February 20, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Lobbyist, Guest Movements Captured at Senate Leadership Event

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It wasn’t mentioned when guests slipped on name tags at a Kansas Senate Republican Committee fundraiser on Friday, but Harrison Hems says he told people about the beacons attached to their name tags when they inquired.

The beacons didn’t track individual movements, but they showed organizers what time people entered certain rooms and what time they left.

About 150 movers and shakers attended the Kansas Republican Senate Committee fundraiser Friday night. Their name tags had beacons attached to them.

About 150 Kansas movers and shakers attended the Kansas Senate Republican Committee fundraiser, hosted at Husch-Blackwell in Kansas City, Missouri, last Friday. Among the guests were state Senators, like Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, Sens. Julia Lynn and Jeff Longbine, Kansas Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman and Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Svaty.

Hems, the chief of staff for Senate President Susan Wagle, said guest movements weren’t tracked, and that the beacons were attached to name tags in order to test a new business concept. Following the event, the name tags and beacons were separated into two, disorganized piles.

“Technically, you can say I’m putting this inside of Julia Lynn’s name tag, I would be able to trace it back to that thing. But what people get confused of is I can only see Julia Lynn was in the same room as Jeff Longbine. I can’t see that she was standing next to Senator Longbine. I don’t know if they were talking to each other. It’s did they enter a room and what time did they cross the threshold,” Hems said.

Though Hems used Lynn and Longbine as examples, senators wore their permanent Senate name badges, so their movements weren’t captured.

Because the beacons were separated from the name tags as soon as the party ended, Hems said the data won’t report who was in the room at the same time. It will instead report beacon number 7,205 was in the room at the same time as beacon number 7,206, Hems explained. The pencil-eraser-sized beacons aren’t GPS-enabled and have a limited battery life.

“It’s not sophisticated where I can track every movement you make,” Hems said.

Hems authorized event planners to use the technology for business research–not for data collection on the event guests. Hems said he didn’t run the idea through Wagle, his boss. However, he was upfront with guests when they asked about it.

Hems’ wife was one of the planners, and they wanted to test the beacons for a new business concept to be used at conventions. The beacons respond to beacons placed in different rooms, so event planners can know whether people congregated at the bar or stopped and congregated at entrances, and to take some of the human error out of convention attendance reporting.

“I said as long as it’s not tracking names. I’d be fine to let you try it out,” Hems said.

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