPI, is the director of ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy task force.

Trabert, president of the KPI, dismissed the reports as criticisms from groups that disagree with KPI’s philosophy.

“We probably want to get at the same place, we just disagree on how to get there,” Trabert said.

Trabert said KPI was a member of the SPN, but said SPN was simply a group of like-minded people who share ideas and information.

Over the years, KPI has supported elimination of income taxes, outsourcing of government services, expansion of charter schools and has argued against increases in school funding.

KPI, ALEC and AFP have had dominant presences in the Kansas Statehouse in recent years, especially since Brownback took office in 2011.

ALEC, based in Washington, D.C., describes itself as an organization that seeks free-market policies and limited government. But critics say the group, which is composed of legislators and business representatives, creates legislation that benefits corporations while hurting average citizens.