Category Archives: Politics

United States Capitol, July 2011

How earmarks pay off for the earmarkers

The case of a Kansas Congressman benefiting from earmark spending once out of office should make us glad the practice has ended, and we should be wary of those who call for its return.

The case of United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Member Todd Tiahrt and Neumann Systems is an illustration of the revolving door between government and the private sector. It started with an earmark. An Air Force budgetary document indicates that the earmark spending was at the direction of Congress: “In FY 2006, Congress added $1.2 million for the High Power Fiber Laser Program, and $0.5 million for Oxygen Laser Optical Source.”

Excerpt from Air Force budgetary document.
Excerpt from Air Force budgetary document.

Later in the same document we see “CONGRESSIONAL ADD.” So it’s not like the Air Force asked for this money. Instead, it was added by appropriators in the House of Representatives, of which Todd Tiahrt was a member and appropriator. The oxygen laser spending was an earmark, in other words. It went to a company called Direct Energy Solutions, located in Colorado Springs. Its CEO was David Neumann, who also heads a related company named Neumann Systems Group, Inc.

While this may seem like a small amount of federal money spent on a defense research project, the earmark spending appears to have paid off for Tiahrt. Not only did Tiahrt receive contributions from Neumann for his campaigns both past and present, he also received a client for his consulting firm and, ultimately, a job. When Neumann needed to recover from an illness, Tiahrt worked for Neumann’s company and was paid some $380,000 over two years, according to financial disclosures.

Neumann System Groups had received a contract to build an exhaust gas scrubber for an electrical power plant owned by the City of Colorado Springs. The scubber is controversial. In this article from January 2013, Tiahrt said the scubber would removs sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but the scubber that is being built will remove only the sulfur compound. Costs seem to have soared over original estimates. The contract is “cost plus” and according to reporting, was awarded without competitive bid. (Costs, doubts rise at Colorado Springs power plant, Colorado Springs Gazette)

None of this was illegal or contrary to ethics codes. It’s just the way the way Washington has worked, with earmarks forging and cementing relationships between Members of Congress and their benefactors.

Earmarks have been banned in Congress since 2010. But not everyone is happy, with progressive lawmakers like Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois calling for the return of the “glue” that used to hold bills together. But the Wall Street Journal recently commented that Congress is working better without earmarks, resulting in more oversight of, and accountability for, spending.

As he campaigns for a return to Congress, Tiahrt has unabashedly called for a return of earmark spending, telling audiences that the practice did not increase the level of spending. There’s plenty of evidence, along with common sense, that tells us that earmarks do increase spending.

But some people think it’s fun to spend other peoples’ money, and as shown by the post-Congress career path of Todd Tiahrt, it can be lucrative, too.

Dear Senator Roberts,

Following is an open letter to the campaign of United States Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Dear Senator Roberts,

You have made an issue of certain X-ray images that were posted on Facebook by your opponent in the Republican Party primary for nomination for United States Senate from Kansas.

People have said that these images have caused them pain, as they reminded them of people they have lost to violence.

Senator Roberts, are you aware that if your campaign had not made an issue of these images, they would not have received publicity?

Senator Roberts, are you aware that each time you call attention to these images, people are hurt?

Senator Roberts, have you considered that if not for your decision to use these images for your own personal political gain, that the people who have been hurt by these images would not have become aware of them, and therefore would not have been harmed?

In Kansas fourth district campaign, PAC contributions are an issue

Candidate Todd Tiahrt criticizes Mike Pompeo for accepting PAC money as campaign contributions, but over his career Tiahrt has accepted PAC dollars in greater proportion than has Pompeo.

In a press release and on the campaign trail, candidate for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for his acceptance of PAC, or political action committee, campaign contributions. An example from a June 19 press release reads “PAC Man Pompeo’s special interest money means special interest legislation.”

Analysis of source of campaign funds for Todd Tiahrt, career starting in 2000 to present. Center for Responsive Politics, July 12, 2014.
Analysis of source of campaign funds for Todd Tiahrt, career starting in 2000 to present. Center for Responsive Politics, July 12, 2014.

Later in the same release: “So, was Mr. Pompeo representing Kansans or his PAC supporters?”

So if Tiahrt is criticizing a candidate for accepting campaign contributions from political action committees, voters may want to know the entire story. As it turns out, the story is easy to learn.

Analysis of source of campaign funds for Mike Pompeo, career to present. Center for Responsive Politics, July 12, 2014.
Analysis of source of campaign funds for Mike Pompeo, career to present. Center for Responsive Politics, July 12, 2014.

The Center for Responsive Politics has summarized campaign contribution data back to the year 2000. According to its summary, 33 percent of campaign contributions to Tiahrt since then were from PACs.

For Pompeo, over his career as a candidate, the figure is 32 percent of campaign contributions from PACs.

Todd Tiahrt television advertisement.

Did Rep. Mike Pompeo vote to fund Obamacare?

A television ad by Todd Tiahrt claims that Mike Pompeo voted seven times to fund Obamacare. What are the facts about those bills?

Todd Tiahrt television advertisement.
Todd Tiahrt television advertisement.
The seven bills referenced in the Tiahrt ad are appropriations bills that fund numerous departments and agencies of the federal government. Three of the bills were to fund the operations of government for as little as one week. One bill was 475 pages in length. Most passed with broad support of Republicans, including the Kansas delegation. Some reduced funding that had been authorized by the previous Congress.

Somewhere deep within these bills there may be funding that went to the Department of Health and Human Services that in some way provided funds for the implementation of Obamacare. The first three votes were short-term measures to continue appropriations established by the previous Congress. Tiahrt voted with a minority of Republicans to support that bill in its original form, then voted along with all Republicans except one against the passage of the conference report.

As to whether voting for these bills constitutes voting “to fund Obamacare,” the Pompeo campaign manager told the Wichita Eagle: “This type of flawed logic would drive someone to believe that Mr. Tiahrt voted eight times for Planned Parenthood funding for federal funding of abortions — which would be grossly misleading.”

The Eagle further reported: “Pompeo’s campaign provided a list of those eight bills. A fact-check found Tiahrt did vote ‘yes’ on the bills. But those bills were also general appropriation measures for departments that dealt with family planning.”

Here are the bills referenced in the Tiahrt television advertisement.

H.J.Res. 44 (112th) votesH.J.Res. 44 (112th): Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. This bill provided appropriations for several dozen federal agencies. It passed 335 to 91. Republicans voted 231 to 6 in favor. All Kansans voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “two-week spending resolution … to support a measure aimed at averting a government shutdown this week.” (GOP spending bill passes in landslide as 100 Dems defect)

H.J.Res. 48 (112th) votesH.J.Res. 48 (112th): Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. This bill provided appropriations for a number of federal agencies. It also eliminated specific spending that was approved in 2010. It passed 271 to 158. Republicans voted 186 to 54 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “three-week spending resolution.” (House adjourns, likely until late March)

H.R. 1363 (112th) votesH.R. 1363 (112th): Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011. As described by the Congressional Research Service, the bill “Provides reduced rates of operation for FY2011 for the following accounts or activities within the Department of Transportation (DOT).” It also provided funds at reduced rates of operation for FY2011 for some accounts within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It also appears to have eliminated some earmarks passed by an earlier Congress. This bill passed 247 to 181. Republicans voted 232 to 6 in favor. All Kansans voted in favor. Of this bill, The Hill reported it was “a bill that would fund the federal government for another week.” (House adopts rule for one-week budget stopgap)

H.R. 1473 (112th) votesH.R. 1473 (112th): Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. This is a large bill at 175 pages in length. The summary from the Congressional Research Service runs nearly 20,000 words. It passed 260 to 167. Republicans voted 179 to 59 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. This bill, voted on in April, was described by The Hill as “an agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2011.” The federal fiscal year ends on September 30.

H.R. 2055 (112th) on passage votesH.R. 2055 (112th) conference report votesH.R. 2055 (112th): Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. At 486 pages, another large bill making appropriations for many agencies. On passage of the bill in the House, the vote was 411 to 5 in favor. The later vote on agreeing to the conference report passed 296 to 121. Republicans voted 147 to 86 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor. The Hill reported this bill “covers spending for Defense, Energy and Water, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor/Health and Human Services, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/VA, and State/Foreign Operations.” (House approves $1 trillion omnibus spending bill in easy 296-121 vote)

H.J.Res. 117 (112th) votesH.J.Res. 117 (112th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013. This bill provided appropriations for a number of federal agencies. It passed 329 to 91. Republicans voted 165 to 70 in favor. Kansans Huelskamp and Yoder voted against; Jenkins and Pompeo voted in favor. The Hill described this bill as a “six-month spending resolution to keep the government funded.” (Senate passes resolution to keep government funded)

H.R. 933 (113th) votesH.R. 933 (113th): Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. A 240 page bill that provides appropriates to many federal agencies. The House agreed to the conference report by a vote of 318 to 109. Republicans voted 203 to 27 in favor. All Kansans except Huelskamp voted in favor.

Detail of stairway in Kansas Capitol.

Kansas was an earmark donor state

The practice of federal earmark spending was not kind to Kansas, as data shows Kansas was an earmark donor state.

Detail of stairway in Kansas Capitol.
Detail of stairway in Kansas Capitol.
The former practice of earmarking federal spending was seen as a way for members of Congress to demonstrate their political prowess by bringing the federal bacon back home to the district or state. Data gathered and analyzed by Brandon Arnold of Cato Institute shows that states differ greatly in the dollars sent to Washington as federal income taxes and the earmarks received.

Data for 2009, one of the last years for earmarking, along with Arnold’s calculations of a earmark ratio, shows that the value of this ratio varies from 25 percent to 1,104 percent. This ratio is calculated by first determining the proportion of total federal income taxes paid by a state. Use that to calculate the state’s proportional share of earmark dollars. Then, compare to earmarks actually received.

For 2009, the earmark ratio for Kansas was 81.9 percent. Based on the state contributing 0.9 percent of total federal taxes paid, Kansas should have received $173 million in earmarks. It actually received $142 million.

Arnold’s article contains other interesting find, such as comparing a state’s earmark ratio with it having members on appropriations committees.

I’ve presented Arnold’s data in an interactive spreadsheet. View the data below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work best in most cases. This is a spreadsheet in Google Docs format. You may manipulate and save the data as your own copy.

