Kansas says D.C. lobbyist is money well spent

Courtesy of Kansas Watchdog at Kansas says D.C. lobbyist is money well spent.

TALK ISN’T CHEAP: The state of Kansas spends $134,000 annually to maintain a lobbyist presence in Washington, D.C., which state officials say is simply the cost of doing business with the federal government.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Raise your hand if you knew Kansas’ governor maintained an office in Washington, D.C. And no, I’m not talking about Sam Brownback’s old digs on C Street.

Anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller?

Don’t feel too bad. It’s doubtful many Kansans know about the governor’s representative, Adam Nordstrom, who served as an aide for-then Sen. Brownback from 1995 to 1999. Nordstrom currently lobbies on behalf of the governor and the state as a whole as Kansas’ federal liaison of-sorts.

Right about now you might be asking yourself “but isn’t that our Congressional delegation’s job?” Well, yes it is, and no it isn’t. Let me explain.

Adam Nordstrom, Federal Representative for the Governor of Kansas

Adam Nordstrom, Federal Representative for the Governor of Kansas

Situated several blocks away from Capitol Hill, Nordstrom represents the interests of Kansas’ state government. But while the state’s elected officials help crank-out the political sausage under the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building, Nordstrom says that’s only half the story; far more changes are implemented through regulatory decisions that never land on the floor of theHouse or Senate.

“The thing that we get involved in most frequently is either trying to head off one of those changes before it makes a negative ramification, or trying to fix a change after it has already been made,” said Nordstrom, who works for the lobbying firm Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell, LLC. “Usually it’s related to the law of unintended consequences.”

In all, Kansas is one of about 28 states to maintain some kind of physical presence in the nation’s capital, the cost of which runs the state government $134,000 per year.  While Kansas has maintained a presence in D.C. long before Brownback was elected, the current cost is about $34,000 lower than when he took office; Nordstrom said the governor and Commerce Secretary Pat George were able to negotiate a better deal than their predecessors. But while $134,000 certainly isn’t cheap, state commerce department communications director Dan Lara argues that’s just the cost of doing business at the federal level.

“A lot of business gets done by face-to-face interaction. If Adam needs to meet with department of energy officials regarding projects in Kansas, or something else that’s going on, he has the ability to do that and do it quickly,” said Lara who worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill for seven years. “That may be a problem with the way Washington works and its culture… but that part of getting things done in Washington is still tried and true in that way.”

A 2010 study by the National Governor’s Association showed Kansas to be among the most frugal when it comes to DC-office expenditures, while other states spent upwards of $800,000 annually to accomplish the same feat. Nordstrom said his services – as opposed to maintaining an advocate on the state payroll –  are a private sector solution to a government problem, and allow him to address state needs without burdening taxpayers with additional property costs, pension benefits and other overhead expenses.

“The trend is to shrink the size of government and reduce costs to taxpayers, but I think in Adams case and his firm it’s something that definitely provides value to us and helps us in our dealings with the federal government,” Lara said.

But still, 22 other states manage similar matters from their own capital cities, so why not Kansas?

“It’s an issue of proximity. You really have to be here in order to efficiently do it. If you’re at a desk in a state capital you’re probably a person that has a lot of other things that you’re handling,” Nordstrom said. “You can’t run it effectively from 1,000 miles away.”

Contact Travis Perry at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!