Tag Archives: Kansas Republicans

Welcome back, Gidget

Gidget stepped away for a few months, but happily she is back writing about Kansas politics at Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe).

Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe)
Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe)
One of the great things about the internet is it gives people an outlet for their writing and opinions that they probably would not have otherwise. I’d like to introduce you to someone whose writing I think you’d like to read. Well, I can’t really introduce you to her, because I don’t know who she is. On her blog she (?) goes by the name Gidget. It’s titled Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe) at insideksgop.blogspot.com.

Gidget writes anonymously, although I’m pretty sure she’s female and lives in or near Johnson County, as many of her articles concern local politics there. Being anonymous has its good and bad aspects. For one thing, most people who try to be anonymous on the internet and achieve any level of notoriety are usually exposed, eventually.

Being anonymous means there is less accountability for what you write, so people may not give your writing as much weight as they should. But anonymity gives the freedom for some people to write things that need to be said, and that’s what Gidget does very well. For example, last year she reminded readers that Bob Dole is known as the “Tax Collector for the Welfare State.” Not so much in Kansas, where he has stature just shy of sainthood. And that’s the point. If you criticize Bob Dole for the things he did that deserve criticism, you’re likely to be ostracized from the Kansas Republican Party. I can tell you, there are attack dogs.

The sometimes nasty nature of politics lead Gidget to write this earlier this year: “I have taken a much needed break from all things political during this campaign season. I know it’s bad timing, but my tender soul can only deal with so much back-biting and garbage slinging, and the 2012 primaries sent me to a dark place.” (Guess who’s back from Outer Space?)

I was sad to see that Gidget didn’t post anything for some months. But as the August primary approached, she rejoined the conversation. Here’s what she wrote about the United States Senate primary between Republicans Pat Roberts and Milton Wolf:

Sigh. This race is the most disgusting and vile thing I’ve witnessed since, well, Moran-Tiahrt. From the outside, it appears that everyone involved in the Roberts/Wolf fiasco has lost all of their senses. (Gidget’s predictions — Roberts vs. Wolf)

Later in the same article she wrote:

Finally, I am appalled, truly, sincerely appalled, that Wolf is now being investigated by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for photos and comments he made on Facebook years ago.

Had he not run for office, his career would not be threatened. It’s that simple. Whatever you think of Wolf (and I really don’t think much of him), he doesn’t deserve to have his professional career ruined due to a Facebook post. He just doesn’t.

And it smacks of Roberts calling in a political favor. There is exactly one member of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts who is not a doctor or medical professional. That person is a political activist, appointed by Brownback, and a vocal Roberts supporter. Did she have anything to do with the Wolf investigation? She says no, and I’m inclined to take people at their word.

However, often in politics, as in real life, perception is reality. And the timely investigation of Wolf stinks. Badly. This is why good people don’t run for office.

Gidget is absolutely correct. When people consider whether they want to subject themselves to the type of attacks that the Roberts campaign launched, many people will decide not to run.

Here’s another example from the same article of Gidget writing the things that need to be said, and which party insiders don’t say:

I sincerely wish Roberts would have done the right thing a year ago — and that is decide against running for a fourth Senate term. We would have better candidates to choose from had he done so, and it’s been obvious for quite some time the direction in which the political winds were blowing. Kansans (and many around the country) had had enough of long-term federal legislators in Washington.

I contend that had Roberts really, truly cared about Kansas, the state GOP and the country, he would’ve bowed out this year. He’s a nice man, but his ego may be out-of-hand if he truly believes he’s one of only two people in the state of Kansas who can fairly, accurately and reasonably represent the Sunflower State in the U.S. Senate.

As Kansans know, the senate primary was particularly nasty. It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be. But there are many people who put party and personality above principle, and the results are usually not pretty. These attacks can have lasting impact. Here’s what Gidget wrote shortly after the August primary (Leaving the GOP):

I am leaving the Kansas Republican Party. While I will continue to work for candidates I like, and continue to be a registered Republican — you don’t get a choice in most of the elections otherwise — I’m out.

My disillusion with the party can not be overstated, and I simply see no reason to stay.

This fall, I will be volunteering for the Libertarian candidate, Keen Umbehr. Do I agree whole-heartedly with Keen? No. In word only, my values more closely align with what Gov. Brownback says his values are. (His actions suggest otherwise.)

I can no longer spend my time or money for a party that actively works against the people — specifically the grassroots people.

I am fairly certain I’m not the only person who has had enough of it. There’s an extraordinarily unusual lack of decorum among what I would call the Establishment of the Kansas Republican Party.

Take, for example, Gavin Ellzey, vice chair of the Third District Republican Party. A few days ago, he locked down his Twitter account, but prior to that he made numerous posts about “offending Muslims with a .45,” “only attractive women need equality,” and posts essentially calling Milton Wolf a piece of sh!t.

This is what passes for respectful discourse in Kansas politics these days. I was disgusted by his tweets, but that’s just the most public tip of the iceberg.

There were widespread rumors of many candidates making threats to individuals if they didn’t get onboard and offer their full support.

While not a huge Wolf fan, I continue to be disturbed by the way he was treated by what I would call the Kansas Establishment. He was ostracized, called names and I heard that he was uninvited to county and state GOP events.

Every Republican candidate in Johnson County attended an election night party at the Marriott Hotel in Overland Park. Wolf’s party was across the street at a different hotel. Was he not invited to participate in the county party?

I am not for one minute saying that everyone in the Republican Party has to be in lock step. But party members should welcome new faces, new candidates and fresh ideas — even if they don’t personally support some of the new people or their ideas.

That’s acceptable. It is not acceptable to act like the Republican Party is a locked boys club, where only certain people need apply.

I’m sure the Kansas Republican Party is simply a microcosm of what goes on in other states, but I don’t have the heart for it anymore.

The things I heard people say last night at the Marriott, the things I saw and heard people say in social media over the course of this campaign, I am out.

I blame our current crop of Republican politicians for this discourse. A gentle word here and there from them about Reagan’s 11th Commandment would go a long way. But those words are left unsaid, and I have to assume it’s because our most of our Republican politicians think winning is more important than anything. It baffles me that these self-professed Christians appear to believe that the ends justify the means.

They don’t.

That’s Gidget writing at Kansas GOP Insider. It’s good stuff. Take a look.

Elections in Kansas: Federal offices

Kansas Republican primary voters made two good decisions this week.

Kansas held primary elections this week. The primary election, of course, does not determine who wins the office; it only selects one Democratic and one Republican candidate to move forward to the November general election. But in many cases, the primary is the election, at least the one that really makes a difference. That’s because in Kansas, often there may be no Democratic Party candidate. Or if there is a Democrat, that candidate may have little money available to campaign in a district with a large Republican voter registration advantage.

It’s important to note that some candidates who will appear on the general election ballot in November did not appear on any primary election ballot. That’s because parties other than Democratic and Republican select their candidates in a convention. In particular, there are two prominent candidates in this category. One is Keen Umbehr, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor. The other is independent candidate Greg Orman, who is running for United States senator. Both are serious candidates that deserve consideration from voters.

Let’s take a look at a few results from the primary election.

United States Senate

United States Senate Primary, 2014
In the contest for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate, Pat Roberts won, receiving 48 percent of the vote. He moves on to face not only the Democratic nominee, but also an independent candidate who is already advertising on television. The problem Roberts faces going forward is the fallout from his scorched-earth campaign. He went negative against Milton Wolf from the start, focusing on issues that are worth considering, but quite trivial considering the big picture.

Pat Roberts millions on negative ads
Roberts ran an advertisement near the end of the campaign that took Wolf’s words grossly out of context, and Roberts should be ashamed for stooping to that level. Another thing Roberts can be ashamed of is his refusal to debate opponents. He said he would debate. He should debate. It’s a civic obligation. He also largely avoided news media.

Pat Roberts StarKistDuring the campaign, I was critical of Roberts. I looked at votes he had taken while in the Senate. I looked at the way he ran his campaign. I was critical. I hope that I kept my criticism based on — and focused on — facts and issues. But another problem Roberts has is the behavior of his supporters, both official and unofficial. They too ran a scorched-earth campaign.

Tweet about Milton Wolf I’d like to show you some of the posts made on Facebook and Twitter about Wolf and his supporters, but this is a family-oriented blog. Roberts will need the support of all Kansas Republicans in the general election. He needs to hope that they don’t peel off to the Democrat or Independent candidates. Roberts needs all Kansas Republicans to vote, and vote for him. But the behavior of his campaign and its supporters has harmed Republican party unity. What’s curious to me is that I don’t think they realize the harm they have caused.

United States House of Representatives, district 4

United States House, District 4For United States House, fourth district, which is Wichita and the surrounding area, incumbent Mike Pompeo won over Todd Tiahrt, 63 percent to 37 percent. This contest was curious for a number of reasons, such as the former holder of the office seeking it again, and running against a man he endorsed twice. It attracted national attention for that reason, but also for something more important: Tiahrt was advocating for a return to the practice of earmarking federal spending. Tiahrt concentrated a few issues in a campaign that was negative from the start.

Tiahrt claimed that Pompeo voted to support Obamacare seven times. But everyone who examined that claim, including several political science professors, said it was unfounded, going as far as saying it broke the truth entirely. The Tiahrt campaign also took a speech Pompeo had made on the floor of the House of Representatives and used just one sentence of it in a deceptive manner. The campaign also took a bill that Pompeo introduced — having to do with GMOs — and twisted its meaning in order to claim that Pompeo doesn’t want you to know the ingredients used in food. Tiahrt criticized Pompeo for missing some votes during the campaign, even though Tiahrt had missed many votes during his own campaign four years ago.

In the face of these negative ads, Pompeo remained largely positive. He released one television ad that rebutted the claims that Tiahrt had made. Is it negative campaigning to rebut the false accusations of your opponent? Pompeo had one ad that mentioned “goofy accusations” made by his opponent, which hardly qualifies as negative. Other than that, the Pompeo campaign remained largely positive. That is quite an accomplishment in today’s political environment.

This campaign was also marred by vitriol among supporters. In my opinion, based on my observations, the Tiahrt supporters that engaged in this behavior have some apologies to make. Pompeo goes on to face a relatively unknown Democrat in the heavily Republican fourth district.

United States House of Representatives, district 1

United States House, District 1For United States House, first district, which is western Kansas, although the district extends east enough to include Emporia and Manhattan, incumbent Tim Huelskamp was challenged by Alan LaPolice. Huelskamp won with 55 percent of the vote. Huelskamp had faced criticism for not being supportive of various subsidy programs that benefit farmers, most notably for ethanol. Outside groups joined the race, running ads critical of Huelskamp for that reason. Some ads were critical of Huelskamp for being removed from the House Agriculture committee, that move seen as retaliation for not supporting Speaker of the House John Boehner. Huelskamp now moves on to face a Kansas State University history professor who was also the mayor of Manhattan.

