UT, City of Knoxville Defend Lobbying System

Sharon Rieger's picture

The city of Knoxville is using some of your tax dollars to pay lobbyists in Washington.

So are Maryville and Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the University of Tennessee and a handful of other public entities in the area.

And, if you consider it a little odd and a lot wasteful that one public entity's efforts to influence another are coming on your tax or tuition dime, those involved would argue it's money well spent.

"It 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."

The University

Tennessee 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.

"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.

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