Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): George Hansen has relations

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

George Hansen has relations

There are days, bad, dark days, when I wonder where Gov. Sam Brownback gets his counsel. 

Who nominates a person for a high-ranking cabinet job without doing ANY vetting? 

I speak of George Hansen withdrawing his name for consideration for the post of Kansas Secretary of Commerce. One day before his confirmation hearing, Hansen summarily withdrew from consideration.

I don't even...

Hansen said he was withdrawing because of a family member's conflict of interest. I'll be honest: I'm not totally buying this story. (There are dead puppies or a sex scandal or something somewhere. I mean, normal people don't just drop out because they have relatives, right?)

But OK. We'll go there. This is complete conjecture on my part -- I don't really have any insider-y type knowledge, but I have Google, and actually what I'm NOT finding is making me suspicious.

Anyway, if Hansen's stated reason for withdrawing is accurate, I believe it's related to a relative who is an attorney for Polsinelli active in economic development. This attorney has assisted in several major Kansas projects including Sporting KC Park, Cerner's campus, Legends and Hollywood Casino. Hansen and this attorney do not appear to be friends on Facebook, yet I'm 99 percent certain they're related. That's weird, kids. Really strange.

Obviously, the Commerce Secretary has an interest in economic development issues within the state of Kansas. I'm not sure how this connection causes political heartburn. Kansas is a sparsely populated state. The politically connected are an incestuous group. 

I suspect the real problem isn't as Hansen put it that: "The Governor needs a full-time Secretary of Commerce not one who would have to recuse himself continuously to avoid perceptions of a conflict of interest."  

The more immediate challenge may be a casino that is suing the state -- Castle Rock Casino. I won't bore you with particulars, but a few years ago, the mob boss that is the state of Kansas agreed to allow four non-tribal casinos to operate within its borders in exchange for a hefty 22 percent of the profits. (DON'T GET ME STARTED. Puke.) Kansas granted Hollywood Casino -- for which Hansen's relative worked -- and three others the opportunity to build and operate in Kansas. 

Castle Rock announced it was suing Kansas in early August. Approximately two weeks later, Gov. Brownback nominated Hansen to replace Pat George as Commerce Secretary. With his hearing a day away, Hansen withdrew.

There's a lot about this story that troubles me greatly. This is hardly the first time Brownback has nominated someone without appropriate vetting. 

Recall the embarrassing appointment and resignation shortly thereafter of Phil Hermanson. Hermanson was appointed as the state's Medicaid inspector general, but resigned after a few months when a DUI conviction, campaign finance violations, a business bankruptcy and personal financial troubles came to light. I don't know how no one in the Brownback administration knows about any of those things before the appointment is even suggested. But sometimes, I wonder if the people advising Brownback know any other actual humans. (For what it's worth, state officials promised a better vetting process the next time. Yeah right. Also, depending on the nature and timing of those less-than-stellar things in Hermanson's background, I'm not certain they should be deal breakers. But it's definitely a deal breaker if Hermanson never mentions it.) 


And then there's the other side of the coin: Many Brownback appointees require Senate confirmation. Seems like the administration would ask around and make sure nothing is going to happen to gunk up the works. Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, so kind of asking around shouldn't be yeoman's work. But it's work the Brownback administration appears not to do.

Recall the Strange Case of Laura McConwell and the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission appointment. A narrow majority of the Senate mothballed the appointment. They had problems with the former Mission Mayor's driveway tax, which I did, too. Not sure why that would make her incapable of serving on the gaming commission, but I am also not real clear how being the mayor of Mission (or managing to get elected period) makes anyone capable of running a department, but that's the process we've got.

Hermanson resigned after only a few months on the job when questions were raised about his suitability for the oversight position given that his background includes a DUI conviction, campaign finance violations, a business bankruptcy and personal financial problems. - See more at: http://www.khi.org/news/article/more-formal-vetting-process-be-used-selecting-new-#sthash.jCO5Bkec.dpuf
So just how hard is it to have a Brownback intern ask Hansen who his relatives are and whether there might be conflicts of interest? I ask people off the street stuff like that all of the time, and I'm not offering them posh cabinet positions. I'm just nosy.

A full background check can take weeks or even months, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a quick conversation in a coffee shop about potential conflicts or a few short chats in the hallway to find out if the Senate is likely to confirm. Does this not happen in the Brownback administration?

Whatever the actual reason for Hansen's withdrawal, we can definitely add another thing to the list of baffling Brownback Setbacks.

1 comment:

  1. Has all the pressure of the last session in Topeka unhinged our guv a little? He seems alright, most of the time, but you wonder...