The meaning of these results

What do these results mean? These three elections — Senate and two House contests — attracted national attention. The Friday before the election, Kimberly Strassel wrote in the Wall Street Journal of the importance of the fourth district contest. She wrote:

A big decision comes Tuesday in the Kansas GOP primary. The Sunflower State is in the throes of political upheaval, with most of the attention on the fortunes of Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. But the race that may say far more about the direction of the GOP is taking place in Wichita, the state’s Fourth District, in the standoff between Rep. Mike Pompeo and challenger Todd Tiahrt.

Pompeo was elected in the 2010 tea party surge, with a particular focus on liberating private enterprise. He’s made a name for himself as a leader in the fight to end corporate welfare and pork, and to cut back on strangling regulations.

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

After detailing some legislative activity and accomplishment, Strassel noted the difficulty that fighters for economic freedom encounter: She wrote “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives. Yet the antisubsidy line has hardly been an easy one, even in conservative Kansas — which collects its share of federal largess. And Mr. Tiahrt knows it.”

Continuing, she wrote: “The choice voters fundamentally face on Tuesday is whether they want a congressman who works to get government smaller for everyone and to end corporate welfare, or a congressman who grabs what he can of big government to funnel to his district, and embraces crony capitalism. The latter is a return to the unreformed GOP, a groove plenty of Republicans would happily slide back into — if only voters gave the nod. We’ll see if Kansas conservatives do.”

There’s something there that bears repeating: “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives.” In the case of Huelskamp and Pompeo, voters supported two candidates who have these principals, and who follow them. In the United States Senate contest, that almost happened.

In Kansas, hypocritical criticism of voting records

Kansas fourth district voters may want to be aware of voting record of a congressional challenger, and whether his criticism of his opponent for similar behavior is hypocritical.

Todd Tiahrt has criticized Congressman Mike Pompeo for missing recent votes. A Tiahrt campaign press release contained: “‘Mr. Pompeo’s job is not to raise money or have political events — his job is to vote.’ stated Todd Tiahrt.”

It’s not uncommon for officeholders to be absent during campaign season. Relevant to this is Tiahrt’s own voting record four years ago. At that time he was campaigning for the United States Senate while serving in the House of Representatives, and he missed a lot of votes.

Todd Tiahrt voting record from govtrack.us, showing missed votes during an election campaign. Click for larger version.
Todd Tiahrt voting record from govtrack.us, showing missed votes during an election campaign. Click for larger version.
From July to September 2010, Tiahrt missed 76 of 151 votes. That’s missing 50.3 percent, which placed him in the 99th percentile for missing votes during those months. Data is from govtrack.us.

So if missing votes during a campaign is relevant information that voters might use in making their decisions, voters might want to also be aware of Tiahrt’s record.

More importantly, voters might question a candidate who criticizes another for doing the same as he did. This is hypocrisy, that is, the practice of professing standards and beliefs that are contrary to one’s real character or actual behavior.

Wolf investigation, political to the extreme

The investigation of a candidate for United States Senator by an appointed board in Kansas raises questions of propriety, and Senator Pat Roberts’ use of it in advertising is shameful.

If you’ve paid attention to television advertisements in Kansas, you probably are aware that United States Senate Candidate Dr. Milton Wolf has come under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. His act that lead to this investigation was posting anonymous X-rays on Facebook.

The campaign of Pat Roberts is spending mightily to make sure Kansans are aware of the investigation, which was launched just two seeks for an election. That is more than a little troubling. That’s because Roberts’ campaign manager is a former journalism professor, Leroy Towns. I’m sure he knows that “being under investigation” and “found in violation” are two very different things. He probably taught that to his journalism students in North Carolina. But as executive campaign manager for Pat Roberts — well, it seems a different standard applies.

(For what it’s worth, after serving in the United States Marines, Pat Roberts was a newspaper publisher in Arizona before he moved to Washington. I guess that’s sort of like a journalist.)

This matter is especially important because the investigation of Dr. Wolf is political to the extreme. It was announced two weeks before the election.

I received an email message from a Kansas political observer that explains. The Anne Hodgdon mentioned below describes herself as a “political strategist and advocate” and is a major campaign donor to Roberts.

Bob, I’m sure you probably know this, but in case you don’t: Did you know Anne Hodgden is on the Kansas Board of Healing Arts? I think the timing of the board’s decision to look into Wolf is pretty transparent.

Shouldn’t [Kansas Governor Sam] Brownback be held accountable for his appointees using boards’ power politically? It’s maddening.

It’s no wonder good candidates won’t or don’t run. They have to worry about people like Anne Hodgdon using their political power to ruin their careers. It’s despicable. I am repulsed that this sort of thing is acceptable.

I’m repulsed, too, and saddened that a senior United States Senator uses this tactic in his campaign.

Women for Kansas voting guide should be read with caution

If voters are relying on a voter guide from Women for Kansas, they should consider the actual history of Kansas taxation and spending before voting.

A political advocacy group known as Women for Kansas has produced a voting guide, listing the candidates that it prefers for Kansas House of Representatives. But by reading its “Primer on the Issues,” we see that this group made its endorsements based on incorrect information.

One claim the group makes is this regarding taxes in Kansas: “Income taxes were reduced for many Kansans in 2012 and 2013, and eliminated entirely for some, with a corresponding increased reliance on sales taxes and local property taxes. This shifted the tax burden to the less affluent and from the state to counties, cities and school districts.”

This is a common theme heard in Kansas the past few years. But let’s unravel a few threads and look at what is actually happening. First, keep in mind that the lower tax rates took effect on January 1, 2013, just 1.5 years ago.

Then, Women for Kansas may be relying on information like this: A university professor who is a critic of Sam Brownback recently wrote in a newspaper column that “Property taxes are on track to increase by more than $400 million statewide during Gov. Sam Brownback’s term in office.”

Through correspondence with the author, Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute found that this claim is based on increases of $300 million plus an estimated $100 million increase yet to come. Trabert noted that this amounts to an increase of 11 percent over four years. To place that in context, property taxes increased $767 million and 29 percent during the first term of Kathleen Sebelius. Inflation was about the same during these two periods. A more accurate claim would be that Kathleen Sebelius shifted taxes to counties, cities, and school districts, and that Sam Brownback’s administration has slowed the rate of local property tax increases compared to previous governors.

Another claim made by Women for Kansas concerns school spending: “Reflecting decreased revenues due to tax cuts, per-pupil spending is down, and both K-12 and higher education are facing further reductions in the immediate future.”

The allegations that per-pupil spending is down due to tax cuts is false. The nearby chart of Kansas school spending (per pupil, adjusted for inflation) shows that spending did fall, but under budgets prepared by the administrations of Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. Since then, spending has been fairly level. (Remember, lower tax rates have been in effect for just 1.5 years.)

Kansas school spending, per student, from state, local, and federal sources, adjusted for inflation.
Kansas school spending, per student, from state, local, and federal sources, adjusted for inflation.

If we look at other measures of school support, such as pupil teacher ratios, we find that after falling during the administrations of previous governors, these ratios have rebounded in recent years.

When spending figures for the just-completed school year become available, it’s likely that they will show higher spending than the previous year. That’s been the trend.

If you’ve received or read the voter guide from Women for Kansas, please consider the actual history of Kansas taxation and spending before voting.

Roberts campaign manager was for debates until he was against them

For Pat Roberts executive campaign manager Leroy Towns, political debates are important. At least until your candidate doesn’t want to debate.

Are debates important to the political process? According to a former North Carolina University journalism professor, the answer is yes, debates are very important:

Leroy Towns, political journalism professor at UNC, said debates are very important in the political process.

“Debates give people a chance to look at candidates close up and see how they act under pressure situations,” Towns said. (Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler kept from debate, Daily Tarheel, September 13, 2010)

Fast forward four years. As executive campaign manager for Pat Roberts during his primary campaign for United States Senator, Towns now says Roberts won’t debate challengers.

You might think that a former journalism professor would be in favor of the voting public having greater access to candidates. Especially candidates when in pressure situations, as Towns advocated in 2010. This idea is congruent with Roberts’ campaign commercials. They portray the senator as tough and tested; a Marine who will stand up to anyone.

Roberts’ decision to skip a useful ritual of American politics may lessen his stress level and advance his personal political career, and the career of campaign manager Towns. But it disrespects Kansas voters.

Voting attendance an issue in Kansas fourth district campaign

Todd Tiahrt has criticized Congressman Mike Pompeo for missing votes this month. But when Tiahrt was campaigning for the United States Senate while also serving in the House of Representatives, he missed a lot of votes.

Todd Tiahrt voting record from govtrack.us, showing missed votes during an election campaign. Click for larger version.
Todd Tiahrt voting record from govtrack.us, showing missed votes during an election campaign. Click for larger version.
From July to September 2010, Tiahrt missed 76 of 151 votes. That’s missing 50.3 percent, which placed him in the 99th percentile for missing votes during those months. Data is from govtrack.us.

Tiahrt has made a point of mentioning a specific vote that Pompeo missed, on July 10 for H.R. 4923: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015. During Monday’s debate on KWCH Television, Tiahrt said “We also need to stop the regulations on farmers. The one opportunity that Mr. Pompeo had to do something for farmers was during the energy and water appropriations bill. and he was absent that day. He abandoned his post. And because of that, farmers are going to be facing the EPA and increased water regulations, what is going to hurt the family farmers.”

Later in the debate Tiahrt repeated his assertion that because of Pompeo’s missed vote on H.R. 4923, farmers will face increased regulation on puddles and stock ponds.

To the extent that this bill protects farmers from “onerous” regulations, the bill passed by a vote of 253 to 170, with Republicans voting 218 to 11 in favor of the bill.

Curiously, a Tiahrt campaign press release refers to proposed regulations known as Waters of the US (WOTUS). But H.R. 4923, the bill whose vote Tiahrt criticized Pomepo for missing, did not affect these proposed rules.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Kansas Secretary of State Candidates

Voice for Liberty Radio 150x150In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nomination for Kansas Secretary of State spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on July 18, 2014. The candidates are incumbent Kris Kobach and challenger Scott Morgan. The issue of voting, particularly the requirement for proof of citizenship when registering to vote, is an issue that separates the two candidates.

The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.

I asked a question about whether the state’s chief election officer should have a political action committee that engages in electioneering. Kobach replied that this practice is legal, which it is. As to its propriety, Kobach said that statewide officials frequently endorse candidates. Morgan said it is not ethical or appropriate for the secretary of state to have a political action committee. As to Kobach’s argument that since other statewide officials are able to endorse candidates, that means the secretary of state should also, there is a distinguishing factor: Those other officials aren’t in charge of administering Kansas elections.


Kris Kobach campaign website
Scott Morgan campaign website
Wichita Pachyderm Club

Roberts, ducking debates, disrespects Kansas voters

With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.

Election campaigns are an essential element of representative democracy. Campaigns are simultaneously a means for those who seek elective office to connect with voters and a way for citizens to learn about the candidates who are seeking their votes. Political campaign debates are an integral component of the modern political campaign. … Voters have come to expect election debates, particularly in the race for the president of the United States but increasingly for other elective offices as well. (Political Election Debates: Informing Voters about Policy and Character, William L. Benoit)

With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.

This decision makes sense on only one level, that being the preservation and promotion of Pat Roberts’ political career. Evidently he and his political advisers have decided that he can win the primary election without the candidate participating in one or more debates.

