Former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt is looking to build up his lobbying and consulting business in Topeka.
His firm, Tiahrt Enterprises LLC, recently sent letters to several Kansas businesses that already contract with lobbyists, offering to represent their interests before the Kansas Legislature.
“Does your current government affairs firm listen to you and understand your strategic goals? Are the right people looking out for your interests?” the April 20 letter asks. A copy was forwarded to The Eagle.
“As you are most certainly aware, it is vital to make sure your interests are protected and that your views are heard both locally and nationally,” the letter states. “Todd Tiahrt and Robert Noland provide government relations, legislative affairs and research services to help you capitalize on issues vital to your business or industry.”
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Tiahrt, who served in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2011, recently took a position in Washington as senior vice president for O’Neill and Associates, a firm that provides lobbying and other services for businesses at the state and federal levels.
He said Tiahrt Enterprises is a separate venture.
And he said he is not a lobbyist in either case.
“Tiahrt Enterprises employs a lobbyist, Robert Noland, who services the clients that we have. I advise and he carries out the work,” Tiahrt said.
Tiahrt draws the distinction that he serves as a consultant, while Noland serves as a lobbyist. In his job with O’Neill, he says he wasn’t hired to talk to the federal government but to advise people on how to talk to the federal government.
“It’s a firm that does government affairs,” Tiahrt said. “Not always lobbying. There’s a very clear definition of lobbying. I think you could probably define it as attempting to influence a decision of an official in government…but when you’re advising people on how to talk to legislators or how to talk to someone within the bureaucracy that is not lobbying by any definition.”
Lobbyists are required by law to register in Kansas. Consultants are not. The same is true at the federal level.
During his primary fight with U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, last year, his opponent’s campaign repeatedly asserted that Tiahrt had been working as a quasi-lobbyist since leaving Congress. Tiahrt disputed that during the campaign and continues to do so.
“I’ve never lobbied. I didn’t take a lobbying job…I work for a firm that does lobbying. I don’t personally do it. It doesn’t bother me that people do it. We have a constitutional right to petition our government guaranteed by the First Amendment,” he said.
The letter seeking new clients for Tiahrt Enterprises came with Tiahrt’s business card, which lists his title as “Member of Congress 1995 to 2011” and includes a seal similar to the congressional seal.
“I’m not running for office. I’m not in politics. That business card, that seal, is not the official congressional seal. It’s the official former members’ congressional seal. It’s an act of Congress that allows me to have that on my business card,” he said.
“I’m just out here trying to make a living and I’m using the experience that I have and I’ve successfully helped a lot of clients. I hope to help many more,” he said.
Tiahrt Enterprises registered with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office in 2011, but Tiahrt said he did not hire a lobbyist until this fall.
The firm’s consulting clients listed on its website include Boeing and Beechcraft. Noland’s only lobbying client currently listed in the Kansas secretary of state’s lobbying database is the Kansas chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.