Politics & Government

Former Wichita Rep. Steve Brunk registers as a lobbyist

Former Rep. Steve Brunk, left, communicates with other opponents of a bill that would establish anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation during a January hearing. To his right: House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey and Rep. Jan Pauls.
Former Rep. Steve Brunk, left, communicates with other opponents of a bill that would establish anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation during a January hearing. To his right: House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey and Rep. Jan Pauls. The Wichita Eagle

Former Rep. Steve Brunk has registered as a lobbyist after saying that his new job with an advocacy organization did not involve lobbying.

Brunk, a Wichita Republican, gave up his seat in House District 85 in January and registered as a lobbyist on Feb. 16, a day before his organization, the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, helped throw a religious freedom rally at the Capitol.

Brunk repeatedly said his job as executive director with the organization, an affiliate of the national group Focus on the Family, did not include lobbying when The Eagle asked about it in December. He said that again during the first week of session when he came to Topeka to testify against a bill that would provide anti-discrimination protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Brunk said he was being truthful when he said he wouldn’t lobby but that his employer recently decided to expand his job description to include lobbying. The organization had originally planned to use someone from a national office as its official lobbyist in Kansas, he said.

“I’m an employee like everybody else, so when your boss says that the job description has changed, that it needs to include certain things, then you say, OK,” Brunk said. “And so, that’s what happened…Now after saying for a month that I’m not a registered lobbyist now I’m a registered lobbyist.”

Now after saying for a month that I’m not a registered lobbyist now I’m a registered lobbyist.

Former Rep. Steve Brunk, lobbyist for Family Policy Alliance of Kansas

Several lawmakers had questioned Brunk’s decision not to register as a lobbyist earlier.

“He showed up for committee hearings, worked with the witnesses and was obviously involved in lobbying the Legislature,” said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, the lawmaker who sponsored the anti-discrimination bill Brunk opposed.

Brunk disputed that he had lobbied against the bill. He said two pastors who are not registered lobbyists had testified in favor of the bill and questioned how that differed from his decision to submit testimony against it.

“Other than testifying there like any other citizen, I wasn’t there to go around from office to office to office to lobby anybody for any particular position. I was just there to testify on one particular bill just like people on the other side did.”

Another lobbyist at the Capitol, Tom Witt of Equality Kansas, said Brunk “was clearly engaged in lobbying before he decided to comply with the law and register like the rest of us have to.”

He was clearly engaged in lobbying before he decided to comply with the law and register like the rest of us have to.

Tom Witt, lobbyist for Equality Kansas

Under Kansas law, lobbyists must register, file regular expenditure reports with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission and wear a badge identifying the organization they represent while at the Capitol.

Lobbyists are not allowed to step onto the House or Senate floor. During the first week of session, Brunk did spend time on the House floor. He said he was helping his replacement, Rep. Chuck Weber, R-Wichita, get settled.

Chuck Weber was introduced as a newest member of the Kansas House of Representatives Monday afternoon in Topeka. Weber was selected to replace Rep. Steve Brunk in the 85th District after Brunk vacated the seat. (Jan. 11, 2016)

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said in an e-mail that Brunk would no longer be allowed to enter the floor of the House.

"The rules for admittance to the House floor are carefully enforced by the sergeant at arms, and that applies to former Representative Brunk as well,” Merrick said.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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