Historic National Security Agency machinery

In Kansas fourth district, national security a dividing issue

A letter composed by 14 national security experts clarifies the debate over the role of the National Security Agency, its surveillance programs, and the safety of Americans. This is an issue in the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas. Challenger Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for supporting the NSA data-gathering programs, saying that the programs spy on Americans. Pompeo has maintained that the programs are necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and other threats, and that there is sufficient oversight to protect privacy.

I think the most important part of the letter is the final two paragraphs:

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

What’s curious — incongruous is more accurate — is how Tiahrt and his supporters have morphed into rabid civil libertarians on this issue. This letter is signed by what we can describe as a neoconservative hall of fame, John Bolton and William Kristol in particular. This group advocates a muscular American foreign policy, which also describes Tiahrt while he was in Congress. He earned the moniker “Tanker Todd,” after all, for his support of building the next generation of air refueling tankers in the United States, and Wichita in particular. Or, maybe he supported building the tankers solely on its potential as a jobs program for Wichita, which if so, is bad policy.

Either way, it’s bizarre to see Tiahrt and his supporters opposing a policy designed to protect the American homeland. The people they’re lining up with: Usually they’d insult them with terms like isolationists and peaceniks. Or worse, libertarians.

I guess it is true, that politics makes strange bedfellows.

Following is the letter and its signatories.

We are a group of foreign policy professionals who are writing to express our concern over statements about NSA surveillance made during the Republican primary for the U.S House of Representatives seat for the 4th district of Kansas.

The illegal leaks of information about NSA programs by former NSA technician Edward Snowden kicked off a divisive debate in this country on whether or not NSA surveillance programs have violated the privacy rights of American citizens.

Many of the NSA programs compromised by Snowden have been portrayed by the news media and many politicians as “spying on Americans.”

While we appreciate the concerns voiced by many Americans over NSA surveillance programs in response to the Snowden leaks, we believe it is highly inaccurate to claim that these programs violate the privacy rights of American citizens. We believe the NSA program that has been most criticized, the NSA metadata program, has been subjected to careful oversight by the courts and the congressional intelligence oversight committees. This intelligence collection program has been upheld in 36 out of 39 decisions before 19 different judges.

We regret that critics of the metadata program and other NSA collection efforts ignore how these programs have helped protect our nation against terrorist attacks. For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein stated during a January 14, 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the metadata program helped stop terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway, the New York stock exchange, and a Danish newspaper.

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

Sincerely,

Hon. Michael B. Mukasey
81st Attorney General of the United States, former U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York

Hon. Pete Hoekstra
Former Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Lieutenant General William G. Boykin U.S. Army (Ret.)
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence

Admiral James A. Lyons, US Navy (Ret.) Former Commander-in-Chief,
Pacific Fleet

Andrew C. McCarthy
Former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York

Hon. Michelle Van Cleave
Former National Counterintelligence Executive

Clare M. Lopez Former CIA Officer

Hon. John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Hon. R. James Woolsey
Former Director of Central Intelligence

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acting)

William Kristol
Editor, The Weekly Standard and Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative

Joseph diGenova
diGenova & Toensing Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Victoria Toensing
diGenova & Toensing
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel, Senate Intelligence Committee

Frederick Fleitz
Former CIA Officer and former Professional Staff Member, House Intelligence Committee

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

Washington Examiner writer Tim Carney notices the curious stance of a Republican candidate in the Kansas fourth district primary: He likes earmarks.

Washington Examiner senior political columnist Timothy P. Carney knows how Washington works. Of his 2006 book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, Paul A. Gigot, who is Editorial Page Editor of the Wall Street Journal wrote “Politicians like to say that government is on the side of the little guy. But with impressive documentation and persuasive examples, Tim Carney shows how government power and regulation are typically used to assist the powerful.”

On the contest in the Kansas fourth district between Mike Pompeo and Todd Tiahrt, Carney observed “Kansas’s 4th District features one of the oddest fights yet of the counter-Tea Party effort: a quasi-lobbyist running running on a pro-earmark platform.”

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primaryCarney isn’t the first to notice the pro-earmark stance of Tiahrt. It’s not a secret, as the candidate himself speaks in favor of earmarks. His voting record reflects his support. In 2007 Club for Growth, whose motto is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom,” compiled a list of 50 votes that canceled what it called wasteful earmarks, explaining as follows:

The Club for Growth has compiled a RePORK Card of all members’ votes on all 50 anti-pork amendments. “Taxpayers have a right to know which congressmen stand up for them and which stand up for the special interests,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Unfortunately, the Club for Growth RePORK Card shows that most congressmen care more about lining their buddies’ pockets than they care about protecting American taxpayers.”

Analyzing the results, Club for Growth noted that 16 members voted for all these amendments. These members were all Republicans. The average Republican score was 43%. The average Democratic score was 2%. The average score for appropriators — these are members of the Committee on Appropriations like Tiahrt — was 4%.

Where was Todd Tiahrt on this list? Tied for last place at 0%. He voted for none of these amendments that would have blocked earmark spending. Of the group that Tiahrt voted with, Club for Growth noted “105 congressmen scored an embarrassing 0%, voting against every single amendment. The Pork Hall of Shame includes 81 Democrats and 24 Republicans.”

Club for Growth created a similar tally in 2009, selecting 68 votes. That year, Tiahrt did better, voting for 20 of the 68 measures.

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

By Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt is a man on a mission — to reclaim the Republican Party for earmarkers.

Tiahrt represented Kansas’ 4th district for 16 years, and for 14 of those years he sat on the House Appropriations Committee. From that perch, Tiahrt was a prolific porker, dealing out earmarks as if they were playing cards.

Continue reading at Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary.

For Kansas’ Roberts, a shift in voting sentiment

Kansans should be happy that Senator Pat Roberts is voting in a fiscally conservative way. Happy, but skeptical.

Organizations like Club for Growth produce scorecards of legislators. The motto of Club for Growth is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom.” It supports candidates who believe in pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes, and economic freedom. Kansans who believe in these values can trust Club for Growth as a reliable indicator of candidates’ beliefs and actions.

The Club for Growth creates voting scorecards. These scorecards are a selection of votes that the organization believes distinguish between those who support the club’s pro-growth goals, and those who don’t. Scorecards like this are valuable because they show what officeholders have actually done, which may be different from what they say they have done, or what they promise to do.

Kansans should be happy that its senior senator Pat Roberts has been voting largely in alignment with these policies that promote growth and economic freedom. These votes are good for Kansas, and good for America.

But it hasn’t always been this way for Roberts, and we don’t know what the future holds. If reelected, Roberts could return to his usual voting habits.

The voting record of Pat Roberts and a group of peers, from Club for Growth. Click for larger version.
The voting record of Pat Roberts and a group of peers, from Club for Growth. Click for larger version.
There’s little doubt that Roberts is voting in a way divergent from his past. Even the New York Times noticed a shift in Roberts’ voting as an election approaches, recently reporting “And Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, eyeing his state’s sharp turn to the right, made sure to align his votes with the fiscally conservative Club for Growth 84 percent of the time last year.”

I’ve gathered scorecard results from Club for Growth for all years available. In the nearby chart, I present the scores for Roberts. I also present the average scores for a group of Republican senators that are often criticized for straying from fiscally conservative policies. This group includes Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, John McCain of Arizona, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Roberts.

As you can see, Roberts tracks this groups of senators fairly closely. Some years Roberts voted more in alignment with the goals of Club for Growth, and some years less. But in 2013, as the New York Times noticed, Roberts departed quite a bit from this pack of of Republicans.

So Kansans and all Americans should be pleased that Pat Roberts has been voting for limited government and economic freedom. But it’s out of character for him, and the election-year timing can’t be ignored as a motivating factor. What will Roberts do when a election is not near?


Scorecards such as these and others, including the ones that I’ve personally constructed, have caveats. For example, some members have not been in office very long. Issues in which you have an interest may not have been voted on during the member of interest’s tenure. Or, the vote may not have been a recorded vote, which is common. Also, the mere fact of a vote for or against a bill does not measure or account for leadership on the issue, or intensity of interest and involvement. I’ve not seen scorecards that incorporate the work performed and votes made in committees, which is an important part of legislating. Further, the selection of votes to be included is an issue. Organizations that create scorecards generally have issues that are important to them, and may focus on a subset of issues to the exclusion of all others.

Club for Growth PAC Endorses Mike Pompeo For Congress

From Club for Growth, whose motto is “Prosperity and Opportunity through Economic Freedom.”

Club for Growth PAC Endorses Mike Pompeo For Congress

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola: “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America.”

May 29, 2014
Washington, DC — The Club for Growth PAC announced today that it is endorsing Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo for re-election. Congressman Pompeo represents Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt has announced that he is challenging Congressman Pompeo in the Republican primary.

“Congressman Mike Pompeo is a taxpayer hero with a 90% on the Club for Growth’s congressional scorecard and we hope he is re-nominated by Kansas Republicans,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Mike stands on principle to do what’s right for Kansas and America. He’ll never stop fighting the Obama agenda in Washington.”

“Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, on the other hand, has a liberal voting record that pales in comparison to Mike Pompeo. Congressman Tiahrt was one of the biggest spenders in the Republican Party when he served in Congress,” continued Chocola. “He voted to spend millions on an Exploratorium in San Francisco, a Lobster Institute in Maine, and even to spend millions on a building named after liberal New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. If that wasn’t bad enough, he voted for Obama’s wasteful ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program and to raise his own pay five times. Now that he’s decided to run for Congress, the Club’s PAC will do everything it can to make sure voters in Kansas learn the truth about Todd Tiahrt and his liberal record.”

In Kansas fourth district, charges of alignment with Speaker

Charges made on the campaign trail by Todd Tiahrt that his opponent is “Boehner’s boy” aren’t supported by Mike Pompeo’s voting record.

At a recent event in Wichita candidate for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Congress for the Kansas fourth district Todd Tiahrt spoke about his opponent, incumbent Mike Pompeo. Tiahrt told the audience: “Now, Mr. Pompeo was also tied very closely to John Boehner. In fact he’s the only congressman in Washington D.C. that’s been appointed to two select committees. No other Member of Congress has been. But Boehner’s boy has.”