But Roberts’ career and his electoral prospects are not relevant public policy.

That Roberts won’t debate is rich in irony. In his reporting of Roberts’ decision to skip debates with his main opponent Dr. Milton Wolf, Steve Krake wrote “Roberts is a Marine who portrays himself as willing to stand up to anybody. But he won’t stand up to Wolf, whose feisty, upstart campaign has given the incumbent headaches from the start.” (Steve Kraske: Sen. Pat Roberts won’t debate Milton Wolf)

Another element of irony is that the United States Senate is often described using phrases like “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” partly due to its tradition of allowing unlimited, or lengthy, debate. Roberts has served in that body for nearly 18 years and wants another term.

It’s also curious that Roberts would turn down debate opportunities. He has a reputation as a quick wit when speaking.

Even more curious, when you engage the Roberts campaign on inconsequential issues — such as whether campaign manager Leroy Towns lives in Kansas or North Carolina — you’ll get a quick response.

But ask a substantive question using the same communication channel, and there’s no answer. An example question is whether the senator will support the authorization of the Export-Import bank. That’s an important issue, one which the senator dodges, and about which he might be asked in a debate.

Debates are probably stressful events for most candidates, I’m sure. That’s part of their value. Put the candidates in front of a skeptical and inquisitive audience (the debate moderators) and a critical audience (the debate opponent), and see what happens when candidates are stressed a bit.

Speaking of stress: Roberts has made the ability of a senator to stand up to stress a campaign issue. In a profile this week in the Kansas City Star, Roberts criticized an incident from his opponent’s past, saying “Send him to Washington and see how stressed he gets.”

Roberts’ decision to skip a useful ritual of American politics may lessen his stress level and advance his personal political career. But it disrespects Kansas voters.

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 an 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.”

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: 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.


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

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.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Private enterprise and markets

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Mary Beth Jarvis delivered the keynote address of the Kansas Republican Party Convention for 2014. She spoke on the topics of private enterprise and the profit and loss system.

Mary Beth Jarvis is Chief Executive Officer and President at Wichita Festivals. Prior to that, she worked in communications at Koch Industries, and before that in the United States Air Force.

In her speech, she said “Entrepreneurial capitalism — you know what that is — it’s not cronyism. It’s real courage, real risk, real passion, and real effort.”

Expanding on the importance of entrepreneurial capitalism, she told the audience:

“What else is necessary for that kind of entrepreneurial capitalism, that kind of engine for improvement, is that you always respect that what you need is a clear tie to market signals of what’s really adding value, what’s really making people’s lives better. That dedication to maintaining strong markets and to maintaining liberty is absolutely essential.

“It is also essential to find out quickly and clearly if this is the necessary message, that our efforts — however industrious — are not creating value. Because only then can you divert resources to that which will help us all. So the reward for successfully bringing value to someone ought to be clear, and the signal that you are not, ought to be clear, and the only way to do that is an absolute adherence to the principles of free markets and the improvement that they provide.”

In conclusion, she said: “In those public policy endeavors that you work so hard, and devote your energy and passion to, doing what’s right really means: Measuring ideas and actions by the yardstick of freedom and markets. The mantra that markets matter then becomes the platform for which the greatest progress and the greatest good in the improvement of our quality of life can happen.”

This was recorded on Friday January 24, 2014. This is a portion of her speech.


Wichita River Festival
Mary Beth Jarvis at LinkedIn

Voice for Liberty Radio: Milton Wolf

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Dr. Milton Wolf is a candidate for United States Senate from Kansas and will face incumbent Pat Roberts in the August Republican primary election. We spoke by telephone on January 23, 2014. As Wolf is a physician, it should be no surprise that health care was a major topic. Also, he answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Shockers? This is podcast episode number 6, released on January 23, 2014.


Milton Wolf campaign website
Pat Roberts campaign website
Columns by Milton Wolf at Washington Times
Kansas Republican Party and convention information

Kansas jobs: Who do we believe?

bownback-davis-logo-02Earlier 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.

Kansas and Texas schools, according to Kansas Democrats

As Kansas Republicans look to Texas as a role model for Kansas to follow, defenders of high levels of school spending in Kansas characterize Texas schools as inferior to Kansas schools.

A recent tweet from the Kansas Democratic Party read “Fun Texas Fact #6 for @govsambrownback: 28% of TX 4th graders read proficiently, 39th nationally. KS = 36%, 12th. #ksleg #KansasIsNotTexas”

Superficially, it looks like the Kansas Democrats might be right. Scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test that is the same in all states, has Kansas scoring better than Texas (with one tie) in reading and math, in both fourth and eighth grade.

Considering only fourth grade reading, and looking at the percent reading at the “proficient” level or better, the statistics cited by the Kansas Democrats are absolutely correct.

That makes sense to the Democrats and to the school spending establishment, as Kansas, in 2009, spent $11,427 per student. Texas spent $11,085, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Considering only spending deemed by NCES to be for instruction, it was Kansas at $6,162 per student and Texas at $5,138.

Texas also has larger class sizes, or more precisely, a higher pupil/teacher ratio. Texas has 14.56 students for each teacher. In Kansas, it’s 13.67. (2009 figures, according to NCES.)

So for those who believe that spending a lot on schools is necessary for student success, Kansas and Texas NAEP scores are evidence that they’re correct in their belief.

But let us take another look at the Kansas and Texas NAEP scores. Here’s a table of 2011 scores for fourth grade reading, the subject and grade level the Democrats used. (Click on the table to open it in a window by itself.)

Kansas and Texas reading scores

Notice that when reporting scores for all students, Kansas does better than Texas. Kansas has the highest scale score, and higher percentages of students meeting each level of achievement. (The cell with the best value is shaded.)

But when we look at subgroups, all the sudden the picture is different: Texas almost always bests or ties Kansas.

Kansas students have better reading scores than Texas students, that is true. It is also true that Texas white students have better reading scores than Kansas white students, Texas black students score better than or equal to Kansas black students, and Texas Hispanic students score almost exactly the same as Kansas Hispanic students.

How can this be? How can it be that when considering all students, Kansas does better than Texas, but when looking at ethnic subgroups, the situation is mostly reversed?

The answer is Simpson’s Paradox. A Wikipedia article explains: “A paradox in which a trend that appears in different groups of data disappears when these groups are combined, and the reverse trend appears for the aggregate data.”

In this case, the confounding factor (“lurking” variable) is that the two states differ greatly in the proportion of white students. In Kansas, 68 percent of students are white. In Texas it’s 31 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?

Kansas Republicans don’t need to do this

In elections, campaigns may divert from useful discussions of the issues to engage in mudslinging and innuendo. Both parties do it, but an example from the Kansas Republican Party crosses a line and may actually hurt the candidate it was intended to help.

The mail piece targets Keith Humphrey, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Mike Petersen for a spot in the Kansas Senate. As described in Wichita Eagle reporting, “Democratic Senate candidate Keith Humphrey … said the Kansas Republican Party should apologize for an ad it sent to voters that questions why he changed his name and raised questions about his businesses. Citing the Internet Movie Database and online public records, the ad says ‘Keith Humphrey doesn’t want you to know about his background … or that his name hasn’t always been Humphrey.’ … Humphrey said he was born as Keith Desoto and that his name changed when he was adopted at age 11.”

The mail piece also asks voters to wonder about this: “Owns four different companies, some with no websites or phone numbers.”

These issues, if we can even dignify them with that term, have nothing to do with someone’s fitness to serve in public office. Campaigning in this way causes people to turn away from politics and civic life, bringing out the worst in our political system. Democrats do this too, with notable examples targeting Michael O’Donnell in the campaign for the August primary. These, like the anti-Humphrey piece, were not sent by the candidates themselves.

Kansas Republicans — Democrats too, for that matter — would do better to stick to actual issues related to policy when campaigning. There’s much, for example, to highlight about Humphrey that relates to policy. His campaign website’s issues page reads, in part, “The tax plan passed by Sam Brownback and our incumbent state senator increases taxes on working families while slashing funding for education and increasing taxes on working class families throughout the 28th Senate District.”

Then later: “Unfortunately, cuts to public education over the last three years have gone too far.”

Actual facts don’t support these claims, as shown in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.

At a campaign forum in Derby, when asked about education funding and school vouchers, Humphrey cited only the base state aid per pupil figures, the same mistaken and unfactual tactics used by the education spending lobby.

Then after explaining the importance of skilled labor, he said “As far as a voucher program or something of that nature, to me it goes beyond the family right into the community, if, again if we don’t support that skilled labor base, eventually we’re going to lose one of the greatest resources we have here in south-central Kansas.” I would judge that to be non-responsive, or perhaps not understanding the topic of the question.

Finally, Humphrey was featured in a Derby Informer news story as a business owner skeptical of the Brownback tax reform’s ability to create conditions favorable for more job creation. He said that the tax reduction he expects to receive is not enough to allow him to hire another employee.

That amount is also not enough to hire, for example, a new schoolteacher, something that Humprey seems to be concerned about. The point of tax reduction is to leave more money in the productive private sector, instead of sending to an inefficient and wasteful government. As a private sector businessman, I’d think Humphrey should understand that, but evidently he doesn’t.

Kansas Democrats mail in error

A mailing by the Kansas Democratic Party citing the voting record of a Kansas House of Representatives candidate holds not only the usual hyperbole and spin, but also a factual error.

The mailing targets Joseph Scapa, a Republican running for re-election after serving his first term. The Democratic mailing criticizes Scapa for a vote made on the 2011 budget, claiming Scapa’s vote will harm schools. It also makes the usual claim about conservative Republicans — that they are merely rubberstamps for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Excerpt from mailing from Kansas Democratic Party, incorrectly referring to a vote by Joseph Scapa.

Except: Scapa voted against the budget and the governor’s position. The mailer is wrong.

The Democrats also sent the same mailer regarding Jana Goodman. It’s wrong, too.

Unless, that is, you’re willing to believe that the list of liberal Democrats that voted the same way as Scapa are Brownback puppets and — as the mailer shouts — “failing the test on education.”

Excerpt of Journal of the Kansas House of Representatives, May 12, 2011, page 1570.

Update: The following day the Kansas Democratic Party chair apologized for the error.

Schodorf legacy should be evaluated on policy, not politics

News that Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf is leaving the Republican Party after her primary election loss has been treated as mostly a political story, which it certainly is. More important, however, is the potential for new policies and laws regarding Kansas schools that hold the promise of helping Kansas schoolchildren and families.

Senator Schodorf’s most notable cause has been education. As chair of the senate education committee, she has been in a position of tremendous influence over education policy in Kansas. We should examine, then, the results of Kansas education policy.

This summer Kansas received a waiver from the main provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As part of the waiver, Kansas agreed to create a teacher evaluation system that includes student achievement as a significant factor in the evaluation. Many people would probably be surprised to learn that student achievement isn’t already the major factor, perhaps even the only factor, in teacher evaluations. But under Schodorf’s chairmanship of the senate education committee, this isn’t the case.

