How strong is ALEC in the Kansas Legislature?

With the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) promoting extremist, cookie-cutter legislation across the country, much of it making an appearance in the Kansas Legislature, we wondered just how many of our most important state politicians are members of the organization. So, with help from volunteers and interested moderates, we set out to find out.

What we found:
Members of the right-wing ALEC group control 76% of the most influential positions in the Kansas Legislature.

How we did it. First, we gathered a list of the top officials in the Kansas Legislature from the official site. Then we looked for lists of ALEC members. ALEC is notorious for trying to keep its membership private, so lists are not complete. Wikipedia keeps one, so does the Center for Media and Democracy. You can run down their list of all Kansas legislators if you like. A little local digging also turned up some photos, articles from local papers, and other sources (noted below).

But we thought it would be interesting to see how well represented ALEC is among the House and Senate Leadership. After all, these are the elected officials that decide what laws bubble to the top to be debated and voted on.

The results are... not surprising, but definitely disappointing.

Kansas Senate Leadership in ALEC

These are the leadership positions in the Kansas Senate that are beholden to... rather, that are held by legislators who are also members of ALEC. Boldface positions carry more importance in the way business is run in the Senate.

  • Senate President - Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) is also one of sixteen Directors on the National ALEC Board
  • Senate Vice President - Jeff King (R-Independence)
  • Majority Leader - Terry Bruce (R-Hutchinson) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Assistant Majority Leader - Julia Lynn (R-Olathe)
  • Majority Whip - Garrett Love (R-Montezuma) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Agriculture - Garrett Love (R-Montezuma) again
  • Chair of Commerce - Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) again
  • Chair of Confirmation Oversight - Terry Bruce (R-Hutchinson) again
  • Chair of Ethics and Elections - Mitch Holmes (R-St. John)
  • Chair of Federal and State Affairs - Ralph Ostmeyer (R-Grinnell) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Interstate Cooperation - Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) again
  • Chair of Judiciary - Jeff King (R-Independence) again
  • Chair of Local Government - Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Natural Resources - Larry Powell (R-Garden City) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Organization, Calendar and Rules - Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) again (again)
  • Chair of Public Health and Welfare - Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Transportation - Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Utilities - vacated by Pat Apple, Vice-Chair is Forrest Knox (R-Altoona) who is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Ways and Means - Ty Masterson (R-Andover) is also on an ALEC Task Force

In addition to that (as if that weren't enough) the Ways and Means Committee has ten subcommittees, tasked with appropriating money for everything: There are subcommittees for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Corrections and Juvenile Justice, Education, Judicial, Legislative and Elected Officials, Social Services, etc. All of those are chaired by ALEC Members.

In fact, the only members of the Kansas Senate Leadership missing from the ALEC list are the Democrats at the bottom of the power heap, Minority leaders and the like. Of the Committee Chairs, there are a few Committees without ALEC member Chairs: Assessment and Taxation (Les Donovan, though he's a fan of ALEC), Education (Steve Abrams), and Financial Institutions and Insurance (Robert Olson).

Kansas House Leadership in ALEC

These are the positions of Leadership in the House that are controlled by ALE... um, by legislators who also happen to be members of ALEC.

  • Speaker of the House - Ray Merrick (R-Stillwell) is also one of sixteen Directors on the National ALEC Board
  • Speaker Pro Tem - Peggy Mast (R-Emporia) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Majority Caucus Chair - Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater)
  • Chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources - Sharon Schwarts (R-Washington)
  • Chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget - Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater) again
  • Chair of Appropriations - Gene Suellentrop (R-Wichita) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Children and Seniors - Connie O'Brien (R-Tonganoxie) attended ALEC workshops
  • Chair of Commerce, Labor and Economic Development - Marvin Kleeb (R-Overland Park) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Corrections and Juvenile Justice - John Rubin (R-Shawnee) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Elections - Scott Schwab (R-Olathe)
  • Chair of Energy and Environment - Dennis Hedke (R-Wichita)
  • Chair of Federal and State Affairs - Steve Brunk (R-Wichita)
  • Chair of Financial Institutions - Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane)
  • Chair of General Government Budget - Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane) again
  • Chair of Insurance - Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) again
  • Chair of Interstate Cooperation - Ray Merrick (R-Stillwell) again
  • Chair of Judiciary - Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) is also on several ALEC Task Forces
  • Chair of Legislative Budget - Marc Rhoades (R-Newton) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Local Government - Steve Huebert (R-Valley Center) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Rules and Journal - Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) again
  • Chair of Social Services Budget - Ron Ryckman, Jr. (R-Olathe)
  • Chair of Taxation - Richard Carlson (R-St. Marys) was a 2011 ALEC State Legislator of the Year
  • Chair of Utilities and Telecommunications - Joe Seiwert (R-Pretty Prairie) is also on an ALEC Task Force
  • Chair of Veterans, Military and Homeland Security - Mario Goico (R-Wichita) is also on an ALEC Task Force

Wow. What is not on this list? Well, somewhat surprisingly, the Majority Leader and Assistant Majority Leader are not among the discovered members of ALEC. And all the positions reserved for the minority party in the House Leadership, of course. And a few key Committees, fortunately? Education (Kasha Kelley). Health and Human Services (Dave Crum). Pension and Benefits (Steven Johnson). Transportation (Richard Proehl). Education Budget (Ward Cassidy). Transportation and Public Safety Budget (Virgil Peck). Oh, and the Calendar and Printing Committee (Jene Vickrey). And in most of those cases the Vice-Chair is a known member of ALEC.

Is there anything left?

Just for fits and giggles, the Chair of the House Special Committee on All Day Kindergarten (Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park) and the Chair of Senate Select Committee on KPERS (Jeff King, R-Independence) are both ALEC Members.

In Perspective

Between the House and the Senate, there are 165 members of the State Legislature. According to the lists we consulted, there are between forty-eight and fifty-one ALEC members in the Legislature. Even using the lower number:

29% of the Kansas Legislature are ALEC members.

Then we counted, between Committee chairships and Leadership posts, both for the party in power and the party in the minority, 82 possible posts with a leadership role. Of those posts, 40 are filled by ALEC Members. That's 49%. Half of all leadership positions are taken by just a third of the members of the Legislature.

But that's being generous on our part. If we include only the Leadership positions with real power (so none of the Minority positions), and the committees with real power (noted in the lists above) we count 21 positions. Sixteen of those are held by explicit ALEC Members.

ALEC members control 76% of the most influential positions in the Kansas Legislature.

Extra Credit: The few Committees or Leadership posts not controlled by ALEC Members are covered by members of other right-wing influencers, which we will cover in an upcoming post. To read ahead, start here:

Next in the Series >> ALEC and the 2014 Kansas Legislative Session

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