This criticism is meant to appeal to conservatives, many who believe Speaker of the House John Boehner is not conservative, at least on some issues. By linking Pompeo to the Speaker, Tiahrt suggests that Pompeo is not conservative.

There could be a variety of ways to judge how closely linked two politicians may be. One way would be through their voting record, and someone has done that.

Mike Pompeo illustration from The Fix’s complete guide to understanding House RepublicansLast July writers for the Washington Post looked at what they called “fault lines within the House Republican conference.” The group selected six votes that they thought illustrated where the fault lines cut. They concluded there are five “relatively well-defined factions among House Republicans” based on how regularly members vote in concert with leadership — namely, Speaker John Boehner. (See The Fix’s complete guide to understanding House Republicans.)

You might think that someone who is “Boehner’s boy” — that’s the charge leveled against Pompeo by Tiahrt — would be in the group the Post writers called “the Boehner base.” Or maybe the group next to that.

But Mike Pompeo’s votes placed him in a group far away from the Boehner base. Not the group farthest away, but the group next to farthest away.

A referendum on earmarks

From The Weekly Standard, analysis of the primary contest in Kansas district 4, where Mike Pompeo and Todd Tiahrt are candidates.

Voice for Liberty radio logo for featured posts 01

Voice for Liberty Radio: U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Milton Wolf

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidate for United States Senate Dr. Milton Wolf spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday June 13. He spoke about the issues he feels are important today in America and took questions from the audience. Dr. Wolf was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by myself.

Shownotes

Milton Wolf campaign page
Archive of Milton Wolf columns at Washington Times

United States Capitol, July 2011

Arguments for and against term limits

From RestartCongress.org.

Arguments for term limits

  • With term limits in place, Congress will be more responsible toward their constituents because they will soon be constituents themselves. They will have to live under the laws they have created while in office.
  • Members of Congress will have less time in office to develop financially beneficial commitments to lobbyists and other special interest groups, thereby undermining the threat of lobbyists being a primary influence on legislation.
  • Since the time of the Founding Fathers, a general consensus states that people, when given power, will eventually be corrupted by it. If Congress has term limits in place, their power will also be limited. Candidates will be more likely to run for the purpose of serving the people, and they would have to leave office before corruption dominates their decisions.
  • Congress is heavily entrenched in partisan politics, resulting in gridlock when trying to pass any legislation. If term limits were enacted, toeing the party line would be less important, as the need for re-election and holding onto party seats would no longer be the driving force behind most legislative decisions. Congress would have an easier time passing the legislation that would make a positive difference for the nation.
  • Money is a major factor in who will win an election. Incumbents have the benefit of the profits they made while in power — plus the backing of their party, contributing organizations and special interests — to get re-elected. However, these wealthy incumbents are often not the best person for the job, as they are so far-removed from the daily realities of the American people. A middle class person who better understands the problems facing the average citizen is highly unlikely to get elected over a wealthy incumbent. Term limits will help to eliminate the shady, profitable relationships between members of Congress and special interest groups, and therefore reduce the wealth gap between candidates. In turn, more qualified people will have a real opportunity to win elections.
  • Within Congress, most legislation is written by a committee that handles a specific duty or topic. Committee appointments can be very prized positions for the power, influence and financial backing that can be attained. These positions are often assigned based on political favors and a willingness to support causes or projects. Therefore, career politicians who have formed the most self-serving relationships can often be given the most power in Congress. Term limits would work to stop this cycle of political reward and power abuse. Committee assignments would be determined by merit and expertise, resulting in fair and informed decisions.

The arguments against term limits

Career politicians should be valued for their experience. If we regularly fill a Congressional office with a newcomer, we will lose the valuable experience on-the-job that person can offer in government.

  • On occasion, there may be a member of Congress that has fought for his constituents and resisted the corrupt system of power abuse that is considered normal on Capitol Hill. The Founding Fathers discussed the need for a “rotation of office.” When one’s terms are up in one office, that politician can run for another office (such as a member of the House running for Senator, Governor, etc.) and put their experience to use in other helpful ways.
  • The notion that only one person — the incumbent — can do the job well is absurd. Problematically, we continue to elect the incumbent because of name recognition and party affiliation rather than a proven track record. Realistically, there is usually someone just as qualified to take over the incumbent’s office.

Term limits are not necessary because members of Congress must be regularly re-elected. If they are not doing a good job in office, we can simply vote for someone else.

  • While this would happen in an ideal world, historically the incumbent is re-elected 90% of the time. The playing field is simply not level between incumbents and challenging candidates because of the ability to raise money. In 2010, the average incumbent in the House raised around $1.4 million, while the challengers averaged $166,000. In the same year, Senate incumbents averaged $9.4 million for each campaign, while challengers raised $519,000. With that incredible discrepancy, it is no surprise that the incumbent usually prevails. If a member of Congress is limited to one or two terms, the party itself and other major donors would not invest nearly as much in an incumbent, giving challengers a better chance of winning the race.

Term limits would give more power to bureaucrats and lobbyists.

  • This argument is based in the notion that incoming legislators will be entirely unqualified for their jobs and will be easily led astray by staff, bureaucrats, special interests, etc. The way the system works today suggests that the real problem is in longevity of office and the complacency that can come along with it. For instance, lobbyists invest heavily in long-term relationships with sitting legislators. Congress members currently shirk many responsibilities by delegating them to bureaucratic agencies.
  • Term limits have the potential to greatly reduce these problems. When more Congressional races are won by challengers from outside the Beltway, this change is likely to bring new staffers with new ideas into Washington, rather than recycling the same old corrupt insiders.

Term limits are unconstitutional.

  • Clearly this is not the case, as the President of the United States is limited to two terms because of a Constitutional Amendment. A 28th Amendment would be necessary to impose term limits for Congress, and that is precisely what we are seeking. Since Congress will not willingly do so on their own, it is imperative that Americans make their voice heard on this issue.

‘Earmark Distribution Agency,’ dealer of pork, proposed for elimination

From the office of United States Representative Mike Pompeo, an example of Rep. Pompeo opposing corporate and business welfare that benefits a few parties at detriment to the rest of the economy. Video of Pompeo speaking on the floor of the House on this matter is here, or below.

Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, offered an amendment to H.R. 4660, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015, to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (or the “Earmark Distribution Agency”). The amendment would send EDA’s total funding — $247 million in FY 2015 — to the Deficit Reduction Account, saving up to $2.5 billion over 10 years based on current levels.

“We need to solve America’s debt crisis before it is too late, and that means reducing wasteful spending, no matter the agency or branch of government,” said Rep. Pompeo. “The EDA should be called the ‘Earmark Distribution Agency,’ as it continues to spend taxpayer dollars on local pet projects in a way similar to congressional earmarks — which have already been banned by the House.” Examples of the “Earmark Distribution Agency” spending taxpayer dollars wastefully:

    Harry Reid Research Park
  • In 2008, the EDA provided $2,000,000 to begin construction of the UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park in Las Vegas, NV. Currently the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park features a paved road and a website claiming the first anticipated tenant would move in in 2010. (There’s nothing there.)
  • In 2010, $25,000,000 was spent by the EDA for a Global Climate Mitigation Incentive Fund and $2,000,000 for a “culinary amphitheater,” wine tasting room and gift shop in Washington State.
  • In 2011, the EDA gave a New Mexico town $1,500,000 to renovate a theater.
  • In 2013, the EDA also gave Massachusetts $1.4 million to promote new video games.
  • Back in the 1980s, the EDA used taxpayer dollars to build replicas of the Great Wall of China and the Egyptian Pyramids in the middle of Indiana. They were never completed—it is now a dumping ground for tires.

Rep. Pompeo concluded: “EDA has for too long been the dumping ground for taxpayer money. The road to America’s return to fiscal sanity starts with abolishing this agency.

For Senator Roberts, a few questions regarding ethics

When candidate for United States Senator from Kansas Milton Wolf posted medical images that some thought were unethical, the establishment political class was worked up over this perceived indiscretion.

Example from a Senator Pat Roberts campaign website. I've obscured the portions that Roberts says are offensive. The website shows the original image.
Example from a Senator Pat Roberts campaign website. I’ve obscured the portions that Roberts says are offensive. The website shows the original image.
Now the initial hubbub has died down. Except, on a website produced by the Pat Roberts campaign. Not only produced, but promoted so that when you Google “milton wolf” you’ll be presented with a paid advertisement directing your attention to this site. That site prominently features and takes delight in presenting these perceived indiscretions for which Dr. Wolf has accepted responsibility for and apologized.

But there are a few questions that Kansas voters should ask of the senator and his campaign, such as:

Example from a Senator Pat Roberts campaign website. I've obscured the portions that Roberts says are offensive. The website shows the original.
Example from a Senator Pat Roberts campaign website. I’ve obscured the portions that Roberts says are offensive. The website shows the original.
Senator Roberts, if it’s true that what Dr. Wolf posted was out-of-bounds or unethical, why is it acceptable for your campaign to post the same images and words for political gain? In my illustrations I’ve pixelated the images that you contend are unethical. But why do you post the original images?

Also: Why was it allowable for the Topeka Capital-Journal to post the images and quotes, if, as is contended, their use outside the doctor-patient relationship is unethical?

The website with the purportedly offensive images is a product of the Senator Pat Roberts campaign.
The website with the purportedly offensive images is a product of the Senator Pat Roberts campaign.
And: Senator Roberts, if their use is unethical, as your campaign contends, why does your campaign continuously call attention to them? Why does your campaign pay for advertising to promote their visibility?

Leroy Towns tweet on Pat Roberts voting record from FreedomWorks 2014-05-22

For Kansas’ Roberts, an election year conversion?

A group of like-minded Republican senators has apparently lost a member. Is the conservative voting streak by Pat Roberts an election year conversion, or just a passing fad?

The campaign manager for United States Senator Pat Roberts has touted on Twitter the candidate’s perfect record on FreedomWorks scorecards for 2014:

FreedomWorks — whose motto is “Government fails. Freedom works.” — describes itself like this:

We are over 6 million Americans who are passionate about promoting free markets and individual liberty. Our members all share three common traits: a desire for less government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom.

For over a quarter century, FreedomWorks has identified, educated, and actuated citizens who are enthused about showing up to support free enterprise and constitutionally limited government.