Related to this is that Kansas ranks low in policies on teacher quality. Plentiful research shows that among the factors that schools have under their control, teacher effectiveness is by far most important. But under Schodorf’s chairmanship of the senate education committee, these important and broad-reaching reforms were not considered. Instead, her committee devoted enormous time and effort to tinkering with minor issues such as teacher tenure policy, itself a harmful policy.

It’s true that performance on the assessments that are under the control of Kansas are rising. But scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for Kansas students don’t reflect the same trend. Scores on this test, which is given every two years, aren’t rising like the Kansas-controlled test scores. These scores are largely unchanged over the past years.

Senator Schodorf, in her position of chair of the senate education committee, could have asked for an investigation as to why there exists this discrepancy. But she didn’t.

Speaking of test scores: Kansas often proudly claims that its schools rank very well when compared with other states. Compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters like to deride as a state with low-performing schools. But you don’t have to look very hard to realize that these scores are a statistical artifact. It’s an unfortunate fact that minority students do not perform as well on these tests as white students. When you combine this with the fact that Kansas has a relatively small minority population, we can see why Kansas ranks well. In Kansas 69 percent of students are white, while in Texas that number is 33 percent. So it’s not surprising that overall, Kansas outperforms Texas (with one tie) when considering all students in four important areas: fourth and eighth grade reading, and fourth and eighth grade math.

But looking at Hispanic students only, Texas beats or ties Kansas in these four areas. For black students, Texas bests Kansas in all four. Texas does this with much less spending per pupil than Kansas.

Kansas also likes to brag of its high standards for schools. But when compared to other states, Kansas has low standards. The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has analyzed state standards, and we can see that Kansas has standards that are below most states. The table of figures is available at Estimated NAEP scale equivalent scores for state proficiency standards, for reading and mathematics in 2009, by grade and state. An analysis of these tables by the Kansas Policy Institute shows that few states have standards below the Kansas standards.

This table is from KPI’s report earlier this year titled Removing Barriers to Better Public Education: Analyzing the facts about student achievement and school spending.

The conclusion by NCES is “… most states’ proficiency standards are at or below NAEP’s definition of Basic performance.” KPI, based on simple analysis of the NCES data, concluded: “Kansas is one of those states, with its Reading Proficiency standard set lower than what the U.S. Department of Education considers Basic performance. Math Proficiency levels are above what NAEP considers to be Basic but still well below the U.S. standard for Proficient.” Did Senator Schodorf, in her role as education committee chair, push for increasing Kansas standards? If she did, we didn’t hear of it, and it certainly didn’t become policy or law.

Across the country, charter schools and school choice programs are offering choice and improved educational outcomes to families. While Kansas has charter schools, the charter school law in Kansas is one of the weakest in the nation, and virtually guarantees that public schools won’t face much meaningful competition from charters. School choice in the form of vouchers or tax credits doesn’t exist at all in Kansas. As a result, Kansas public schools face very little of the competitive forces that have been found to spur public schools to improvement across the country. As chair of the senate education committee, Senator Schodorf worked to make sure that charter schools and school choice are not available to Kansas families.

The departure of Senator Schodorf and other moderate senators is a political story. But it presents a chance for Kansas to make some important changes to its schools that are greatly needed. For this important policy reason, we shouldn’t mourn the loss of Schodorf and the other moderates.

Defeated Kansas Republican Chorus

Joseph Ashby and friends created a funny parody song about the recent primary election in Kansas, where many so-called moderate Republicans were defeated by conservative challengers. It’s described by Ashby as “The Defeated Republican Chorus sings about their recent election loss in the Kansas Republican primary.”

Ashby hosts a morning radio talk show on KQAM 1480 AM from 6:00 am to 8:00 am Monday through Friday. You can also listen through the station’s website. I often listen using tunein radio on my Iphone.

Find out more about the Joseph Ashby Show on Facebook at Joseph Ashby Show or on Twitter at @JosephAshbyShow.

National coverage of Kansas primary election

Coverage of the August 2012 Kansas primary elections in national publications.

Wall Street Journal: Kansas Voter Uprising: GOP incumbents who resisted reform get early retirement, Kansas’s Conservative Rebellion, Conservative Republicans Make Gains in Kansas

National Review: Kansas’s Tea Party Triumphs

Associated Press: Conservatives win big in Kansas Senate primaries

National Public Radio: Conservatives Win In Kansas GOP Senate Primary

Huffington Post: Steve Morris, Kansas Senate President, Blames Moderates’ Defeat On Conservative Attack Ads

Slate: The Great Kansas Republican Purge of 2012, Defeated Kansas Senator: “Koch Industries is Just a Terrible, Terrible Citizen.” This article is notable for exposing the delusional thinking and reasoning of defeated Kansas Senator Tim Owens. Owens ranked at the bottom of all senators — Democrats included — in the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

Kansas part of national trend in primary elections

Analysis by Ballotpedia shows that the primary election victories by conservatives in Kansas is part of a larger national trend of incumbents losing primary election challenges. Kansas, however, is leading the trend, with the largest number of incumbents defeated among all the states.

In Kansas, about one-third of the incumbents who faced a primary challenger lost. That’s more than three times the number that lost in 2010, although the Kansas Senate was not up for election then as it is this year.

Ballotpedia’s article is Primary change: A rough night for incumbents, as 18 fall in Kansas legislative primaries. It holds a link to the larger study Primary Challenge: Anti-Incumbency Voting Patterns in State Legislative Elections.

In Kansas, rejecting left-wing Republicans

The headline in the Kansas City Star reads “Voters reject middle ground in Kansas Senate races.” A more accurate conclusion is that voters have realized that the governance of Kansas by a coalition of Democrats and left-wing Republicans has not been in the state’s best interest. Stagnate job growth as compared to other states, increasing spending on schools with no accountability and not even an honest discussion of achievement, falling behind other states in school reform and school choice, a highly undemocratic method of selecting our state’s top judges, resistance to privatization and other measures to streamline government, business tax costs topped by only a few other states: these are some of the results of this coalition.

But yesterday, Kansas voters said goodbye to many of the left-wing Republicans — the so-called “moderates” or “traditional Republicans” — and nominated conservatives in their place. Some nominees face Democratic challengers in November.

The results are a surprise not only for the number of victories by conservatives, but the margin of victory. In Johnson County, incumbent Senator Tim Owens was defeated 60 to 40. Owens ranked at the bottom of all senators — Democrats included — in the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

In a neighboring district, incumbent Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook won her primary election by a 64 to 36 margin. Pilcher-Cook ranked at the top of the Kansas Economic Freedom index. Conservative Steve Abrams, who ranked well in the KEFI, also defeated a challenger.

Another notable result is the defeat of Senate President Steve Morris.

Other defeats of moderates, some being incumbents, include Jeff Melcher over Pat Colloton to replace John Vratil, Jacob LaTurner over Bob Marshall, Forrest Knox over John Grange, Jeff King over Dwayne Umbarger, Greg Smith over Joe Beveridge, Bob Reader over Roger Reitz, Tom Arpke over Pete Brungardt, Michael O’Donnell over Jean Schodorf, Mitch Holmes over Ruth Teichmann, and Dan Kerschen over Dick Kelsey. Kelsey will dispute being lumped in the moderate camp, but on economic freedom issues, he ranked just barely above neutral.

There were some victories for the moderates. Kay Wolf won the primary to replace Terrie Huntington, which is a retention for moderates. In Topeka, moderate Vicki Schmidt retains a place in the Senate, as does Carolyn McGinn in south-central Kansas. Pat Apple defeated a challenge from Charlotte O’Hara. Apple ranks barely above neutral in the KEFI, while O’Hara, in the Kansas House, was near the top. Jeff Longbine survived a challenge from conservative James Fawcett.

Commenting on the results, Americans for Prosperity–Kansas state director Derrick Sontag said “The primary results make one thing clear: Kansans support those who promote fiscally conservative, limited government, free market policies. Fiscal conservatives are now being elected because of the policies that have failed our state for years. This new field of candidates vying for office reflects a continued desire to put a stop to the rampant state spending and high tax burdens of the past. It is evident from the results at the ballot box that Kansans want a reasonable, responsible government and we are optimistic that our state is now starting to head down the path toward prosperity and a strong Kansas economy.”

In local races in south-central Kansas, voters rejected the challenge by left-wing Republican Wichita City Council Member Jeff Longwell to incumbent Karl Peterjohn. Longwell had the endorsement of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and all Wichita City Council members except Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita). Three Sedgwick County Commission members endorsed Longwell, too. As there is no Democratic contestant, this race is over.

In suburban Andover, voters rejected a proposed property tax increase for schools. Update: After the final canvass of votes, the tax increase passed by two votes.

National coverage of Kansas primary election

The August primary election in Kansas has received national attention. Following are some stories that appeared in national media.

New York Times: In Kansas, Conservatives Vilify Fellow Republicans

Wall Street Journal: Centrist Republicans Feel the Heat in Kansas Primaries

Reuters: Kansas Republicans war over “Ryan plan” style tax cuts

National Review Online: The Battle for Kansas

National Public Radio: Kansas GOP Campaigns To Exile Moderates

Kansas traditional Republicans: The record

As Kansas Republicans decide who to vote for in next week’s primary election, moderate senate incumbents and many newspapers urge voting for those Republicans who promote a “reasonable,” “balanced,” and “responsible” approach to Kansas government. When we examine the record of the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that governed Kansas for the first decade of this century, we see legislative accomplishment that not many Kansans may be aware of. Almost all have been harmful to our state.

Most of the moderate Republicans run campaigns promoting themselves as fiscal conservatives. But their voting records often tell a different story. That’s why in 2010 I produced the Kansas Economic Freedom Index to shine light on the actual votes cast by legislators. This year I joined with Kansas Policy Institute and Americans for Prosperity–Kansas to produce a larger and more structured index. Kansans might be surprised to learn that the senator who ranks lowest in voting for economic freedom is a Republican.

Perhaps the most important issue for most Kansans is jobs. In this regard, Kansas — under leadership of moderates — has performed poorly. A chart of the number of private sector jobs in Kansas as compared to a few surrounding states over the past eleven years shows Kansas at or near the bottom. (Kansas is the thick black line. Data is indexed so that all states start at the same relative position.)

Kansas private sector job growth compared to other statesKansas private sector job growth compared to other states. Data is indexed, with January 2001 equal to 1. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Incredibly, not long ago Kansas was the only state to have a loss in private sector jobs over a year-long period. This is the culmination of governance by the coalition of moderate, traditional Kansas Republicans and Democrats.

Analysis in the current edition of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index confirms that the Kansas economy has not performed well. The “Economic Outlook Ranking” is a forecast looking forward, based on factors that are under control of the states. The “Economic Performance Ranking” is a backward-looking rating that measures state performance, again using variables under control of each state.

For Economic Performance Ranking, Kansas is ranked 39 among the states, near the bottom in terms of positive performance. In the 2010 edition, Kansas was ranked 40th, and in 2010, 34th. Kansas is not making progress in this ranking of state performance. In the forward-looking Economic Outlook Ranking, Kansas ranks 26th. Again, Kansas is not making progress, compared to other states. In annual rankings since 2008 Kansas has been ranked 29, 24, 25, 27, and now 26.

