So far, not one newspaper or television station in Kansas fact-checked the Topeka Capital-Journal’s conflict of interest allegations against Republican State Senator Julia Lynn, but had they done so, they would have found a lot of holes in those claims. The Sentinel found audio of the meeting refuting the claim that Lynn “convinced the GOP majority” to reject an audit of actions taken by former Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave.
The Capital-Journal then wrote a scathing editorial of Senator Lynn, but the allegations are, at best, misleading.
“We could ask about Lynn’s role in blocking a legislative audit of former Commerce Secretary Antonio Soave when such an audit likely would have turned up her role as both AGS employee and legislative power player,” editorial staff wrote.
The editors must not have read their own news story, which said Lynn properly disclosed her employment on annual statements of substantial interest. The ‘power player’ comment refers to another dubious claim in the Cap-Journal’s news story, alleging that Lynn attending a Commerce Department meeting at which Lynn’s colleagues were “…seeking contract work…” to help resolve a data breach that occurred at Commerce.
“The purpose of the meeting, which was called by Commerce, was to engage experts into the root cause of the data breach,” says Lynn. “There were no sales presentations made. The discussion centered on what kind of practices the department should have in place to prevent another breach from an IT and organizational perspective.”
The Capital-Journal story even quotes AGS executive Jason Trachsel, who said Allied didn’t get more contract work as a result of that meeting; Trachsel also said Lynn attended the meeting in her capacity as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.
The Iola Register also published an editorial that was rife with fact-checking issues. The editorial says, “Lynn torpedoed the audit, saying it was a “rush to judgment,” and persuaded members to drop any further review.” Again, the audio refutes this claim. Four legislators made it clear that they felt the issue should be handed over to the Attorney Generals office and each gave specific reasons as to why they felt this way.
The Register continued “And that’s really a shame because when the Kansas Bureau of Investigation finally got involved in 2018, it discovered Soave’s friendly contracts were the least of his crimes.”
But two years later, Mr. Soave has yet to be charged with a crime. Governor Brownback fired him for cause but the Iola Register knows the KBI investigation did not result in any criminal charges.
So why would the Iola Register ignore the facts and viciously accuse Senator Lynn of not being transparent? Ironically, a lack of transparency at the Iola Register provides a possible motive.
The author of the Iola Register editorial is Susan Lynn (no relation to Senator Lynn). Editor Susan Lynn is married to Brian Wolfe, the Chairman of Thrive Allen County. Commerce Secretary David Toland was the CEO of Thrive Allen County prior to working for the Commerce Department and worked closely with the Editor’s husband. Senator Lynn chaired the committee that considered Toland’s nomination; the committee recommended that Toland not be confirmed and Lynn was a vocal opponent of Toland’s confirmation.
It’s widely known within the Legislature that Senator Lynn has been employed by Allied Global Services for several years. As noted earlier, she properly disclosed her employment and one of Allied’s managing partners is a well-known former State Representative, Republican Marvin Kleeb. The audio of the Legislative Post Audit Committee meeting proves no one raised any conflict of interest concerns then, and Senator Lynn says no one in the legislature has ever raised any conflict of interest concerns with her. There is also no evidence that Senator Lynn voted on anything that would have benefitted her employer; participating in conversations is not necessarily a conflict of interest and savvy legislators like Democratic Senators Anthony Hensley and Laura Kelly would likely have spoken up if they thought a conflict existed.
Senator Lynn’s inartful initial comments to the Topeka Capital-Journal didn’t help her, but why come after her now when her employment at Allied has been known for years?
Part 3 in The Sentinel’s investigation will explore possible motivations and relevant information that the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Iola Register ignored while leveling conflict of interest allegations.