So it’s good that Sen. Roberts is voting in favor of the goals of FreedomWorks. Economic freedom, free enterprise, and limited government are goals we need to work towards.

Voting record for several U.S. Senators, from FreedomWorks. Click for larger version.
Voting record for several U.S. Senators, from FreedomWorks. Click for larger version.
But: Until the last two years, Roberts’ score on the FreedomWorks scorecard followed the pattern of a group of well-known Republican senators: Thad Cochran, Lindsey Graham, Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain. In some years this group voted well according to FreedomWorks’ criteria, but in many years their voting record was poor.

But this group of like-minded GOP senators has a renegade member. For 2013 and 2014 Pat Roberts’ score is markedly higher than the other members of this group. Roberts announced his intent to run for reelection in January 2013.

On the chart I’ve included records for Jim DeMint and Harry Reid to provide two examples of voting records that value — and disrespect — economic freedom, according to FreedomWorks.

Voting record for U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, from FreedomWorks. Click for larger version.
Voting record for U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, from FreedomWorks. Click for larger version.
Voters might want to consider who is the real Pat Roberts: The one that votes along with Mitch McConnell (even less supportive of economic freedom in some years)? Or the one that votes in favor of less government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom only when an election approaches?

You can investigate the FreedomWorks scorecards yourself. Click here to use the interactive visualization that plots senators individually, showing as many as you want. Click to add or remove senators.

Or, you may use the visualization that blends voting records on one chart.

Pyle, Kansas Senator, considering Roberts challenge

runpylerun-2014-05-23Kansas Senator Dennis Pyle (@Dennis_Pyle) is considering challenging Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) and Milton Wolf (@miltonwolfmd) for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senator from Kansas.

As suspicious as I am regarding the motivations of politicians, I didn’t think of this until a few political observers suggested it: Could this be an effort by the Roberts campaign to muddy the waters and diminish Wolf’s prospects? Or was this an organic decision made by Pyle — after “months of prayer,” of course? Or did Roberts campaign operatives butter up the northeast Kansas Senator and seduce him with the possibility of a U.S. senate seat — or, at least keeping it in the hands of Roberts?

The latter seems about right. But I don’t really know.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Todd Tiahrt

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Former United States Representative Todd Tiahrt spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 16. Tiahrt is the current Republican National Committeeman for Kansas. He is said to be considering running for the position in Congress that he previously held, and which is presently held by Mike Pompeo. Tiahrt was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Shownotes

Todd Tiahrt, LLC.
Wikipedia page

Twitter, helpful in this case

A useful contribution of Twitter to society is to reveal how little some people actually know about their causes.

It started with this. American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, was holding a meeting in Kansas City, and there was a lot of ALEC-bashing going on. But I like what ALEC does, as I tweeted:

Which provided an opportunity to explain the fundamental axiom of libertarianism, and how libertarians apply it to everyone, including government:

As ALEC is accused of being a tool for corporate interests, I asked a question:

ALEC’s critics revealed themselves to be uninformed:

The following reveals severe confusion in its reference to Ayn Rand. Regarding capitalism, she wrote: “When I say ‘capitalism’” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism — with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.” When business corporations ask for subsidies, tax breaks, and the like, they violate this principal. There is a conflict between the interests of many businesses and capitalism.

Telling someone what they know is a lazy and weak form of argument, isn’t it?

I think that was the end of the conversation.

Capitol_with_ALICE_logo_long2

Meet ALICE. Who knew?

ALICE logoProgressives criticize “bill mills,” but the movement has its own.

Criticism of policies based simply on their sources is a weak form of argument. But this is the substance of criticism leveled against ALEC, or American Legislative Exchange Council.

Opponents of ALEC say it is a “bill mill” that “pushes” legislation upon unsuspecting state legislatures. Since the goal of ALEC, according to its website, is to “advance limited government, free markets, and federalism at the state level,” it’s good that legislators are being advised by an organization with these goals. There are, of course, forces on the other side that seek, on a daily basis, to grow government at the expense of freedom.

It’s not uncommon for states to look to other states for legislation. A few years ago, a bill appeared for consideration in the Kansas Senate that would add taxes to sugary soft drinks. I found that the Kansas bill contained large sections of statutory language taken word-for-word from a California bill. (See Tax law imported to Kansas from California.) While this bill was introduced in a Senate controlled by Republicans — President Steve Morris and Vice President John Vratil — neither were friends of limited government or taxpayers.

While ALEC has model bills, it’s not the only organization that does. Meet ALICE, or American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange. Its website says “The American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange, or ALICE, is a one-stop, web-based, public library of progressive state and local law on a wide range of policy issues.”

In more detail, ALICE describes some of its content as “Models = Generalizable framework laws that can serve as the basis for actual legislation.” Also, “Exemplary = Actual laws that were enacted or introduced somewhere that represent good progressive local or state legislation.”

Does this sound like a “bill mill?” According to ALEC critics, bill mills are bad.

I could present to you the list of people and organizations that fund ALICE. You might realize that many of them work in favor of big expansive government instead of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets. But I think we’d be better off if we examined ALICE proposals based on their merits, just as we should judge ALEC proposals in the same way.

John Philip Sousa wrote a march honoring the Washington Post newspaper.

Washington Post out on a limb, again

John Philip Sousa wrote a march honoring the Washington Post newspaper.
John Philip Sousa wrote a march honoring the Washington Post newspaper.
It’s really astonishing to see John Hinderaker of Powerline take apart the Washington Post. I wonder if Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com is aware of what he bought last year for $250 million?

The background of the story is that the Washington Post has published an article that is demonstrably false, and for political reasons. As to why the Post has walked out on a limb too far, he writes:

Let me offer an alternative explanation of why the Washington Post published their Keystone/Koch smear:

1) The Washington Post in general, and Mufson and Eilperin in particular, are agents of the Left, the environmental movement and the Democratic Party.
2) The Keystone Pipeline is a problem for the Democratic Party because 60% of voters want the pipeline built, while the party’s left-wing base insists that it not be approved.
3) The Keystone Pipeline is popular because it would broadly benefit the American people by creating large numbers of jobs, making gasoline more plentiful and bringing down the cost of energy.
4) Therefore, the Democratic Party tries to distract from the real issues surrounding the pipeline by claiming, falsely, that its proponents are merely tools of the billionaire Koch brothers–who, in fact, have nothing to do with Keystone one way or the other.
5) The Post published its article to assist the Democratic Party with its anti-Keystone talking points.

Hinderaker also introduces to the curious story of billionaire Tom Steyer. It’s worth reading. Summing up, he concludes:

You can’t separate the reporters from the activists from the Obama administration officials from the billionaire cronies. Often, as in this instance, the same people wear two or more of those hats simultaneously. However bad you think the corruption and cronyism in Washington are, they are worse than you imagine. And if you think the Washington Post is part of a free and independent press, think again.

Continue reading at The Washington Post responds to me, and I reply to the Post.

Why would the Washington Post do this?

Keystone XL pipeline map
Keystone XL pipeline map
John Hinderaker of Powerline reports on “sheer misinformation” found in a Washington Post newspaper story concerning Koch Industries, Canadian oil sands, and the Keystone pipeline. The article, The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers, is authored by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin. Hinderaker concludes:

Why would the Washington Post embarrass itself by republishing a thoroughly discredited attempt to link the Koch brothers to the Keystone Pipeline? Because that is a Democratic Party talking point, and the Post is a Democratic Party newspaper. But the truth is a little worse than that.

Who is Post reporter Juliet Eilperin? Among other things, she is married to Andrew Light, who writes on climate policy for the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress is an Obama administration front group headed by John Podesta, who is a “special advisor” to the Obama administration. CAP’s web site, Think Progress, has carried out a years-long vendetta against the Koch brothers that has focused largely on the environment. Ms. Eilperin’s conflict in writing about environmental issues has already been a subject of controversy at the Post. The paper’s ombudsman should examine this latest example of Ms. Eilperin throwing facts to the winds in her eagerness to promote her (and her husband’s) far-left agenda.

Continue reading at Washington Post falls for left-wing fraud, embarrasses itself.

Lashing out at Charles and David Koch, falsely

From The Patriot Post:

Democrats have escalated their attacks on Charles and David Koch, who donate a significant amount of their accumulated capital to conservative groups. The charge is led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who now routinely takes to the Senate floor to angrily denounce these two private citizens. “I’m not afraid of the Koch brothers,” he thundered. “None of us should be afraid of the Koch brothers. These two multi-billionaires may spend hundreds of millions of dollars rigging the political process for their own benefit. And they may believe that whoever has the most money gets the most free speech. But I will do whatever it takes to expose their campaign to rig the American political system to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.”

A Democrat ad also recently demonized the brothers, accusing them of having an agenda to “protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.” That was too much even for The Washington Post’s “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, who gave the charge a full Four Pinocchios. Specifically, Kessler says, “The ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special ‘tax cut’ but then it falsely asserts that ‘protecting’ this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.” The truth didn’t stop Reid from repeating the same “tax breaks” lie.

This attack campaign is a clear sign that Democrats are very worried about November, and they’re lashing out at anyone who’s bankrolling the opposition.

More at The Democrats’ Dishonest Koch Habit and Democrats claim the Koch brothers want to “protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.”

Harry Reid takes money from companies under investigation for bribery law violations

The Washington Examiner reports “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has received campaign contributions from people and political action committees linked to multiple companies suspected of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

This comes as the Senate Majority Leader has used the Senate floor to criticize Charles and David Koch for doing things that Reid doesn’t like … such as advocating for and supporting free markets, economic freedom, and limited government.

Near the end of February Reid said from the Senate floor this about ObamaCare: “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”

On advertisements from Americans for Prosperity, an organization linked to Charles and David Koch, Reid said: “We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it’s ruining in Republicans’ stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers. But in those tales, turned out to be just that: tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.”

Many may be surprised to learn that when members of Congress are speaking on the floor, they are immune from standards of behavior that the rest of us — including Charles and David Koch and Americans for Prosperity — must observe. That is, members can’t be sued for libel and slander while speaking as did Reid. Constitutional Law For Dummies explains Article I of the United States Constitution: “Among other consequences, the clause gives members of Congress a right, unique among American citizens and other officials, to basically libel or slander others in statements on the floor of Congress.”

