The News Sentinel today carries a national story on state and local governments hiring lobbyists to work in Washington at a cost of $1.2 billion over the past decade – complete with a state-by-state chart on the spending.
A related story by Steve Ahillen provides more Tennessee-specific information, including a report on the University of Tennessee’s full-time lobbyist in Washingnton.
t has proved worthwhile to have someone (in Washington),” said Hank Dye, UT’s vice president for public and government relations. “If you don’t have somebody up there representing you, I think you’d be missing out.”
(UT) has a full-time Washington lobbyist on its staff, Kurt Schlieter, whose title is Associate Vice President and Director of Federal Relations. He has been on the job since 2003 after serving as legislative assistant and appropriations associate on the staff of then-Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp. He makes $132,599.96 a year.
“There’s more lobbying done by the University of Tennessee than probably any other public institution in the state of Tennessee,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.
And, most, but not all, is done through Schlieter.
(Note: UT also has a lobbyist in Nashville, Anthony Haynes, who on occasion — as in combating the ‘guns on campus’ bill or dealing with budget issues — is assisted by Dye and others.)
Kurt lives in Washington and works out of his home,” Dye said. “He is representing the university there. His duties get pretty broad, most involve helping researchers seeking grants. He helps them identify opportunities. At one time, we might have a dozen faculty members going up there (to Washington) pursuing federal funding.
“He does liaison work with our members (of the Tennessee Congressional delegation). He works closely with their staffs on our interests. It might be an appropriation or it might be some piece of legislation that is helpful or harmful. He will be expressing our view on that.
“He also works with various associations related to higher education.”
Dye said Schlieter makes several trips a year to Tennessee and visits all of the UT system campuses.
“He meets with people there and talks in terms of what their goals and needs are, what their ‘asks’ are. All of our campuses have these needs and make priorities, and he will make our presentation with our (Congressional) delegation … all of which is beneficial to the university to get our story out.”
Tennessee has also been paying a lobbying group roughly $80,000 a year since 2005 and has paid for some form of lobbying since 1999.
“Our need for them is more toward the agency side — interior, defense (departments),” Dye said. “When we bring in an outside group it is with big picture and department funding.
“By the time these type of opportunities come up we don’t want to get in too late.”
Dye said the ability to move quickly on such matters as funding and project applications has never been more vital.
“Virtually all (of the grants or projects) are competitive bidding. Washington has changed within the last year and a half with the demise of earmarks. It used to be that you could earmark funds for XYZ organization. You know earmark is a dirty word now.”