Retiring Kansas Lawmaker Opens Lobbying Shop While Still in Office

Watchdogs say Lynn Jenkins’ new business flouts ethics laws

Retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., shown here with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., has raised the ire of ethics watchdogs for opening a lobbying firm before she finishes her term. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Retiring Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins launched a new lobbying firm in her home state weeks before she officially steps out of public office, according to a local media report published Friday.

Lawmakers are restricted from working as lobbyists until they have been out of office for a year. But the federal law that restricts their activities is porous, and former lawmakers routinely find ways to trade their influence before the prohibition expires.

Ethics watchdogs told the Kansas City Star the new venture launched in November by the Republican appears to be such a case.

“This is an egregious abuse of the revolving door,” Craig Holman, the lobbyist for Public Citizen, a group that advocates for stricter ethics rules, told the publication.  “I suspect she’s being coached as to how to dance around the law, but it certainly violates the spirit of the revolving door law itself.”

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Jenkins’ office told the paper in a statement that she had consulted the House Ethics Committee.

“In an abundance of caution, Congresswoman Jenkins has been working closely with the House Ethics Committee throughout this process,” Jenkins’ spokesman Lee Modesitt told the paper. “She discussed with them the potential formation of the business prior to doing so and has subsequently reported the actual formation. The business has no clients and will not be actively seeking them until she leaves office.”

Jenkins has been in office for five terms and was considered a potential front-runnner for the Kansas gubernatorial race when she announced her plans to retire last year.

Her former chief of staff in Washington, Pat Leopold, registered the consulting business  LJ Strategies, LLC. with the Kansas Secretary of State Nov. 20., The Sunflower State Journal reported. Her term ends in January.

Leopold managed the campaign of Jenkins’ successor, Republican Steve Watkins, whom Jenkins endorsed. 

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