More about this issue may be found at Koch representatives respond to U.S. Senate majority leader’s recent attacks.

magnifying-glass-2

What type of watchdog are you?

magnifying-glass
To help citizens become government watchdogs, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is providing a new resource. It’s the Watchdog Quiz, and it will help you discover what type of role you will want to fill as a government watchdog.

The quiz takes just a few moments to complete, and answering the questions will help you discover all the things that citizens can do to be involved in government, especially at the local level. My Watchdog type is “Content Creator.” What is yours?

Click here to take the quiz.

Following is some material from Watchful Citizens Follow Founders’ Vision For America.

“The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”

This quote inscribed on the state capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska, has become our North Star here at Watchdog Wire. We believe that citizens can contribute to better and more efficient local government by staying involved in their communities and speaking up when something doesn’t add up.

But what does it mean to be “watchful?”

The answer is different for everyone, and has changed throughout American history. For Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin, staying watchful came in the form of pamphlets and newspaper columns. Later, being watchful was entrusted to elected representatives in Congress. Now, technology has made it easier than ever for citizens to stay informed and hold government accountable.

The medium used is ever-changing but the sentiment of keeping watch remains the same — to ensure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

So where do you fit into the American story? How do you keep watch on government and its expanding role in our lives? Take the Watchdog Quiz to find out.

Continue reading at Watchful Citizens Follow Founders’ Vision For America.

Duck Dynasty and the secular theocracy, part II

The following is excerpted from the second part of an essay by David Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute. The full part II of the essay is here. Part I is here. Theroux recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV; see WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013.

Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy, Part II

By David J. Theroux

(An excerpt from the conclusion.)

In short, postmodern, cultural elites disdain almost everything upon which civilization has rested and work toward silencing all contrary views. Litmus tests that trigger such campaigns have included (but are not limited to) global warming, Obamacare, gender and race identity, Judeo-Christian beliefs, and birth- and gun- control.

In response, Duck Dynasty has remarkably broken through this Nanny-State malaise, connecting with many millions of people fed up with the absurdities and bullying of “liberal” elites. And whether viewers consider homosexuality a sin or not, the show has further raised a crucial tenet of the natural law, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” C. S. Lewis showed in his brilliant book The Abolition of Man and other writings that the natural law is central to individual liberty, personal responsibility, civic virtue, and the rule of law, and has been universal to all civilizations and essential for their very existence, even as rulers have repeatedly and hypocritically exempted themselves from it.

Continue reading at Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy, Part II.

Duck Dynasty and the secular theocracy

The following excellent essay is from David Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute. I thought this passage that Theroux quotes is telling: “‘We’re just sick of all this redneck Jesusy stuff,’ A&E representative Moe Ronic told reporters. ‘And besides, making truckloads of money is really overrated.’” Part II of this essay will be available Thursday. Theroux recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV; see WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013.

Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy

By David J. Theroux

With A&E Network facing an avalanche of public protest and in just over one week of its decision to place family-patriarch Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” from its megahit reality series Duck Dynasty, the network caved.

When the PC outrage industry went into high gear with an angry Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) demanding Robertson’s head regarding his comments on homosexuality in an article by Drew Magery in the January 2014 issue of GQ (the magazine commonly viewed as having branded the concept of “metrosexual”), A&E executives promptly suspended Robertson from the enormously popular, cable-TV program, and support for his suspension echoed throughout the conventional media with cries of his being “homophobic” and “antigay.”

In the article, when asked about his religious faith, Robertson noted that his own youthful debauchery was self-destructive and put his marriage on the rocks, and that these were reversed only by his conversion to Christianity. He added that he now considers sexual relations other than those between a man and woman in wedlock to be sinful. In so doing, Robertson did not support bans on homosexual advocacy or relations but instead paraphrased Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Continue reading at Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy at patheos.

Kansas schoolchildren shortchanged by Kansas City Star

kansas-city-star-opinion

Another newspaper editorialist ignores the facts about Kansas schools. This is starting to be routine.

In a collection of toasts and roasts, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Rose criticizes Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on a variety of fronts, especially on school funding:

A ROAST to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who led the charge for the most radical and irresponsible tax cuts in the history of Kansas and, perhaps, the entire country. One of the unfortunate victims of these cuts is education, both K-12 and higher education. The damage will be gradual, but it will be felt to be sure. Brownback says he is investing in more jobs. But he is dis-investing in education. What could be more vital to the Kansas economy and attracting businesses than a high quality educational system? (Roasts and toasts suitable for the new year, January 11, 2014)

kansas-school-spending-per-student-2013-10-chart-01

Dis-investing in education.: Nearby is a chart of Kansas school spending. It’s adjusted for inflation. Spending is not as high as it was at its peak, but claims of “slashing” or “dis-investing” don’t apply, either.

Those who claim school spending is inadequate usually cite only base state aid per pupil, which has fallen. But it’s only the starting point for all the other spending. In totality, spending on schools in Kansas is over three times the level of base state aid. Also, comparisons are often made to what the Kansas Supreme Court said base state aid should be to its actual value. But the court doesn’t know how much should be spent on schools.

Those who make claims of cutting schools should note this: Considering the entire state, two trends have emerged. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the student-teacher ratio has fallen. The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen.

Kansas school employment

I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts.

Kansas school employment ratios

Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).

What could be more vital to the Kansas economy and attracting businesses than a high quality educational system? Rose is right. Good schools are vital to our future. If only Kansas had them.

The focus on school spending — that’s all writers like Rose write about — keeps attention away from some unfortunate and unpleasant facts about Kansas schools. Kansas needs to confront these facts for the sake of Kansas schoolchildren. Editorials like this are very harmful to Kansas schoolchildren, because if spending is increased, not much is likely to improve, but the public school establishment and editorialists like Steve Rose will say that everything that’s wrong has been fixed.

Here’s what Kansas needs to confront. Regarding Kansas school performance, we have to confront two unpleasant realities. First, Kansas has set low standards for its schools, compared to other states. Then, when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered more spending in 2005, the state responded by lowering school standards further. Kansas school superintendents defend these standards.

When referring to “strong public school system,” here’s what Kansans need to know. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Kansas ranks pretty high among the states on this test. It’s important, however, to examine the results from a few different angles to make sure we understand the entire situation. An illustrative video is available here.

Kansas and National NAEP Scores, 2011, by Ethnicity and Race

If we compare Kansas NAEP scores to those of Texas, we have what seems to be four contradictory statements, but each is true.

  • When considering all students: Kansas scores higher than Texas.
  • Hispanic students only: Kansas is roughly equal to Texas.
  • Black students only: Kansas scores below Texas.
  • White students only: Kansas scores below Texas in most cases.

What explains this paradox is that the two states differ greatly in the proportion of students in ethnic groups. In Kansas, 69 percent of students are white. In Texas it’s 33 percent. This large difference in the composition of students is what makes it look like Kansas students perform better on the NAEP than Texas students.

But looking at the scores for ethnic subgroups, which state would you say has the most desirable set of NAEP scores? It’s important to know that aggregated data can mask or hide underlying trends.

Here’s a question for you: Have you heard Kansas school leaders talk about this? Do Steve Rose and the Kansas City Star editorial board know this?

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — It’s over, done, finalized, finito. With the final days and hours of 2013 ticking to a close, we figured it’s a good time for reflection on what the last 12 months have brought the Sunflower State.

So, without further delay, Kansas Watchdog presents its Top 10 stories of 2013.

Strip Club

1. Wayward welfare dollars

An in-depth investigation into howKansans spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in government welfare money came to a shocking conclusion: a striking number of transactions appear to be going toward anything but the basic necessities. From casinos and liquor stores to smoke shops and even strip clubs, Kansas Watchdog uncovered more than $43,000 in transactions at shady ATM locations around the state. To make matters worse, all this only took place over a three-month period.

Read It:
Kansans spent welfare cash on strippers, smokes and sour mash

Video camera

2. Camera-shy state lawmakers

Fun fact: Did you know the Kansas Capitol is capable of broadcasting live video online of some of the Legislature’s most important committee meetings? Don’t beat yourself up over it. A striking number of lawmakers don’t know, either. It’s the end result of years of apathy that has led the state to be one of only 11 nationwide that do not stream some form of live video. If some kid in the middle of nowhere can attract global eyeballs with nothing more than a camera phone, what’s keeping the Kansas Legislature off the air?

Read it:
Camera shy: Kansas legislators sidestep transparency
Eye in the sky: Kansas legislative leader won’t require streaming video

3. Judicial selection gymnastics

Here’s a shocking revelation: politics sway candidate commentaries, and Kansas is no exception. Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick for the Kansas Court of Appeals is a prime example of this, after the situation prompted his Democratic gubernatorial challenger to switch sides on his stance to oppose the new nominee. And how could we forget that, in their rush to criticize the conservative governor, Kansas Democrats conveniently forgot thatKathleen Sebelius did almost the exact same thing only a few years earlier.

Read it:
Democratic leader flip-flops on Kansas judicial nominee
Partisan politics fuel Kansas Democrat’s change of heart
Kansas Democrats use double standard on judicial nomination criticism

4. Follow the money

And as long as we’re on the topic of judicial nominees, how about we turn the spotlight on a few other critics of Brownback’s decision? Namely theLeague of Women Voters and Justice At Stake, both of which claim to be nonpartisan organizations while simultaneously accepting large sums of cash from George Soros’ liberal nonprofits, the Tides Foundation and Open Society Institute.

Read it:
Soros bankrolls ‘nonpartisan’ critics of Kansas governor
‘Nonpartisan’ critic says Soros cash hasn’t caused political bias
money-limit

5. Fiscal follies

Ever wonder just how much work goes into calculating the cost of a legislative proposal? Not that much, apparently. While state agencies claim they don’t pad their figures, government critics charge them with doing just that, and a close inspection of a few cost estimates only bolsters the case. Should it cost $17,000 for the state to put online a spreadsheet of data it already has? What about $20,000 for a program agency officials say could have been absorbed in-house? Yea, we thought so too.