Further evidence of the harm of moderate Republican/Democratic governance was revealed earlier this year when the Tax Foundation released a report examining tax costs on business in the states and in selected cities in each state. The news for Kansas is worse than merely bad, as our state couldn’t have performed much worse: Kansas ranks 47th among the states for tax costs for mature business firms, and 48th for new firms. See Kansas reasonable: We’re number 47 (and 48).

On government reform, moderate Republicans have blocked efforts to improve the operations and reduce the cost of Kansas state government. In 2011 the Kansas Legislature lost three opportunities to do just this. Three bills, each with this goal, were passed by the House of Representatives, but each failed to pass through the moderate-controlled Senate, or had its contents stripped and replaced with different legislation. See Kansas reasonable: Government reform.

Moderates are proud of keeping politics out of judicial selection. In reality, Kansas judicial selection is highly politicized and undemocratic, with out-sized power concentrated in a special interest group: lawyers. Among the fifty states, Kansas is at the undemocratic extreme in the way we select judges, and moderates defend this system. See Kansas reasonable: Judicial selection.

Moderates usually claim that they are the “education” candidate, and are proud of their support for spending on Kansas schools. They “march in lockstep” with those who constantly call for more school spending, even to the point of suing the state’s taxpayers for more money. They join with the special interests who fight against accountability measures. They also fight against an honest assessment of the condition of public schools in Kansas, and when you look under the covers, it’s not the pretty picture that education bureaucrats paint.

As an example, compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters and moderate Republicans like to deride as a state with low-performing schools. In Kansas 69 percent of students are white, while in Texas that number is 33 percent. So it’s not surprising that overall, Kansas outperforms Texas (with one tie) when considering all students in four important areas: fourth and eighth grade reading, and fourth and eighth grade math. But looking at Hispanic students only, Texas beats or ties Kansas in these four areas. For black students, Texas bests Kansas in all four. Texas does this with much less spending per pupil than Kansas. See Kansas reasonable: The education candidates.

A recent column described traditional, moderate Kansas Republicans as those who “believe government has a more affirmative role in assuring a high quality of life for Kansans.” The record, however, is one that has placed Kansas at disadvantage to other states, and it will be difficult to recover. Kansas traditional: the platform.

Kansas reasonable: Government reform

What is the record of the Kansas moderate Republicans who promote a “reasonable,” “balanced,” and “responsible” approach to Kansas government? Regarding government reform, prominent members of the moderate coalition have blocked important bills that could reform Kansas government for the betterment of everyone.

Recently-passed tax reform in Kansas has lead to fear-mongering that the state will suffer large deficits in upcoming years and will have to cut services like education and social services. There are many ways, however, that Kansas government can save money and still provide the essential services that Kansans rely on.

But moderate, “reasonable,” “traditional” Republicans have blocked efforts to improve the operations and reduce the cost of Kansas state government. In 2011 the Kansas Legislature lost three opportunities to do just this. Three bills, each with this goal, were passed by the House of Representatives, but each failed to pass through the moderate-controlled Senate, or had its contents stripped and replaced with different legislation.

Each of these bills represents a lost opportunity for state government services to be streamlined, delivered more efficiently, or measured and managed. These goals, while always important, are now essential for the success of Kansas government and the state’s economy. But moderate, “reasonable,” “traditional” Republicans had a role in each of these defeats.

Kansas Streamlining Government Act

HB 2120, according to its supplemental note, “would establish the Kansas Streamlining Government Act, which would have the purpose of improving the performance, efficiency, and operations of state government by reviewing certain state agencies, programs, boards, and commissions.” Fee-funded agencies — examples include Kansas dental board and Kansas real estate commission — would be exempt from this bill.

In more detail, the text of the bill explains: “The purposes of the Kansas streamlining government act are to improve the performance, streamline the operations, improve the effectiveness and efficiency, and reduce the operating costs of the executive branch of state government by reviewing state programs, policies, processes, original positions, staffing levels, agencies, boards and commissions, identifying those that should be eliminated, combined, reorganized, downsized or otherwise altered, and recommending proposed executive reorganization orders, executive orders, legislation, rules and regulations, or other actions to accomplish such changes and achieve such results.”

In testimony in support of this legislation, Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute offered testimony that echoed findings of the public choice school of economics and politics: “Some people may view a particular expenditure as unnecessary to the fulfillment of a program’s or an agency’s primary mission while others may see it as essential. Absent an independent review, we are expecting government employees to put their own self-interests aside and make completely unbiased decisions on how best to spend taxpayer funds. It’s not that government employees are intentionally wasteful; it’s that they are human beings and setting self-interests aside is challenge we all face.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 79 to 40. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, where it did not advance. HB 2120 died in a senate committee chaired by Pete Brungardt, a member of the moderate coalition.

Privatization and public-private partnerships

Another bill that did not advance was HB 2194, which in its original form would have created the Kansas Advisory Council on Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships.

According to the supplemental note for the bill, “The purpose of the Council would be to ensure that certain state agencies, including the Board of Regents and postsecondary educational institutions, would: 1) focus on the core mission and provide goods and services efficiently and effectively; 2) develop a process to analyze opportunities to improve efficiency, cost-effectiveness and provide quality services, operations, functions, and activities; and 3) evaluate for feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency opportunities that could be outsourced. Excluded from the state agencies covered by the bill would be any entity not receiving State General Fund or federal funds appropriation.”

This bill passed by a vote of 68 to 51 in the House of Representatives. It did not advance in the Senate, falling victim to a “gut-and-go” maneuver where its contents were replaced with legislation on an entirely different topic. Steve Morris, president of the Kansas Senate and a member of the moderate coalition, chaired the committee that killed this legislation.

Performance measures

Another bill that didn’t pass the entire legislature was HB 2158, which would have created performance measures for state agencies and reported that information to the public. The supplemental note says that the bill “as amended, would institute a new process for modifying current performance measures and establishing new standardized performance measures to be used by all state agencies in support of the annual budget requests. State agencies would be required to consult with representatives of the Director of the Budget and the Legislative Research Department to modify each agency’s current performance measures, to standardize such performance measures, and to utilize best practices in all state agencies.” Results of the performance measures would be posted on a public website.

This bill passed the House of Representatives by a nearly unanimous vote of 119 to 2, with Wichita’s Nile Dillmore and Geraldine Flaharty the two nay votes.

Opposition to these bills from Democrats often included remarks on the irony of those who were recently elected on the promise of shrinking government now proposing to enlarge government through the creation of these commissions and councils. These bills, however, proposed to spend modest amounts increasing the manageability of government, not the actual range and scope of government itself. As it turns out, many in the legislature — this includes Senate Republicans who initiated or went along with the legislative maneuvers that killed these bills — are happy with the operations of state government remaining in the shadows.

HB 2158 was victim of a “gut-and-go” maneuver in a committee chaired by Carolyn McGinn, another member of the moderate coalition.

Kansas reasonable: Judicial selection

Kansas Republicans who promote themselves as the “reasonable” candidates — “traditional” Republicans, they like to say — support a method of judicial selection in Kansas that is not democratic. In fact, Kansas is at the undemocratic extreme in judicial selection.

Kansas University law professor Stephen J. Ware has extensively researched and written on the method of judicial selection in the United States. His paper The Bar’s Extraordinarily Powerful Role in Selecting the Kansas Supreme Court reports that in Kansas, a select group of lawyers has tremendous control over the nominating process for the Kansas Court of Appeals and Kansas Supreme Court. It’s a process that desperately needs reform, despite the effort that Kansas lawyers spend defending their elite privileges and powers in this regard. “Reasonable” Republicans enable them.

Ware wrote this in a Lawrence Journal-World editorial:

What makes the Kansas Supreme Court selection process unusual is not that it’s political, but that it gives so much political power to the bar (the state’s lawyers). Kansas is the only state that gives its bar majority control over the commission that nominates Supreme Court justices. It’s no surprise that members of the Kansas bar are happy with the current system because it gives them more power than the bar has in any of the other 49 states and allows them to exercise that power in secret, without any accountability to the public.

In the conclusion to his paper, he summarized: “In supreme court selection, the bar has more power in Kansas than in any other state. This extraordinary bar power gives Kansas the most elitist and least democratic supreme court selection system in the country.”

Defenders of the present system say it keeps politics out of judicial selection. But Ware has noted that nine of the last 11 people appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court belonged to the same political party as the governor who appointed them. It reminds me of a quote from William “Boss” Tweed, political boss of Tammany Hall, that summarizes our problem accurately and concisely: “I don’t care who does the electing so long as I do the nominating.”

In February the Kansas Senate took a vote on agreeing to amendments to a bill that, if accepted and passed, would implement a system where the governor would appoint judges to the Court of Appeals, and then the Senate would confirm or reject the nominee. This is a system like the United States and many states use. A “Yea” vote was a vote in favor of this system. Here are the votes: Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Donovan, Kelsey, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Merrick, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Taddiken, Wagle. Nays: Brungardt, Emler, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Huntington, Kelly, King, Kultala, Marshall, McGinn, Morris, Owens, Reitz, A. Schmidt, V. Schmidt, Schodorf, Teichman, Umbarger, Vratil. Present and Passing: Steineger.

Voters in Kansas ought to ask the “reasonable” Republicans who voted against a democratic method of judicial selection why they defend the self-serving position of a special interest group.

Judicial selection among the statesJudicial selection among the states. Kansas is alone in giving the bar extreme power. From Kansas University School of Law Professor Stephen J. Ware.

Looking for Senator Reasonable

Below, Alan Cobb of Americans for Prosperity Foundation provides rebuttal to a recent op-ed by H. Edward Flentje of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University. In his op-ed (Senate elections will shape state’s future, June 24, 2012 Wichita Eagle) Flentje explains his interpretation of the importance of eight Kansas Senate races where Republican incumbents have conservative challengers. These races will likely determine balance of power in the Senate, which has been controlled by a coalition of Democrats and left-leaning Republicans, usually called “moderate” Republicans. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

Looking for Senator Reasonable

By Alan Cobb, Americans for Prosperity Foundation

I’ve been looking for those reasonable Kansas state senators who occupy leadership positions that my friend Ed Flentje mentioned a few days ago in this paper. I looked and looked, but can’t find them.

The Senate leadership I’ve seen for more than the last decade certainly isn’t opposed to tax increases, sometimes actively supporting them, and has done everything they can to thwart any kind of spending reform.

Nearly every good piece of public policy that has passed the Kansas Legislature during this time frame has been despite Senate leadership efforts to stop it. This includes the nation’s first budget transparency act, which AFP worked hand-in-hand with the Kansas Press Association to pass, over strong objections and efforts to kill the bill by Republican leaders in the Senate

I always smile when so-called “traditional” Kansas Republicans invoke the name of one of my heroes, Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was hardly a moderate. He was the last President to oversee a true reduction of Federal spending. Over the last several decades, Kansas moderates treat spending increases as fait accompli and spending cuts as the end of the world as we know it. This is not how Eisenhower would have governed and this is not how he did govern.

Senate leaders and those who have supported them have not exercised fiscal restraint as Dr. Flentje states, and to say so really strains credulity. Or in the vernacular I like to use, that dog don’t hunt.

