Pat Roberts Pushed Legislation for Which His Son Lobbied
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has pushed legislation that his son has lobbied for as a paid lobbyist, Breitbart News has learned.
Back in 2002, David Roberts—Sen. Roberts’ son—lobbied for Kansas State University at the lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc., pushing in part for a new bioterrorism facility at the university federal lobbying disclosure reports filed with the U.S. Senate show. After receiving $50 million in taxpayer funds for the new facility the following year, in 2003, Sen. Roberts appeared at the groundbreaking ceremony for the building of the facility.
“This facility will help protect us from bio-terrorism," Sen. Roberts said at that event, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press reported that Roberts “was instrumental, along with former Gov. Bill Graves, legislative leaders and members of the Kansas Board of Regents, in the initial push to provide the money for the institute.”
At the event, then Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius praised the new facility as well, the AP reported, and pledged "to keep this kind of initiative going.”
According to Kansas State University’s website, the program that Sen. Roberts helped send that $50 million worth of taxpayer money to—that his son was paid to lobby for—is housed inside “Pat Roberts Hall” on the university’s campus.
“The Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Pat Roberts Hall on the Kansas State University campus is a unique biocontainment research and education facility,” Kansas State University brags on its website. “The BRI supports comprehensive "farm-to-fork" infectious disease research programs that address threats to plant, animal, and human health. Home to 113,000 square feet of lab, education, and administrative space, this BSL-3, ABSL-3 and BSL3-Ag facility offers countless research and education opportunities.”
Over a year ago at Breitbart News’ first “The Uninvited” panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2013, Peter Schweizer of the anti-crony capitalist Government Accountability Institute called for a ban on lobbying by family members of members of Congress.
“First of all, there needs to be a lifetime ban on lobbying for members of Congress,” Schweizer said. He added:
Second of all, there needs to a ban on family members as registered lobbyists. If you are elected to serve the people, you ought to be serving the people—not little Johnny who has lobbying clients. I think the third thing that I have really changed my view on is I have come to the conclusion that there really is no alternative to term limits. You simply are going to continue to have this problem until that happens.
Schweizer said during that event that regardless of any politician’s political stances, the allure of Washington as a business model—the culture of money in politics—keeps Americans from achieving policies in their interests.
“Have you ever noticed things don’t really change in Washington?” Schweizer asked attendees of that panel, adding:
Whoever is the president, whoever controls the House, whoever controls the Senate—there might be a slight shifting of the ship but it’s basically going in the same direction. Now you’re going to hear a lot of talk about how this is an ideological problem, that we need to fight for limited government, that we need to combat on the level of ideas, that we are fighting socialism—and there is certainly some truth to that. What I’m going to argue today is that the problem we face is ultimately not ideological—it’s cultural. The reason that government continues to grow in Washington is that for liberals, for centrists and even for some conservatives, the fact of the matter is government grows because it’s profitable when it grows.”
That Biosecurity Research Institute is not the only example of Sen. Roberts pushing legislation that his son David was paid to lobby for.
Back in October 2005, Roberts teamed with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to introduce legislation they say was aimed at providing job opportunities for people with disabilities.
“If in fact we have those with severe disabilities doing work on behalf of our national security my goodness, think what they can do in other endeavors,” Roberts said at a press conference on Capitol Hill, according to the Kansas City Star. “It is time we change the way we think about employing individuals with severe disabilities.”
The Kennedy-Roberts legislation would have used the government to grant certain firms a competitive advantage. “Businesses would get a preference when vying for federal contracts if severely disabled people make up 25 percent of their work force, if the firms pay fair wages to those workers and if they pay at least 50 percent of the workers' health-insurance premiums,” the Kansas City Star’s Matt Stearns wrote on Oct. 8, 2005. “The bill's goal is to provide employment for 1 percent, or 94,000, of severely disabled Americans.”
Roberts and Kennedy framed their bill—which was pushed the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation—after an Army program at Fort Leavenworth where people with severe disabilities were hired to analyze information. “With job opportunities scarce for disabled Americans, especially the 9.4 million with severe disabilities, advocates say the Army's decision is a model for other organizations,” the Star’s Stearns wrote before quoting Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation government relations official Pat Terick as saying, “Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they can't analyze information.”
Capitol Hill lobbying disclosure forms show that Roberts’ son David was a paid lobbyist on behalf of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation from at least 2003 through 2005. David Roberts lobbied on behalf of government relations firm Rhoads Weber Shandwick—which later became simply “The Rhoads Group.”
On The Rhoads Group’s 2003, 2004 and 2005 lobbying disclosure forms for its client the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, the lobbying firm listed David Roberts as one of the paid lobbyists on that account.
During that timeframe in which his son lobbied for the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation—which is based in Wichita, Kansas—Sen. Roberts took other actions on that organization’s behalf.
In 2005, Roberts intervened on the organization’s behalf in dealings with the Department of Education during the George W. Bush presidency. In late 2004, The Wichita Eagle reported in 2005, a regional administrator from Bush’s Department of Education “prohibited vocational rehabilitation counselors from referring people with vision loss or severe disabilities to either Center Industries, a charter company of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, or Envision, which provides services, education and employment for the blind.”
Envision was looking to hire more people with severe disabilities to make plastic bags while Center Industries wanted them to work for its defense industry contracts, but the local news outlet reported that the ruling from the Bush administration “meant Center Industries and Envision had to look elsewhere for employees—sometimes out of state.”
So the organizations turned to Sen. Roberts for help—and Roberts used his official senatorial power to help his son’s struggling clients. “Roberts, along with other members of Kansas' congressional delegation, wrote to then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige asking him to reconsider the ruling by Rehabilitation Services Administration regional commissioner Joe Cordova and permit job placements at Center Industries and Envision,” the Wichita Eagle wrote on Feb. 26, 2005. “The letter said that Center Industries and Envision ‘employ both disabled and non-disabled individuals in a broad range of manufacturing jobs.’”
In response to Roberts’ actions, the Bush Department of Education reversed its original ruling—and did so through Roberts.
“In response, the Education Department has retracted the ruling as it applies specifically to Center Industries, according to a letter released to The Eagle by Roberts' staff,” The Wichita Eagle wrote. “Sarah Ross Little, communications director in Roberts' office, said that although the reversal applies specifically to Center Industries, ‘this sets a precedent, and it should be easy for Envision’ to receive a similar nod of approval.”
Little, who remains in the communications director role for Sen. Roberts to this day, told the local paper that Center Industries—which was a charter company of Roberts’ son’s lobbying client the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation—had specifically asked the senator for help. “Asked why Envision was not included in the letter, she said it was because Center Industries had specifically requested Roberts' help,” the Wichita Eagle wrote.
The local paper wrote that Pat Terick, the top government relations official for the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, was “delighted by the news” of what their lobbyist’s father and U.S. Sen. Roberts was able to do for them.
“We are extremely pleased,” Terick said. “This means individuals can be employed competitively with Center Industries.”