Read it:
Fiscal follies: Kansas cost estimates draw criticism

 
money jail

6. Your money, behind bars

How much should Kansas spend to lock up individuals whose only crime is drug related? While lawmakers are struggling to figure out what that figure should be, the reality is that Kansas drops about $42 million annually to keep these men and women in prison. To make matters worse, state law enforcement statistics suggest it’s overwhelmingly because of Kansas continues to wage war against marijuana.

Read it:
Kansas spends millions to keep non-violent drug offenders behind bars
Twinkies-2

7. Raking-in the dough

Remember the media flurry surrounding the implosion of Hostess, one of America’s most iconic snack food manufacturers? Well here’s something you probably missed. According to the government, former employees were knocked out due to foreign trade pressure, and for that deserve extra benefits above and beyond standard unemployment insurance. But everything uncovered by Kansas Watchdog seems to point to the contrary. Curious? So were we.

Read it:
Former Hostess workers land sweet deal, taxpayers foot bill
Did foreign trade really cause Hostess’ demise?
Couch fire

8. Couch crackdown

If you’re looking for the nuttiest story of the year, look no further. The City ofLawrence, Kansas’ liberal bastion, only months ago brought us the headache-inducing mandate that city residents are not, in fact, capable of policing their own safety. Rather, officials passed a ban on front porch couches, despite the fact that local and nationwide statistics suggest it’s less of an issue than advocates would have folks believe.

Read it:
Kansas community cracks down on couches
Islam Display

9. Islamic fervor

Wichita-area school came under fire earlier this year after students and parents were greeted on the first day of school with a large display outlining the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The matter prompted emotions of all scope and size, and landed the school squarely in the national spotlight.

Read it:
Kansas lawmaker ‘appalled’ by Islamic display in school
KansasSeal

10. Counting for attendance

The legislative session is a busy time for any elected official, but some are less (or more) busy than others, it seems. After Kansas lawmakers headed for home in June, Kansas Watchdog took an in-depth peek at how they faired in the preceding months, and what we found was jaw-dropping. In all, seven members of the House of Representatives had missed more votes than all other members of the House combined.

Read it:

Handful of Kansas lawmakers outpace all others for missed votes

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

Year in review, 2013

happy-157428_640Happy new year, and a look back at some of the stories covered by Voice for Liberty in 2013.

January

Kansans’ views on role of government
Kansas Policy Institute has released the results of a public opinion poll asking Kansans for their views on some issues that are currently in the news.

Hawker job numbers a lesson in economic development
Economic development officials took credit for saving 4,000 jobs. Now that Hawker employment has fallen to 3,372, will we update our economic development scorecard?

Carl Brewer: The state of Wichita, 2013
Much like President Barack Obama in his recent inaugural address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer displayed his collectivist instincts in his “State of the City” address for 2013. Opening, the mayor said “Wichita has overcome great challenges in the past and will overcome these as well, but we’ll need to work together.” Near the close, the mayor said “THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW! We have reached a point where we MUST come together as a community, and create a plan that defines our priorities and the City we are to become.”

Kansas teachers union: No competition for us
Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), our state’s teachers union, is an effective force that denies Kansas parents the choice as to where to send their children to school. The union also works hard to deny teachers choice in representation.

Privatization study released
Kansas Policy Institute has released a study looking at privatization of government services. “With Kansas’ general fund spending having increased by 48 percent in the past decade there are absolutely opportunities for efficiency and savings. In many cases, this could certainly be accomplished by utilizing private sector expertise while at the same time delivering better service to Kansans.”

State and local tax burden visualized
For two decades the Tax Foundation has estimated the combined state and local tax burden for all the states. I’ve created an interactive visualization that lets you compare states and see trends in rank over time.

Teacher quality report issued; Kansas needs improvement
National Council on Teacher Quality has released its new edition of its State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Kansas doesn’t do well. Kansas earned a grade of D+, the same as the previous year. That’s also the average state grade.

Economic development in Wichita, the next step
Critics of the economic development policies in use by the City of Wichita are often portrayed as not being able to see and appreciate the good things these policies are producing, even though they are unfolding right before our very eyes. The difference is that some look beyond the immediate — what is seen — and ask “And then what will happen?” — looking for the unseen.

Wichita movie theater expands product line, now selling groceries
A Wichita movie theater has started carrying a limited line of grocery items.

In Sedgwick County, misplaced concern for an industry
Expressing concern about a large industry that he said is important to Sedgwick County and Kansas, Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton spoke in favor of the need for comprehensive government planning. He cited the commonly-held belief that humans, with their desire for large suburban home lots, are depleting the stock of available farmland.

Wichita economic development: We can’t be satisfied with this
Wichita officials, including Mayor Carl Brewer, seem proud of the city’s efforts in economic development. They should look at the statistics.

Wichita STAR bonds project not good for capitalism
A proposed STAR bonds project in Wichita is the latest example of Wichita and Kansas relying on cronyism and business welfare instead of capitalism.

Campaign contributions show need for reform in Wichita
Wichita City Council members Lavonta Williams and James Clendenin have filed campaign finance reports that reinforce the need for campaign finance reform in Wichita and Kansas.

Wichita economic development solution, postponed
Wichita leaders have identified what they believe is a solution to economic development, but have not implemented that solution effectively, in their own words.

February

In Wichita, Jeff Longwell has the solution to cronyism
If cronyism is a problem, the solution preferred by Wichita’s political class is to follow Jeff Longwell’s advice: Just don’t talk about it.

Lavonta Williams: ‘You don’t have to go there’
Wichita city council member Lavonta Williams advised taxpayers on what to do if they disagree with action taken by the council: Just don’t go there.

Open records in Kansas
Kansas has a weak open records law. Wichita doesn’t want to follow the law, as weak as it is.

Kansas and Texas schools and low-income students
If you were the parent of a low-income student, or a student who is a member of an ethnic minority group, in which state would you rather have your child attend school: Kansas or Texas?

Downtown Wichita economic development numbers questioned
Wichita needs to be concerned why the city’s political and bureaucratic leadership is not “forthcoming and honest” with citizens regarding economic development results.

Renewables portfolio standard: Good or bad for the Kansas economy?
A report submitted to the Kansas Legislature claims the Kansas economy benefits from the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, but an economist presented testimony rebutting the key points in the report.

Wichita Eagle editorial board on the truth
The Wichita Eagle editorial board holds the governor to a standard that itself is not willing or able to meet.

State and local government employees, a visualization
How does your state compare to others in the number of state and local government employees, and the payroll costs of these employees?

Kansas school spending, for real
A new organization with the motto “Responsible Policy. Real Prosperity” is producing reports that are true on the surface, but fail to present the total picture.

Kansas school supporters should look more closely
Those such as Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis who uncritically tout Kansas schools as among the best in the nation are harming both students and taxpayers when they fail to recognize why Kansas performs well compared to other states.

Wichita economic growth, compared
How does economic growth in Wichita compare to the state and nation?

March

In Kansas, don’t mention the level of school spending
At a meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation today, it was apparent that facts are either not known — or not important — to public school spending advocates.

Wichita has school choice, they say
Wichita school superintendent John Allison told Wichitans something they probably didn’t know: Parents of Wichita schoolchildren benefit from the district’s school choice program.

Kansas spring elections should be moved
I urge this committee to support moving the spring elections to be held in conjunction with the fall state and national elections. This will help reduce the electoral power and influence of special interest groups.

Kansas Open Records Act needs improvement
Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on problems with the Kansas Open Records Act regarding high fees for the production of records.

Personal income growth in the states
As Kansas debates whether to move forward with a new vision, especially in tax policy, we should examine how we have fared under the policies of recent decades. But in the visualization below, where does Kansas rank in relation to some of our surrounding states? The answer is: Not well.

April

Bonding KPERS debt is not the solution
Borrowing money to shore up the Kansas state employee pension plan is about the worst idea that could come out of Topeka. Legislatures across the country, and counties and cities of all sizes, have shown that government is fundamentally unable to manage the responsibilities of a defined benefit pension plan.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer on public trust in government
If you ask Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer to live up to the policies he himself promotes, you might be threatened with a lawsuit.

Wichita: No such document
When asked to provide documents that establish the city’s proclaimed policy, Wichita city hall is not able to do so, leaving us to wonder just how policy is made.

Wichita survey questions based on false premises
Some questions on the Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan survey have such severe problems that the survey may not be a reliable measure of citizen opinion.

Recycling debate short on reason
Responses to a news story on recycling indicate that the issue is driven more by emotion and misinformation than reason.

As Southwest arrives in Wichita, something else happens
Wichita officials are proud that Southwest Airlines is starting service in Wichita soon. Great economic benefit is anticipated. But at the same time Southwest arrives, AirTran Airways leaves.

Intrust Bank Arena depreciation expense is important, even today
Proper attention given to the depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.

Low education standards limit Kansas childrens’ dreams
A new video from Kansas Policy Institute highlights the fact that Kansas schools have low standards. Additionally, the standards have been changed so that it appears students are doing better.

Government planning, itself, is dangerous
The very existence of a government plan is dangerous, as its construction creates powerful constituencies that have shaped it to fit their needs and are highly motivated to see it implemented.

May

Wichita sees results of new economic development policy
The first action under a new Wichita economic development policy doesn’t produce economic growth, and in fact, harms the Wichita economy.

Language makes a difference
No longer is it “Sustainable Communities.” Now it’s “South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.” Either way, the program is still centralized government planning, with great potential to harm our economy and liberties.

Kansas freedom scorecard released
To help Kansans understand how legislators vote, Kansas Policy Institute has produced the Kansas Freedom Index for 2013.

Starwood calls on Wichita
The usual problems with cronyism and corporate welfare come with economic development incentives offered to Starwood, but there are specific problems, too.

Wichita mayor said to be ‘under lockdown’
When Wichita ABC affiliate KAKE Television ran a news story critical of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, reporter Jared Cerullo wasn’t able to interview Brewer to get his reaction to his critics. The mayor refused to talk to Cerullo.

Kansas looks better in Rich States, Poor States report
A new edition of Rich States, Poor States signals a brighter future for Kansas.

Spending and taxing in the states
In the current policy debate in Kansas, we often compare our state with Texas. The prevailing themes sounded by Democrats and other spenders include that because Texas has no income tax, its other taxes (sales and property) are higher. We also hear that Texas is “atop a sea of oil” from which the state collects a gusher of tax revenue.