Since Steve Morris was elected Senate President in 2004, State General Fund spending has increased almost 31 percent while inflation during that same time period has been a little over 18 percent. Total Kansas government spending, including Federal contributions, has increased more than 39 percent. Though 2012 data isn’t available yet, population growth in Kansas from 2004 to 2011 has increased by a disappointing 4.5 percent.

Most Kansans, including those of the traditional moderate Republican persuasion probably would not describe that as fiscal restraint.

This group of moderate senators has not proposed alternatives and has simply made every effort to stop legislation supported by Gov. Brownback and other limited government, free market senators. As much as being so-called moderates, this group of senators has really been simply anti-conservative. It really isn’t much of an intellectual base for public policy.

Those that support a different path for our State want something better for Kansans. Certainly those that support the status quo desire the same. The results of the status quo are known. We shall see the outcome of bold change

I agree with Dr. Flentje that the results of August 7 could fundamentally change the future of Kansas. Under the current leadership that can be traced to Govs. Mike Hayden, Joan Finney, Bill Graves and Kathleen Sebelius, we’ve seen significant state budget growth, large state debt increase, state tax increases, sluggish economic growth and slow population growth. We have more people moving out of Kansas than moving in and those moving out are headed to states with a lower tax burden than Kansas.

I don’t know about the rest of the state, but this Kansan does not think that is a path that we should continue.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday January 11, 2012

A legislator would do this? In his At The Rail column, Kansas statehouse reporter Martin Hawver speculates that even routine procedural votes, as well as votes in committee, may be material for campaign ads and mailers in this election year. “You’ve seen the mailings in election years, you know, the ones with a photo of a few lines apparently ripped from the official journal of the House or Senate. The scrap is always tilted a bit to make it more visually interesting. And, by gosh, that bit of an official document almost always shows — usually with a swipe of yellow highlighter — that a candidate voted for or against something that the rest of the brochure deems politically or fiscally or culturally important. … So, we’re going to be watching closely, to see whether a vote in a committee on something relatively unimportant becomes the theme of a campaign or two out there, and whether the public will be much moved by a vote even when it is dramatically presented as a fact ‘ripped from the official record’ of some committee or another. Key might be that it’s the final votes, not necessarily some little acting-out behavior in a committee, that is the real indication of just where a legislator is on legislation that you care about.” … I should tell you this: I’m more than a little shocked to learn this goes on in Topeka.

Where to see, listen to State of State Address. Tonight’s 6:30 pm address by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback can see seen on television by tuning in to KTPS (Wichita), KTWU (Topeka), or Smoky Hills Public Television. Radio coverage is on Kansas Information Network, KSAL-Salina 1150 AM, KANU-Lawrence/Topeka/Kansas City FM 91.5, KANH-Emporia FM 89.7, KANV-Olsburg/Junction City FM 91.3 and in Manhattan on FM 99.5, KANZ- Garden City FM 91.1, KZNA-Hill City FM 90.5, KHCC-Hutchinson/Wichita FM 90.1, KHCD-Salina/Manhattan FM 89.5, KHCT-Great Bend/Hays FM 90.9, KMUW-Wichita FM 89.1, KRPS-Pittsburg KS FM 89.9, KCUR-Kansas City Missouri FM 89.3, and online at www.KWCH.com, kslegislature.org, www.khi.org, and www.am580wibw.com.

Kansas Policy Institute launches blog. In its newsletter, the Kansas Policy Institute announces the start of a blog: “We believe this will be a venue to have an open discussion on the challenges facing our state and advancing liberty and freedom. Of course, we will continue the work we’ve been doing, but this is an opportunity to provide more real time analysis, share videos and stories from around the web, and allow concerned Kansans can debate the issues of the day.” The blog is located at KPI Blog. … KPI’s primary communications with Kansans have been through policy analysis and reports, and through newspaper op-ed columns. The blog should make KPI a more familiar source of news and information.

Kansas House Speaker criticized. “Continuous abuse of power and nepotism” along with his role in a lawsuit against the State of Kansas are the charges leveled against Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal. The writer of the letter with the charges is Kansas Representative Owen Donohoe of the 39th district, which covers parts of Johnson, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte counties. … In 2010 O’Neal faced an legislative ethics panel investigation into his role as attorney for clients suing the state. The panel decided that O’Neal broke no rules, but that the legislature’s ethics rules should prohibit what O’Neal was doing, citing the “appearance of impropriety” such actions create. … In 2009, O’Neal faced a complaint relating to nepotism, and a panel found there was insufficient evidence to support the charges. … Last year O’Neal made several committee reassignments that were seen as motivated by a desire to silence critics of policies that O’Neal supported. These included Rep. Charlotte O’Hara for her position on health care issues, Rep. Kasha Kelly for her position on state spending, and Donohoe himself. Coverage is at More trouble brewing for House Speaker O’Neal and Kansas Republican legislator blasts House Speaker Mike O’Neal. … The public policy issue is this: Does legislative leadership — Speaker of the House, Senate President, Committee Chairs — have too much power? From my observation of the Kansas Legislature over the past few years, my answer is: Yes.

Kansas presidential caucus. Kansas Republicans will hold their presidential nominating caucus on Saturday, March 10th. Participants must be registered as Republicans to participate, and the last day to register as such is February 17th. Photo ID will be required for admission.

Democrats urged to help Republicans. In an email, Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), the teachers union, urges Kansas Democrats to help Republican select their nominees in the August primary elections. Writes the union to its minions: “Given the registration advantage that Republicans have over Democrats in Kansas, it is not surprising that many elections are decided in the August primaries. In many districts the Republican nominee will likely win. This means that unaffiliated and Democratic voters are very limited in the influence they can have on who will be their Representative or Senator. The reality is that, while it might feel good to register your disgust with both parties by registering as an unaffiliated voter, it dramatically reduces the influence of your vote in the election. … If you want your vote to have a greater influence this year, then we would urge you to consider your registration and participation in the primary election in August. If you live in a district that will likely elect a Republican in the general election, wouldn’t it be nice to have a say in which Republican that will be? If you want that voice, you will need to be a registered Republican by July 16, 2012.”

Kansas health issues. The Kansas Health Institute News Service has identified the issues related to health that are important in this year’s legislative session. Medicaid reform and health care exchanges are the first two mentioned, with Medicaid reform a very large and important issue. The article is Health issues facing the 2012 Legislature.

Separation of art and state. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback may be wavering on his opposition to state funding for the arts in Kansas, according to Lawrence Journal-World reporting. I recently urged legislators — borrowing a term from David Boaz — to respect the separation of art and state. In his book The Politics of Freedom: Taking on The Left, The Right and Threats to Our Liberties, Boaz explained why this is important: “It is precisely because art has power, because it deals with basic human truths, that it must be kept separate from government. Government, as I noted earlier, involves the organization of coercion. In a free society coercion should be reserved only for such essential functions of government as protecting rights and punishing criminals. People should not be forced to contribute money to artistic endeavors that they may not approve, nor should artists be forced to trim their sails to meet government standards. Government funding of anything involves government control.”

Numbers trouble Americans. “Many Americans have strong opinions about policy issues shaping the presidential campaign, from immigration to Social Security. But their grasp of numbers that underlie those issues can be tenuous.” The Wall Street Journal article Americans Stumble on Math of Big Issues covers this topic. “‘It’s pretty apparent that Americans routinely don’t know objective facts about the government,’ says Joshua Clinton, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University. Americans’ numerical misapprehension can be traced to a range of factors, including where they live, the news they consume, the political rhetoric they hear and even the challenges of numbers themselves. And it isn’t even clear how much this matters: Telling people the right numbers often doesn’t change their views.”

Capitalism. “The Occupy Wall Street movement expresses valid frustrations, but do the protesters aim their accusations in the wrong direction? Economics Professor Chris Coyne draws the distinction between crony capitalism and legitimate capitalism. Crony capitalism is government favoritism fueled by handouts and is responsible for the plight of the 99%. Legitimate capitalism, on the other hand, uses competition to align consumer and producer interests and serves to improve everyone’s standard of living. … Coyne says: “What we need is constraints on government … The minute you open the floodgates of government handouts, people are going to start lining up to grab them. And the people that are going to tend to get those handout are those that have money and political connections. So the solution to this is simple. Instead of spreading out losses, we need to do is to allow people to earn profits when they produce things that people value, and suffer losses when the fail to do so. When you have that type of system, the only way to earn wealth is to improve peoples’ standards of living.”… This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday August 15, 2011

Kansas economic development welfare promoted. An email from the Kansas Department of Commerce Business Development department informs us that “Kansas continues to add to its incentive tool box making it an even more competitive state for business.” A link in the email leads to a list of incentives, which include (and I don’t think this is a comprehensive list): Site location assistance; customized incentive proposals (including coordinating with local officials on local development incentives); Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK), which allows companies to retain up to 95 percent of the state withholding taxes their employees pay; wind and solar bonds, paid off from the payroll withholding tax of the new jobs; Kansas Economic Opportunity Initiatives Fund, providing zero percent interest forgivable loans (if the loan is forgivable, why does it carry interest, I wonder); industrial revenue bonds which allow companies to escape paying property and sales taxes; community development block grants; partnership fund; Kansas Bioscience Authority; Investments in Major Projects and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT), Kansas Industrial Training (KIT), and Kansas Industrial Retraining (KIR), which pay for the employee training needs of companies; enterprise zone program; High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP); machinery and equipment property tax exemption; property tax abatements; sales tax exemptions; and machinery and equipment expensing deduction. … Missing from this list is the formation of the Job Creation Program Fund, which is a slush fund under control of the governor and Department of Commerce. And as the email message promoted, some of these programs have been expanded due to action of the recent Legislature. … There are perhaps one or two of these measures that conform to free market and economic freedom principles. The remainder amount to the state taking an “active investor” role in economic development, as explained in Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy by Dr. Art Hall, and reported on in Kansas economic growth policy should embrace dynamism. … Looking forward: Kansas officials — starting at the top with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback — want to reduce or eliminate the Kansas income tax in order to make the state more competitive for business. Will we then be able to eliminate all these incentives and the bureaucrats who promote and administer them?

‘Birth of Freedom’ screening. Tonight (Monday August 15th) the film The Birth of Freedom will be shown for free in Wichita. The film is a product of the Acton Institute, whose mission statement describes the institute as “[promoting] a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” This free event is Monday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. The event’s sponsor is Americans for Prosperity, Kansas. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415. … I’ve been told by those who have viewed the film that it is a very moving presentation.

Kansas Republicans meet. At its summer meeting in Wichita, the Kansas Republican Party establishment warmed up to tea party and grassroots ideas and concepts, according to reporting by Paul Soutar at Kansas Watchdog. As an example, delegates approved a resolution rejecting all aspects of Obamacare (a tea party agenda), instead of an alternative resolution by GOP Chair Amanda Adkins, who represents the establishment Republicans in Kansas. … Earlier reporting by Soutar (Ideology, Political Reality Split State GOP on Health Care ) illustrated the division between the establishment and the tea party and grassroots wings of the party over health care, particularly the early innovator grant that Kansas recently rejected.

