Retiring GOP lawmaker sets up lobbying firm before leaving office

Retiring Rep. Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsKansas Republican dropping Senate bid to challenge GOP rep Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (R-Kan.) is raising eyebrows after launching a new lobbying firm before she officially leaves office, McClatchy reports.

The firm, LJ Strategies LLC, is already registered with the state of Kansas in a move ethics watchdogs say is legal, though unusual.

“This is an egregious abuse of the revolving door,” Craig Holman, the lobbyist for Public Citizen, a group which advocates for stricter ethics rules, told McClatchy.

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“To put up a lobbying shingle while you’re still serving — maybe it’s happened before — but it’s very unusual and unfortunate because it plays into the public perception that the interests of the public aren’t first and foremost,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of the nonpartisan ethics reform group Issue One.

Jenkins’s office told McClatchy that the congresswoman had consulted with the House Ethics Committee before setting up the firm.

“In an abundance of caution, Congresswoman Jenkins has been working closely with the House Ethics Committee throughout this process,” Jenkins’s spokesman Lee Modesitt said. “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 announced she would be creating the firm in a Facebook post last month, saying it would provide “strategic analysis, comprehensive federal and state government relations, political consulting, and association management.”

LJ Strategies was registered with the Kansas secretary of state’s office by Pat Leopold, Jenkins’s former chief of staff in Washington. Leopold also managed the campaign of Jenkins’s successor, Republican Steve Watkins, who will be sworn in next month.

Jenkins campaigned hard for Watkins, whose campaign included a call to drain the political swamp in Washington, McClatchy noted.

Jenkins will not be allowed under federal law to lobby for one year after her term ends, but that prohibition does not extend to her firm. Leopold will be forbidden from lobbying Jenkins’s office, though she is leaving Capitol Hill in January. He can, however, lobby Watkins since he only worked for him in a campaign rather than official capacity. 

When she returns to Kansas, Jenkins will be able to tap into her deep connections she developed during her time serving in both the state legislature and as state treasurer. 

Republican Jake LaTurner, Kansas’s state treasurer, began his career working in Jenkins’s congressional office. 

LaTurner told McClatchy he doesn’t know the details of her operation, “but I have total confidence, knowing Lynn, that it’s absolutely appropriate.”

However, Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, who served in the state Senate with Jenkins and has previously introduced legislation barring state elected officials from becoming registered lobbyists for at least two years, said establishing the firm is inappropriate.

“I don’t think that is appropriate,” Hensley, the longest-serving member of the state legislature and a close ally of Gov.-Elect Laura Kelly (D), told McClatchy.