Daniel Kunantaev, a 2010 graduate of Hillsboro High School, worked as an intern in Roberts’ Washington, D.C., office from July 7 through Aug. 9.
Unlike some internships that involve little more than making photocopies and running mindless errands, Kunantaev said in Roberts’ office, interns do real work.
“The great thing about Roberts’ office is that he’s been an intern himself,” said Kunantaev, who is a second-semester junior this fall at Texas Christian University.
“I think across D.C. that most interns are getting coffee or running books, but I think in Roberts’ office it’s different because they actually have us doing hands-on activities.”
For example, Kunantaev attended meetings of the Senate Finance Committee, of which Roberts is a member, and took notes for his boss.
“We worked on a bill while I was there, the Protective Hedging Act of 2014,” said Kunantaev, business major at TCU. “That was dealing with commodity trading and risk hedging, so that was interesting.”
Being in Roberts’ office during the political campaign added to Kunantaev exposure.
“It was interesting to be there,” he said. “During the time I was there it was extremely hectic. I usually worked from 8 (in the morning) until 9 at night. So it was a good 12, 13-hour day.
“We put in a lot of time with the other interns,” he added. “Half were from Kansas and half were from across the country. It was a pretty diverse group.
“I’d say all in all it was a great experience.”
Kunantaev said Roberts’ mudslinging political ads didn’t resemble the person he observed during his internship.
“In many aspects, he has no oversight over the campaign that they run,” Kunantaev said of the senator. “While he may ‘approve this message,’ it’s not him coming up with the commercials, and it’s not him saying ‘let’s go after this guy.’
“It’s an interesting system and a very misguided world,” he added. “You need to be informed and make the best decision you can on whether you believe that candidate can represent you.
“That’s the beauty of this country and the state we live in. You have just as much power as the person standing next to you. If you chose to be informed, more power to you.”
During his stay in Washington, Kunantaev said he and some of the other interns he met toured the traditional sites of the nation’s capital. But he also saw some things few people do.
“We obviously got the intern badges with the clearance,” he said. “We were exploring the Capitol and found out we could go just about anywhere, which was pretty exciting.
“We managed to find a room under the senate floor that was a marble spa that Lincoln had put in there,” he said. “It’s not functioning anymore, just full of duct work and all that.”
Kunantaev saw a number of political celebrities, too. Highlights included a brief conversation with comedian Al Franken, now a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and riding the subway with Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
But what really impressed Kunantaev was the way his own senator went about his business.
“I got to meet quite a few other senators and staffers from other offices,” Kunantaev said. “You kind of get a different feel in the Roberts office, as well as the Moran office. It’s just a different environment. It’s a Kansas environment. That was nice to see.”
One thing Kunantaev saw frequently was the senator himself, which can be unusual for interns in other offices.
“He was (in the office) Monday through Wednesday, then headed Thursday for Kansas,” he said. “We saw him every day, took our briefings with him. It was a lot of one-on-one time, as opposed to interacting with interns from other offices. I’d say they really don’t get much time with (their senator).”
Kunantaev defended Roberts’ intimate connection with Kansas in the face of political criticism to the contrary.
“People can debate his residency, but I think it’s apparent that whether some may like him or some may hate him, it’s very apparent that if you go through the day-to-day routine with him, it’s quite clear that he’s doing absolutely everything he can for Kansas.
“I think there’s a lot of substance to Pat; he runs a great office,” he added.”It’s a shame that not a lot of Kansans see what he is doing for the state. So he gets a little bit of a bad rap for that.”
Kunantaev’s only disappointment about his internship experience is that he waited so long to pursue it.
“I really wish I would have pushed for it a summer ago or two summers ago,” he said. “My advice is get involved and get involved quick because time does fly.”
Once he’s completed his degree at TCU, Kunantaev is planning to go on to business school to pursue a degree in investment banking. His summer internship may influence his path in the future.
“Politics isn’t necessarily something I wanted to get into,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve always been quite fascinated with—the system in itself.
“Maybe down the line I’ll make a run at something.”
As for his time in Washington, he said, “It was a great experience. I learned a lot. I think I grew as a person and I came away thinking that whatever little difference I made, I did make a difference—and did my best to benefit the state that I love so much.”