Wichita City Council. The Wichita City Council in its Tuesday meeting will consider these items: Repair or removal of two unsafe structures and a conditional use permit for a nightclub which the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission rejected. The council will consider final approval of an ordinance regulating seasonal haunted house attractions, even though the need for this seems nonexistent. … The council also considers a letter of intent for Hospital Facilities Improvement and Refunding Revenue Bonds to benefit Via Christi Health System, Inc. These bond are similar to industrial revenue bonds. In each case, the city is not the lender, and it does not guarantee the creditworthiness of the bonds. In the case of IRBs, the benefit is that the borrow generally escapes paying property taxes, and also perhaps sales taxes too. But as a non-profit entity, Via Christi would not pay these taxes. … The council will receive a quarterly financial report for the quarter ending in June. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Kansas values to be topic of speech. This Friday’s meeting (August 19th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Jay M. Price, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the public history program at Wichita State University, speaking on “Clashes of Values in Kansas History.” His recent Wichita Eagle op-ed was Kansas a stage for “values showdowns.” In that column, he wrote “The most visceral conflicts in our society arise when deeply held values are at odds. Time and again, Kansas has been a visible stage for such ‘values showdowns.'” The column closed with: “Picking just one value, such as freedom or liberty or private property, without the desire for a law-abiding society that embraces civil rights for all can lead to very unpleasant consequences, and vice versa. However, if we struggle with these ideals, the result can be akin to a suspension bridge that functions precisely because there are numerous forces put in opposition to one another, resulting in a strong, stable structure.” … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club … Upcoming speakers: On August 26, Kansas State Representatives Jim Howell and Joseph Scapa speaking on “Our freshmen year in the Kansas Legislature.” … On September 2 the Petroleum Club is closed for the holiday, so there will be no meeting. … On September 9, Mark Masterson, Director, Sedgwick County Department of Corrections, on the topic “Juvenile Justice System in Sedgwick County.” Following, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Pachyderm Club members and guests are invited to tour the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center located at 700 South Hydraulic, Wichita, Kansas. … On September 16, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, great grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, will present a program with the topic to be determined. … On September 23, Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute, speaking on the topic Why Not Kansas,” an initiative to provide information about school choice. … On September 30, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita on “An update from Washington.”

Libertarianism explained. Dr. Stephen Davies of the Institute for Humane Studies explains in this short video message the basic ideas behind libertarian political philosophy: “[Libertarians] also argue that human beings are ultimately autonomous, self-defined, choosing individuals. And the kind of social order which is most conducive to the widest and most diverse range of human flourishing is one in which the role and power of government is kept to the minimum. Now this does not mean, however, that they need support a particular moral code or anything like that. It’s perfectly possible for someone who is a traditional Christian, someone who is a complete atheist, to both be libertarian in the way I’ve just described.” He listed policy issues that libertarians support, if they are being consistent: Free markets, free trade, free movement of people, free speech, constitutional and limited government, and opposition to coercive paternalism. But, for some policy positions, the libertarian position is not as clear and there can be disagreement. Foreign policy and abortion were mentioned as two such areas. Davies also addresses the accusation that libertarianism is an irrelevant political creed. … This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday January 6, 2011

State GOP chief to speak in Wichita. This Friday (January 7th) Amanda Adkins, who is Chair of the Kansas Republican Party, will speak at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The topic is “Conservative Leadership Now — 2020: Building Long-term Political Infrastructure for the State of Kansas.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers include Bob Lamke, Director of the Sedgwick County Division of Public Safety on January 14th, and Ed Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, will be discussing a book he co-authored titled “Kansas Politics and Government” on January 21.

Kansas budget under more stress. The gap in the Kansas budget for fiscal year 2012 is now estimated at $550 million. In context, the general fund budget is around $6 billion, so the gap is about none percent of the budget. Fiscal year 2012 starts on July 1, 2011, and is the budget year the legislature will be working on when the session starts next week — although usually the real work on the budget is delayed until near the end of the session. It’s important to remember that the gap is the difference between projected revenues and desired or forecast spending. There’s nothing that says we have to spend what past plans call for.

Education and Medicaid spending protected. Governor-elect Brownback said this week that education and Medicaid will be protected from budget cuts. Furthermore, there will be no tax increase. But these two budget items are such a huge portion of Kansas spending, it’s difficult to see where the governor will find room to create a balanced budget.

Kansas school spending, constitutional issues discussed. Last Friday (New Years Eve) the Kansas 9.12 and Kansans for Liberty groups held an educational event and I made a presentation on Kansas school spending and ideas for reform. Video of my presentation is available at Vimeo. Other speakers included Larry Halloran on The Year Ahead, David Losey on states’ nullification rights, and Richard Fry on Article 3 Original Jurisdiction.

Low interest rates and saving. Thomas A. Page, President of Emprise Bank in Wichita, recently wrote a letter to the Wichita Eagle in which he explained how government intervention in the economy has negative — and surely unintended — consequences: “Much has been written about the efforts of various federal agencies, specifically the Federal Reserve, to maintain interest rates at unprecedented low levels. The most frequent argument for these rates is that they will cause consumers and businesses to borrow more money, which will stimulate the economy by increasing demand. It’s not working — for many reasons. What has been ignored is the impact on the economy of lowered incomes for America’s savers, particularly retirees. Their incomes have been devastated and, consequently, so has their purchasing power.”

Kansas: business-friendly or capitalism-friendly?

Plans for the Kansas Republican Party to make Kansas government more friendly to business run the risk of creating false, or crony capitalism instead of an environment of genuine growth opportunity for all business.

An example is the almost universally-praised deal to keep Hawker Beechcraft in Kansas. This deal follows the template of several other deals Kansas struck over the past few years, and outgoing Governor Mark Parkinson is proud of them. Incoming Governor Sam Brownback approved of the Hawker deal, and probably would have approved of the others.

Locally, the City of Wichita uses heavy-handed intervention in the economy as its primary economic development tool, with several leaders complaining that we don’t have enough “tools in the toolbox” to intervene in even stronger ways.

The problem is that these deals, along with many of the economic development initiatives at the state and local level in Kansas, create an environment where the benefits of free market capitalism, as well as the discipline of a market-based profit-and-loss system, no longer apply as strongly as they have. John Stossel explains:

The word “capitalism” is used in two contradictory ways. Sometimes it’s used to mean the free market, or laissez faire. Other times it’s used to mean today’s government-guided economy. Logically, “capitalism” can’t be both things. Either markets are free or government controls them. We can’t have it both ways.

The truth is that we don’t have a free market — government regulation and management are pervasive — so it’s misleading to say that “capitalism” caused today’s problems. The free market is innocent.

But it’s fair to say that crony capitalism created the economic mess.

But wait, you may say: Isn’t business and free-market capitalism the same thing? Here’s what Milton Friedman had to say: “There’s a widespread belief and common conception that somehow or other business and economics are the same, that those people who are in favor of a free market are also in favor of everything that big business does. And those of us who have defended a free market have, over a long period of time, become accustomed to being called apologists for big business. But nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s a real distinction between being in favor of free markets and being in favor of whatever business does.” (emphasis added.)

Friedman also knew very well of the discipline of free markets and how business will try to avoid it: “The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

The danger of Kansas government having a friendly relationship with Kansas business leaders is that these relationships will be used to circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for, as the relationship between business and government is often not healthy. Appearing on an episode of Stossel Denis Calabrese, who served as Chief of Staff for Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Richard Armey, spoke about crony capitalism and its dangers:

“The American public, I guess, thinks that Congress goes and deliberates serious issues all day and works on major philosophical problems. Really a typical day in Congress is people from the private sector coming and pleading their cases for help. It may be help for a specific company like the [window manufacturing company] example, it may be help for an entire industry, it may be help for United States companies vs. overseas companies.”

He went on to explain that it is wrong — corrupt, he said — for Congress to pick winners and losers in the free enterprise system. Congress wants us to believe that free enterprise will be more successful when government gets involved, but the reverse is true. Then, the failures are used as a basis for criticism of capitalism. “This is an unholy alliance,” he said, and the losers are taxpayers, voters, and stockholders of companies.

Later in the show Tim Carney said that “A good connection to government is the best asset a company can have, increasingly as government plays a larger role in the economy.”

Host John Stossel challenged Calabrese, wondering if he was part of the problem — the revolving door between government, lobbyists, and business. Calabrese said that “Every time you see a victim of crony capitalism you’re looking at a potential client of mine, because there’s somebody on the other side of all these abuses. When Congress tries to pick a winner, there are losers, and losers need representation to go tell their story.” He added that he lobbies the American people by telling them the truth, hoping that they apply pressure on Congress to do the right thing.

He also added that it is nearly impossible to find a single area of the free enterprise system that Congress is not involved in picking winners and losers.

While the speakers were referring to the U.S. federal government, the same thing happens in statehouses, county courthouses, and city halls across the country — wherever there are politicians and bureaucrats chasing economic development with government as the tool.

It is difficult to blame businessmen for seeking subsidy and other forms of government largesse. They see their competitors do it. They have a responsibility to shareholders. As Stossel noted in the show, many companies have to hire lobbyists to protect them from harm by the government — defensive lobbying. But as Carney noted, once started, they see how lobbying can be used to their advantage by gaining favors from government.

The danger that Kansas faces is that under the cover of a conservative governor and legislature, crony capitalism will continue to thrive — even expand — and the people will not notice. The benefits of a dynamic Kansas economy as shown by Dr. Art Hall in his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy may never be achieved unless Kansas government — at all levels — commits to the principles of free market capitalism.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 3, 2011

This week at Wichita City Council. Roger Smith will be sworn in to take the place of Jim Skelton. Smith’s term will end in April, when the voters will select a permanent member of the council from district 3. Of course, Smith could be that person. … The council will hear from an independent fact-finder regarding the firefighters. See Wichita Eagle Wichita firefighters union stresses staffing in contract requests with city. … Also improvement of two south Wichita intersections will be considered. See Wichita City Council to consider $4 million in street work on S. Broadway.

Last meeting for two commissioners. This Wednesday will be the last meeting for two members of the Sedgwick County Commission, Gwen Welshimer and Kelly Parks. New members will be sworn on this Sunday.

Legislators to hear from citizens. The South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation will be taking public comments Tuesday January fourth from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the Jury Room of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main in Wichita. (Use the north entrance to the courthouse). This is your opportunity to let local legislators know your wishes on issues that will be considered during the 2011 legislative session. In the past, each person wishing to talk has been limited to between three and five minutes depending on the number of people wishing to speak.

State GOP chief to speak in Wichita. This Friday (January 7th) Amanda Adkins, who is Chair of the Kansas Republican Party, will speak at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The topic is “Conservative Leadership Now — 2020: Building Long-term Political Infrastructure for the State of Kansas.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers include Bob Lamke, Director of the Sedgwick County Division of Public Safety on January 14th, and Ed Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, will be discussing a book he co-authored titled “Kansas Politics and Government” on January 21.