June

Wichitans taxed into a lower standard of living
To the extent that rebates fund the replacement of fully-functional toilets, civilization takes a step backwards, thanks to the Wichita City Council.

REAP: We’ll plan for you, like it or not
We’ve learned that the government planners will plan for you, whether or not you want it. Despite having voted against participation, two Kansas counties are still included in a regional planning consortium.

Wichita and peer GDP growth
Compared to its peers, the government sector in Wichita is growing fairly quickly, but the private sector is growing slowly

Kansas has lowered its school standards
At a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state lowered its standards for schools.

Part of Kansas tax law has something for everyone
The just-signed Kansas tax bill contains a future provision that, based on recent research, may satisfy everyone.

Wichita needs more, and willing, taxpayers
Is the goal of Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investments Plan to create more willing taxpayers? A paper from the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public affairs gives us a clue — and a warning.

For our own good: No rain, please
There are those who are so sure of the righteousness of their prescriptions for others’ behavior, they will torment themselves when good things happen.

Wichita water supply good through 2050, they said
A document created in March 2013 — at the time the city warned that its major water source might soon go dry — touts an expensive investment that is part of a “plan to ensure that Wichita has the water it needs through the year 2050 and beyond.”

July

The speck and the logs
What can we say about a mayor who is concerned about the appearance of impropriety when shopping for his personal automobile, but is not able to understand the problems with his own behavior in office?

Wichita city code seemingly ignored
A Wichita city statute seems to be clear in its meaning, but the city decides not to apply it.

Kansas school fund balances on the rise
Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow, although it leveled off in the most recent year for which there is data.

Kansas school employment trends are not what you’d expect
Kansas school employment statistics don’t reflect the doom-and-gloom stories you may have heard from Kansas political leaders and newspaper editorialists.

How to grow the Kansas economy
In this 14 minute video from April, Art Hall, who is Director of Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University, talks about how to grow the Kansas economy.

More evidence of low Kansas school standards
A study of school testing standards has found that Kansas has low standards compared to other states.

Wichita Transit finances
A financial snapshot of the Wichita Transit System.

In Wichita, there’s no option for dissent
A citizen outreach system implemented by Wichita doesn’t let participants express disapproval of ideas when voting.

For Kansas progressives, it’s all about school spending, not performance
Kansas progressives keep the focus on school spending and away from inconvenient facts that harm schoolchildren.

Sedgwick is a red county in a pink state
Sedgwick County is bleeding income.

Why is business welfare necessary in Wichita?

Business tax credits more desired than zero tax rates
A Kansas business welfare program is more attractive and valuable than elimination of the Kansas corporate income tax, at least for some influential corporations in Kansas.

Research on economic development incentives
Here’s a summary of the peer-reviewed academic research that examines the local impact of targeted tax incentives from an empirical point of view. “Peer-reviewed” means these studies were stripped of identification of authorship and then subjected to critique by other economists, and were able to pass that review.

Wichita airport statistics: the visualization
While the program to reduce airfares in Wichita has probably met that goal, there have been consequences. In particular, the availability of air travel in Wichita is lower than it has been, and the trend is in the wrong direction. In some aspects the Wichita trend mirrors that of the nation and other airports, and in others Wichita is falling farther behind.

August

Fish, sauce, and the law: You make the call
Should Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer vote on an upcoming issue? The City of Wichita code seems to say he should not vote, but the Wichita City Attorney says the law doesn’t apply.

Wichita’s evaluation of development team should be reconsidered
The evaluation matrix released for a project to be considered next week by the Wichita City Council ought to be recalculated.

Wichita job growth under the Visioneering/Brewer regime
Wichita has set ambitious goals in job growth, but it doesn’t seem that the Visioneering program has produced results. But apparently Wichita government officials are satisfied.

Do you know this about Kansas school test scores?
Public school leaders in Kansas are proud of Kansas schools, often citing our state’s high ranking compared to other states. This video takes a look at Kansas test scores.

Wichita income is not keeping up
Visioneering Wichita uses per capita income growth as one benchmark of economic progress. What do the numbers say about the city’s progress?

Sedgwick County delinquent taxes, the useful version
The Wichita Eagle has devoted newsprint to deliver the data, and you can obtain it as pdf on your computer, too. Neither of these options for delivering the Sedgwick County delinquent tax list for 2012 is very useful.

Incentive program ignores ‘One Lesson’
A document released by the City of Wichita casts strong doubt on the wisdom of a new home property tax rebate program. The document also lets us know that city staff are not being entirely honest with the citizens of Wichita.

Wichita school district checkbook
USD 259, the Wichita public school district, makes its monthly checkbook register available. I’ve gathered the monthly spreadsheets for the last three fiscal years and made it available for analysis through Tableau Public.

Be wary of expanding Wichita transit spending
Before deciding to expand Wichita’s transit system, and especially before deciding on a new taxing scheme to fund it, we need to make sure we understand more about transit.

Wichita City Council makes an economic decision
Last year the Wichita City Council was faced with a decision regarding a program designed to stimulate the sales of new homes. Analysis revealed that even though the city had an opportunity to make an investment with a purportedly high return on investment, it would be better off, dollar-wise, if it did not make the investment. What did the city council do?

September

Anderson, former Kansas budget director, speaks
Former Kansas budget director Steve Anderson spoke to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Two videos are available, a highlights version and full version.

For Wichita, more districts, more taxes, more bureaucracy
The Wichita City Council will consider formation of a committee to consider a new district, new taxes, and new bureaucracy in the form of a Tourism Business Improvement District.

Touring a Wichita-owned downtown retail development
Touring a Wichita city-owned retail strip in a prime downtown location raises a few issues.

Wichita performs a reference check, sort of
Citizens of Wichita are rightly concerned about whether our elected officials and bureaucrats are looking out for their interests, or only for the interests and welfare of a small group of city hall insiders.

Exchange Place still not good for Wichita, others
Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider a redevelopment plan for the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita. Despite having shed the problems with the former owners, the project has become an even worse deal for the taxpayers of Wichita, Kansas, and the nation. Those looking for jobs and for investment capital to meet consumer demands are worse off, too.

October

Wichita does it again
Action by the Wichita City Council today provides opportunity for two city council members and the city manager to exercise leadership, protecting citizens instead of cronies.

Bud Norman: “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party”
Bud Norman addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on October 4, 2013. The title of his presentation is “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party.”

Wichita contracts, their meaning (or not)
Is the City of Wichita concerned that its contracts contain language that seems to be violated even before the contract is signed?

Commissioner’s questions halt county’s plan to remove trees on private land
Questioning by County Commissioner Richard Ranzau put the kibosh on the project, and the Minneha Township now will have to pay the tab if it wants the trees gone.

Cronyism and other problems in Wichita
Someone asked for a collection of articles about cronyism and other problems with Wichita city government. Here are a few.

John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award
Last night I was recognized by the Kansas Policy Institute with the John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award. Following are my remarks I delivered to the audience.

Wichita economic development not being managed
It is evident that The City of Wichita does not manage the results of its economic development efforts.

WichitaLiberty.TV October 27, 2013
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, visits the WichitaLiberty.TV studios and explains the ideas behind libertarianism and its approach to government and society.

Shortchanging Kansas schoolchildren, indeed
This month the New York Times published an editorial that advocates for more spending on Kansas public schools. While getting some facts wrong, the piece also overlooks the ways that Kansas schoolchildren are truly being shortchanged.

Should Wichita expand its convention facilities?
On its face, pursuit of convention business seems like a noble effort by city leaders. Vast streams of economic development will follow if they are successful, they say. But is this pursuit of convention business wise?

November

Spirit Aerosystems applies for tax relief
The Wichita City Council will consider excepting a large company from property and sales taxation. Is this action wise for the city’s economy?

Kansas test scores unchanged
In the four areas measured and released (math at grade four and eight; reading at grade four and eight), the scores for Kansas have no significant change.

Curious Wichita ethics enigmas
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer’s decisions regarding government ethics are inconsistent.

Kansas school spending, by district
For each school district (and state totals) you can see the trend in each of the three sources of school funding (state, federal, and local) along with the total.

In Wichita, the case for business welfare
A Wichita company headed by a high-profile executive seeks relief from taxation.

Spinning for fundraising, Kansas-style
Kansas liberals accuse Republicans of “spinning” statistics on school funding. Can we look at some actual numbers?

Wichita city government ethics workshop
As far as I can tell, the Wichita city ethics code is crafted so poorly that it is without meaning.

December

WichitaLiberty.TV December 1, 2013
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: What is libertarianism? Is it dangerous, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently warned? David J. Theroux, who is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute and Publisher of The Independent Review stopped by the WichitaLiberty.TV studios to answer these questions and give the liberty-based perspective on current events.

Cessna, another Wichita company asking for tax relief
As Wichita considers granting tax relief to a major employer, it becomes more difficult for entrepreneurs and young companies to survive.

Your local chamber of commerce: Working for you?
Is your local chamber of commerce supporting pro-growth policies that allow free enterprise and genuine capitalism to flourish, or is it supporting crony capitalism?

Wichita city council advances economic development
Yesterday’s action taken by the Wichita City Council regarding economic development incentives granted to Cessna Aircraft Company through the Industrial Revenue Bond program may be confusing to some people.

Sedgwick County illustrates inefficiency of tax credit mechanism
Tax credits can be an inefficient way for government to distribute benefits, as illustrated by action the Sedgwick County Commission will consider today.

Employment visualization updated; Wichita still in last place
Wichita continues to lag behind its peer cities in job growth, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Wichita, ‘free markets’ used to justify business welfare
Incredibly, a prominent Wichita business uses the free market to justify its request for economic development incentives. A gullible city council buys the argument.

In Kansas, dueling job claims
Candidates for Kansas governor last week released statements on recent job figures in Kansas. The releases from Sam Brownback and Paul Davis appear to contain conflicting views of Kansas employment.

Kansas jobs: Who do we believe?
Let’s be fair. The next time Paul Davis and Democrats praise good job creation figures at the national level as evidence of the goodness of Barack Obama, let’s ask them to give the same credit to Sam Brownback.

Kansas jobs: Who do we believe?

bownback-davis-logo-02

Earlier this week we saw that candidates for Kansas governor have released statements on recent job figures in Kansas. The news releases from Sam Brownback and Paul Davis appear to contain conflicting views of Kansas employment.

