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New Kansas nonprofit to aid government transparency efforts

Hays Post
Kansas Press Association
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A new nonprofit institute to aid efforts at making government more transparent has received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

The Kansas Institute for Government Transparency, Inc., (KIGT) is the brainchild of Mike Kautsch, a University of Kansas law professor and longtime media law consultant for the Kansas Press Association.

Since it is dedicated exclusively to charitable and educational purposes, KIGT has been approved for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Kautsch said KIGT is non-partisan, and its specific purposes are to educate the public about:

  • Transparency laws, including Kansas statutes requiring that government records and meetings be open to the public;
  • Rules and regulations that affect the balance between the public’s interest in access to information and competing interests in privacy and security; and
  • Citizens’ First Amendment rights to express themselves freely.

“KIGT’s plans include researching and analyzing Kansas laws and public policies related to government transparency,” Kautsch said. “In addition, KIGT anticipates supporting or undertaking litigation in matters that bear significantly on advancement of open government or freedom of expression in Kansas. KIGT has developed criteria for determining when litigation may be warranted.

“I am grateful to the Kansas Press Association for being strongly supportive of KIGT. When I was with Doug Anstaett before he retired as the KPA’s full-time executive director, he referred to the free press as the ‘champion of the people.’ He and his successor, Emily Bradbury, are champions of government transparency, too.”

“During the formation of KIGT, I also appreciated encouragement and advice given by Kent Cornish and Ron Keefover, respectively, the leaders of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters and the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government.  KIGT aims to operate in harmony with the KAB, the Coalition and the KPA,” Kautsch said.

“I view KIGT as an experimental public-interest venture, and I appreciate the support of KIGT’s founding board members — Russell Hickey, Nate Lindsey, Ann Premer and Leita Walker. All are outstanding alumni of the KU School of Law and were superb students in my media law-related classes.  I hope to involve even more former students in KIGT and others who have an interest in open government and the First Amendment.”

To assist the nonprofit’s effort, the Kansas Newspaper Foundation Board of Trustees in the spring of 2018 authorized the $25,000 in seed money for the proposed project.

Kautsch expects KIGT to create opportunities for law students to participate in its public-interest endeavors. In this way, the students will be able to gain practical experience and advance the skills and knowledge they acquire in the classroom.

The benefits of the bill-tracking process include informing the public about: model language for transparency bills; the projected impact of proposed legislation on transparency, and the provisions of any particular current or prospective legislative proposal that would increase or decrease the flow of information to the public on matters of public concern.

The bill-tracking process was developed for KIGT by attorney Max Kautsch, who also serves as KPA’s legal hotline attorney, with support from Lex Lumina, an LLC devoted to the public interest, in Lawrence.

You can find the nonprofit’s website at www.kigt.org.

It contains weekly lists of the bills that have been reviewed by Max Kautsch and his interpretation of their importance to the ongoing transparency efforts in Kansas.

— Hays Post is a member of the Kansas Press Association

Faculty name: 
Mike Kautsch