Rep. Steve Brunk will join the staff of the Kansas Family Policy Council in January, according to a fundraising email the group sent out Tuesday.
The email says Brunk’s official start date is Jan. 4, which is one week before the start of the 2016 legislative session. He will be executive director of CitizenLink, the policy arm of Focus on the Family, in Kansas, according to the e-mail.
The advocacy organization, which has ties to the national group Focus on the Family, announced Brunk’s hiring in a letter earlier this month that was first reported by The Wichita Eagle. Brunk said last week that the group was premature in its announcement.
Brunk did not answer phone calls or e-mails Wednesday. He said last week that he would not have to resign his office in order to take the job.
However, a statehouse source confirmed Wednesday that Brunk will step down from his House seat in District 85 on Jan. 4, the same day he is set to begin work with the advocacy organization. A precinct committee of Republicans would have to select a replacement for Brunk, whose district covers parts of Wichita, Bel Aire and Butler County.
The resignation comes after criticism both in Kansas and nationally about Brunk’s comment to The Eagle that he wouldn’t have to leave the Legislature if he took the job. He said last week that the group wants to impact legislation and asked, “How better to do that than to have the person who handles all of that legislation actually be in the Legislature and actually be chairman of the committee?”
During the 2015 session, Brunk convened hearings on the importance of marriage to society that featured testimony from a representative for Focus on the Family.
KFPC has been working closely with our national ally, CitizenLink — a public policy partner of Focus on the Family — to strengthen our state organization and ‘muscle up’ for the challenges ahead.
Kansas Family Policy Council fundraising e-mail
The Tuesday e-mail touts Brunk’s ability to help the group have an impact in the coming session.
“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision that undermined God’s design for marriage earlier this year, KFPC has been working closely with our national ally, CitizenLink — a public policy partner of Focus on the Family — to strengthen our state organization and ‘muscle up’ for the challenges ahead,” the e-mail states about the goals of the project.
Brunk said last week that the job was not as a lobbyist but as a director. He did say he might hire a lobbyist for the organization who would appear before the committee he chairs, the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which handles a broad range of issues, including abortion and gay rights.
Democratic lawmakers called on Brunk to resign before the session so a replacement could be appointed.
“I don’t think it gets any more blatant in terms of conflict of interest than that,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said Tuesday. “That is very egregious.
“And I think it’s up to Rep. Brunk to decide which he wants to do, whether he wants to remain in the Legislature or whether he wants that full-time job.”
I don’t think it gets any more blatant in terms of conflict of interest than that.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat
State law forbids anyone working as a lobbyist from serving in the Legislature.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican and a moderate who sits on Brunk’s committee, said lawmakers should use the situation as an opportunity to revisit the state’s ethics laws and “to maybe bring forth legislation that makes the definition of what is lobbying, and what isn’t, tighter and much more clear.
“It’s an opportunity for Kansas to move forward and for the Legislature to become more transparent and conduct ourselves in … a less morally ambiguous way,” Clayton said. “Even though this is awful and is causing us a great deal of concern, there’s an opportunity for reform here, and I think that we should take it.”