But we saw that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has two monthly surveys that measure employment levels and trends. There’s the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and there is also the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll or establishment survey. BLS explains: “These estimates differ because the surveys have distinct definitions of employment and distinct survey and estimation methods.”

cps-ces-jobs-compared-2013-12Both the Davis and Brownback campaign appear to cite the data correctly. So which is the better measure to use? Which gives the best indication of the performance of the Kansas economy in creating jobs?

Here’s something to consider. On the national level, a widely-watched number each month is the count of new jobs created. This number, which is universally considered to be important, comes from the CES survey. That’s the number that shows quite a bit of job growth in Kansas. But in order to belittle the Brownback effort, the Davis campaign cites the other data series.

So let’s be fair. The next time Davis and Democrats praise good job creation figures at the national level as evidence of the goodness of Barack Obama, let’s ask them to give the same credit to Sam Brownback.

KNEA: supporting institutions at children’s expense

Kansas National Education Association (KNEA)From Kansas Policy Institute.

KNEA: supporting institutions at children’s expense

By Dave Trabert
The Kansas National Education Association’s slogan is “Making public schools great for every child.”  It may be a coincidence that their slogan seems to emphasize institutions over students, but many of their actions quite deliberately put institutional interests first.  My belief has nothing to do with individual teachers.  Kansas is blessed with thousands of dedicated teachers who get up every morning thinking of ways to help students and they deserve citizens’ gratitude and support for everything they do.  My comments are not directed at teachers, but at the institution of the KNEA.

The most recent example of this teacher union (the organization) putting institutional interests ahead of student needs was in an email blast they sent last week about hearings held by the Special Committee on Education.  It began with their usual vitriolic put-downs of people with whom they disagree and concluded by saying, “…that everything we know from student assessment – … Kansas continues to improve and that Kansas continues to perform in the top tier of states….”

KNEA knows that that is a deliberately misleading statement.  In fact, they wrote it following a detailed presentation for the Committee showing that, while many Kansas students do quite well and likely are very competitive internationally, roughly half of Kansas students (those who qualify for Free & Reduced Lunch) are two to three years’ worth of learning behind.  Even more disheartening is the fact that those achievement gaps are getting wider.

The National Center for Education Statistics says that 10 points on NAEP is the equivalent of a year’s worth of learning.  The gap was 24 points (roughly 2.4 years) in 1998 when Kansas first participated in NAEP.  It was 22 points in 2005 before funding was dramatically increased.  But now, after nearly $3 billion in targeted At Risk spending, the gap is wider than ever at 28 points.  The gap for 8thgrade students in Reading is 24 points…three points wider than it was in 2005.  The gaps for 4th grade and 8th grade Math are 18 points and 24 points, respectively.  FYI, the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) is on record saying that NAEP is the “gold standard.”

Similar patterns exist on the state assessment.  the gaps between 2006 and 2012 for Reading and Math both grew slightly.  Unfortunately, performance for low income students declined in 2013.  (We’ve submitted a request for the 2013 data on students who are not eligible for Free & Reduced Lunch.)

 

These performance statistics reflect students who are at Exceeds Standard and above.  You see, KSDE doesn’t require students to be able to read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension (as defined by KSDE) to Meet the Kansas Reading standard.  Students are not required to usually be accurate on all grade-level Math tasks to be Proficient and Meet the Kansas Math standard.  KSDE and the State Board of Education reduced performance standards to the point where the U.S. Department of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest performance standards in the nation.

By the way, if you’re disturbed by the alarmingly low achievement levels of All Students who are low income, you’ll be appalled by the results for 11th grade students.  One year away from entering the workforce or going on the post-secondary work, only 37 percent of low income 11th grade students can read grade appropriate material with full comprehension.  Math drops off to 29 percent.

As is often the case with institutional interests, it’s all about the money.  This little gem was included in the KNEA email.

“Spalding’s [Friedman Foundation] conclusion to his presentation comparing school finance formulas from our regional states is that there is no way to compare effectiveness of the various formulas except by looking at their results. So that begs the question, since Kansas’ results are among the highest in the nation, doesn’t that mean we have an effective school finance formula? What would happen if we actually funded our system?!”

Yep…it’s all about the money with this teacher union.

As for the claim that “…Kansas’ results are among the highest in the nation,” KNEA also knows that to be falsely driven by demographics.  Simply put, there are two-to-three-year achievement gaps between White students and those of color…and Kansas is Whiter than many states.  Here are the actual 2013 national rankings and scores showing that Kansas is actually just slightly above average overall (although White and Black students are slightly below average).

 

Pretending to have high achievement based on low performance standards and demographic skews is harmful to students, and ignoring that tens of thousands of students are falling farther behind is downright shameful.  But that’s what happens when institutional interests prevail over student needs.

 

P.S. I shared this information and our school staffing data with KNEA leadership and offered to get together in a public or private setting to discuss the facts.  I thought they would at least be interested to explore the fact that regular classroom teachers have only increased 7 percent over the last twenty years, while students increased 6 percent and non-teachers increased 40 percent.   So far…crickets.

 

Eureka! Tea partiers know science

Tea Party ExpressWhat’s telling is that these findings embarrassed the Ivy League professor. Why am I not surprised.

A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.

Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.

However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.

Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.

“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.

Continue reading at Eureka! Tea partiers know science at Politico.

Milton Wolf announces an announcement

It’s been rumored that he’s been thinking about it, and it now looks like Dr. Milton Wolf will join the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate. The other declared candidate is the incumbent, Pat Roberts. At least I don’t think Wolf would have an event like you’re invited to (see below) just to say no, he’s not running.

Bud Norman: “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party”

bud-norman-wichita-pachyderm-club-2013-10-06

Today writer Bud Norman delivered a fascinating address to members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Norman’s blog is The Central Standard Times. His novel is The Things That Are Caesars: A Comic Tale of Politics, Religion, and Other Impolite Topics. I (Bob Weeks) introduced Bud.

His prepared remarks are available to read here, or below.

An audio recording of this event is available at Bud Norman, Wichita Pachyderm Club, October 4, 3012. Or, listen below.

For Kansas progressives, it’s all about school spending, not performance

Once again, Kansans are subjected to a rant by Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools, recently writing “What do you think is more important: tax cuts for millionaires or funding for your local school?”

paul-davis-facebook-2013-07-14

Here are some concepts I wish Davis would explain to his Facebook fans. This might be good practice as he considers a run for the Kansas governorship.

First, Kansas schools have increased employment.

Second, Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow far beyond what is needed for cash flow management.

Third, everyone’s taxes have been cut in Kansas.

But here’s the worst thing Kansas has done. It’s a fact that Paul Davis won’t tell you, and it’s something that is very harmful for Kansas schoolchildren: At a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state lowered its standards for schools.

This is the conclusion of the National Center for Education Statistics, based on the most recent version of Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales.

This project establishes a relationship between the tests each state gives to assess its students and the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test that is the same in all states. As explained in Kansas school standards and other states, Kansas standards are relatively low, compared to other states.

naep-reading-changes-2009-kansas

For Kansas, here are some key findings. First, NCES asks this question: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of reading standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”

For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):

“Although no substantive changes in the reading assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of both its grade 4 and grade 8 standards decreased.

Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its reading grade 8 assessment between 2005 and 2009, and the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased.

In other words, NCES judged that Kansas weakened its standards for reading performance.

naep-math-changes-2009-kansas

A similar question was considered for math: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of mathematics standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”

For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):

“Although no substantive changes in the mathematics assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased (the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change).”

Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its mathematics grade 4 assessment between 2005 and 2009, but the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change.”

For mathematics, NCES judges that some standards were weakened, and some did not change.

In its summary of Kansas reading standards, NCES concluded: “In both grades, Kansas state assessment results showed more positive changes in achievement than NAEP results.” For mathematics, the summary reads: “In grade 4, Kansas state assessment results showed a change in achievement that is not different from that based on NAEP results. In grade 8, state assessment results showed a more positive change.”

In other words: In three of four instances, Kansas is claiming positive student achievement that isn’t apparent on national tests.

Kansas is not alone in weakening its standards during this period. It’s also not alone in showing better performance on state tests than on national tests. States were under pressure to show increased scores, and some — Kansas included — weakened their state assessment standards in response.

What’s important to know is that Kansas school leaders are not being honest with Kansans as a whole, and with parents specifically. In the face of these findings from NCES, Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane M. DeBacker wrote this in the pages of The Wichita Eagle: “One of the remarkable stories in Kansas education is student achievement. For 10 years straight, Kansas public school students have shown improvement on state reading and math assessments.” (Thank teachers for hard work, dedication, May 27, 2011.)

A look at the scores, however, show that national test results don’t match the state-controlled tests that DeBacker touts. She controls these states tests, by the way. See Kansas needs truth about schools.

A year later a number of school district superintendents made a plea for increased funding in Kansas schools, referring to “multiple funding cuts.” (Reverse funding cuts, May 3, 2012 Wichita Eagle.) In this article, the school leaders claimed “Historically, our state has had high-performing schools, which make Kansas a great place to live, raise a family and run a business.”

These claims made by Kansas school leaders are refuted by the statistics that aren’t under the control of these same leaders.

I wonder why Paul Davis doesn’t write about these topics on Facebook.

Kansas school employment trends are not what you’d expect

Listening to Kansas school officials and legislators, you’d think that Kansas schools had very few teachers left, and that students were struggling in huge classes. But statistics from the state show that school employment has rebounded, both in terms of absolute numbers of teachers and certified employees, and the ratios of pupils to these employees.

Kansas school employment

The story is not the same in every district. But considering the entire state, two trends emerge. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the pupil-teacher ratio has fallen.

Kansas school employment ratios

The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen.

By the way, the declines in school employment occurred during the administrations of Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, Democrats both.

Facts like these may not have yet reached those like Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools.

paul-davis-facebook-2013-04-14

It’s little wonder that Davis and others focus exclusively on Kansas school funding. If they were to talk about Kansas school performance, they’d have to confront two unpleasant realities. First, Kansas has set low standards for its schools, compared to other states. Then, when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered more spending in 2005, the state responded by lowering school standards further. Kansas school superintendents defend these standards.

I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts. Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).

Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.