Repeal of sales tax. Many of the new members of the Kansas House of Representatives ran on opposition to the statewide sales tax increase that took effect in July. I had speculated in an appearance on This Week in Kansas that the House would entertain a bill to repeal the sales tax, while another — more experienced, I might add — observer of Kansas politics felt that leadership would tamp down such an effort. Today David Klepper of The Kansas City Star takes a look at the prospects for legislative action on this issue. Some would like to repeal the sales tax right away, while others say that repeal needs to be part of a broader, long-term look at Kansas tax policy. Senate Vice President John Vratil — not a supporter of limited government and economic freedom — is quoted as saying tax reform is a “multi-year project.”

Net neutrality advances. Almost lost in all the congressional activity before Christmas was the fact that the Federal Communications Commission voted to pass new rules on net neutrality. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, John Fund says: “The Federal Communications Commission’s new ‘net neutrality’ rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.” Fund explains the radical political views of those behind the net neutrality campaign. He also explains that President Barack Obama is ignoring the will of Congress and court rulings, seeking to impose internet regulation through the executive branch.

Wichita noticed in Boston. A writer from the Boston Globe visits Wichita and writes on his tourist experiences. It follows a predictable template: First, put away the Toto jokes and overlook the city’s problematic reputation. Then — I found public art, lattes, and a restaurant! Wow! Who would have figured?

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 6, 2010

Cato scholar to speak on economic freedom. Friday’s meeting (December 10) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features noted Cato Institute scholar, Principal Attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, and author Timothy Sandefur. He will discuss his recent book The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law. A description of the book at Amazon.com reads: “America’s founders thought the right to earn a living was so basic and obvious that it didn’t need to be mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Yet today that right is burdened by a wide array of government rules and regulations that play favorites, rewrite contracts, encourage frivolous lawsuits, seize private property, and manipulate economic choices to achieve outcomes that bureaucrats favor. The Right to Earn a Living charts the history of this fundamental human right, from the constitutional system that was designed to protect it by limiting government’s powers, to the Civil War Amendments that expanded protection to all Americans, regardless of race. It then focuses on the Progressive-era judges who began to erode those protections, and concludes with today’s controversies over abusive occupational licensing laws, freedom of speech in advertising, regulatory takings, and much more.” … Of the book, Dick Armey said: “Government today puts so many burdens and restrictions on entrepreneurs and business owners that we’re squandering our most precious resource: the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of our people. Sandefur’s book explains how this problem began, and what steps we can take to ensure that we all enjoy the freedom to pursue the American Dream.” … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Success factor for liberals identified. On last night’s installment of The Right, All Along: The Rise, Fall & Future of Conservatism, economist Arthur Laffer issued this assessment of the presidency of Bill Clinton: “Two groups I love are principled conservatives and unprincipled liberals. And Bill Clinton I viewed as an unprincipled liberal. And he did one of the best jobs — one of the best presidents we’ve ever had.” It’s an interesting observation by Laffer that for liberals to have success, they must be unprincipled.

Joshua Blick for Wichita City Council. A website for a candidate for Wichita City Council district 4 is up and running. Joshua Blick’s site says: “Joshua Blick is an active leader in District 4; he is the President of his neighborhood association and a local business owner. Joshua also passionately supports the growth and sustainability of new jobs for Wichita, and improving the quality of living for every resident in this great city.” District 4 covers the southwest side of Wichita. The incumbent council member, Paul Gray, may not run again because of term limits.

Washington is why the economy is not growing. Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner runs through the reasons why the economy is not growing: “On every front, the federal government is creating more investment-killing tax uncertainty, issuing endless pages of new bureaucratic regulations on the economy, and preventing firms from taking actions that could create hundreds of thousands of new positions and kick-start a muscular recovery with real legs. … Obama is also tightening the federal bureaucracy’s regulatory straightjacket on economic growth. As the Heritage Foundation reported a week before the election, the hidden tax of regulation costs at least $1.75 trillion annually. … Then there is the Obama Permitorium on energy exploration and production here in the United States, which threatens even greater long-term damage to the economy’s ability to generate new jobs and growth. … Instead, Obama is spending billions of tax dollars to subsidize alternative energy programs that cannot possibly replace the energy produced by oil, coal or natural gas until 2030 at the earliest.” The full article is Mark Tapscott: Washington is why the economy is not growing.

Rasmussen polls from last week. Current Congress not appreciated: “Most voters continue to give this Congress poor marks in its closing days, and they still don’t believe the national legislature has passed anything to significantly improve life in America.” Full story here. Ability of Congress to substantially cut spending is doubted, especially by Republicans. See Most Voters Don’t Expect Big Spending Cuts From New Congress. About half of Americans believe that lenghty unemployment benefits increase the number of unemployed people. See Americans Question Whether Extended Unemployment Benefits Do More Harm Than Good. Almost half say repeal of Obamacare would be good for the economy. See Health Care Law.

Kansas Democrats not quite dead. Tim Carpenter of the Topeka Capital-Journal looks at the results of the November election in Kansas and the future for Kansas Democrats. An important process to watch is reapportionment, when new legislative districts will be drawn: “The reapportionment debate is likely to have an urban vs. rural character as districts are reconfigured to correspond with population growth in urban counties, especially Johnson County, and erosion of residents in rural areas of the state. The math isn’t clear yet, but results of the 2010 Census could trigger loss of two rural Senate districts and six rural House districts.” As for the future of Democrats, two observers say “They are back in the Stone Ages” and “We’re seeing a definite balance-of-power shift.” One observer warns that breakdown of the “union of Republican social and economic conservatives” could be an opening for Democrats and moderate Republicans. See KS Dems: Weaker, but not dead.

Young Republicans group started. Lynda Tyler of Kansans for Liberty is shepherding a new group of young Republicans. Writes Lynda: “Do you know a high school student, child, grandchild in the teen years who is interested in learning more about politics and getting involved? Perhaps you would like to get them involved. Chase Blasi has started the Sedgwick Teen Age Republicans group known as STARS. We are sponsoring them and would like to help the group grow so see below for details on their next meeting.” Lynda is hosting a Christmas Party for this group. Write to her at lyndaty@swbell.net for more information.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday November 30, 2010

AFP to host climate conference event. This week the United Nations Climate Change Conference meets in Cancun, and Americans for Prosperity is taking its Hot Air Tour there. There are two ways to view this event: online, or by attending a watch party. There’s one in Wichita Thursday evening. Click on Hot Air Tour: Live from Cancun for more information and to register.

Christmas organ concert tomorrow. On Wednesday December first, Wichita State University Organ Professor Lynne Davis will present the First Annual Christmas Organ Concert. This event is part of the “Wednesdays in Wiedemann” series. Tomorrow’s program includes voice with Paul Smith, theater organ with Jim Riggs, and Christmas carols. These recitals, which have no admission charge, start at 5:30 pm and last about 30 minutes, although this special performance is scheduled to last 45 minutes. The location is Wiedemann Recital Hall (map) on the campus of Wichita State University.

Free exchange of ideas and gunfire at universities. Today’s Wichita Eagle carries a letter by a university teacher opposing the carrying of concealed guns on college campuses. One point the teacher makes is “And, ultimately, I don’t believe that universities can continue to foster the free exchange of ideas once they have been reconstituted as free-fire zones.” This idea, that concealed carry results in “free-fire” hasn’t been noticed, at least in Kansas. A Wichita Eagle article from last year, when the Kansas concealed carry law had been in effect for three years, reports no problems with the law. Firefights have not erupted in our streets as the result of the concealed carry law.

Charter school praised, then denied. The Center for Education Reform reports on how difficult it can be to start a charter school in some states: “You’d think that 1,600 pages of meticulously crafted curriculum, staffing, school philosophy and financial planning would at least give a prospective charter school a fighting chance. Not in Frederick County, MD. Being well prepared — not to mention a more than worthy option for local parents — just means that the education establishment will sharpen their swords even more to see that you are not approved to enter ‘their space.’ Last night, the Frederick County School Board unanimously voted to block the creation of the Frederick Classical Charter School, a school that would have offered kids there a real alternative and a classically based education. Though opposition heaped praise on the proposal, they did so as they cemented their arguments against it. And they did it just because — because they felt threatened, because they were working in their own best interest, and because they could. Maryland’s charter law is so weak (it has earned a ‘D’ in CER’s latest rankings — stay tuned) that only an overhaul will level the playing field for future options in areas outside Baltimore and more enlightened districts such as Prince George’s County.” More coverage is at Give charter a chance. Maryland, with a “D” grade for its charter school law, is better off than Kansas, which received an “F” from the same organization. It’s why few in Kansas try to start charter schools. The struggle in Kansas has even been reported on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and in response a letter writer described the charter school laws in Kansas as “pseudo charter laws that still give local districts the power to block new schools.”

Solution to Kansas school funding. Wichita’s Brent Davis offers commentary on his blog about Kansas school spending and its advocates: “School funding advocates like superintendent Morton of Newton are clearly biased since they directly benefit from increased taxation for schools and yet there is no direct correlation in any available data of economic growth trending with educational expenditure.” Davis is in the education industry, so his opinion should be given consideration. The full article is on his blog at The Solution to Kansas’ Ed Funding Paradox.

Kansas school landscape. In an Insight Kansas editorial as presented at State of the State Kansas, Wichita State University professor H. Edward Flentje lays out the landscape of Kansas school finance and the surrounding politics. “In sum, the education article [of the Kansas Constitution] and related court action have moved duly elected state lawmakers — the governor and the legislature — to the sidelines in governing and financing public schools. Any agenda for educational reform will be subject to the liking of the state’s educational establishment and state court judges. Most state and local board members, school superintendents, public school teachers, and the statewide associations representing these interests, not to mention school finance litigators, prefer it this way.” He also — correctly in my opinion — forecasts a dim future for meaningful school reform in Kansas: “Evidence suggests this alliance will be slow to move on reform initiatives shaping the future of public schools, such as charter schools, merit pay, student assessment, and revision of school finance, among other issues.” … While incoming governor Sam Brownback has a plan for education reform in Kansas, it seems mostly focused on revising the school finance formula and a host of minor issues. Important reforms like charters schools and teacher merit pay seem to be missing from consideration at this time.

Tiahrt hearts committeeman position. According to the Kansas City Star’s prime buzz blog, outgoing Kansas Congressman Todd Tiahrt wants to swap positions with incoming Congressman Mike Pompeo, who has been a Kansas Republican national committeeman. According to the post: “Tiahrt said his chief motive for seeking the office is to ensure that Kansas Tea Partiers have a say. ‘I just want to make sure that when it comes to new ideas, the Republican Party doesn’t become the party of old, stodgy ideas, and that we are very receptive to this new movement and the ideas they bring.'”

Sedgwick County Republicans elect leadership

Last night the Sedgwick County Republican Party met in an organizational meeting to elect its leadership for the next two years. The primary news made was in the contest for chairman and vice-chairman. The secretary and treasurer positions were not contested.

Some observers, including myself, saw the contest as being between “establishment” Republicans and a group associated with the tea party. Others cast the election as more between experienced and veteran party members versus relative newcomers, while still others saw the differences as based more on personalities than anything substantive. Whatever the terminology, the newcomers did not do well in the election.

The people attending the organizational meeting and voting on leadership are those elected or appointed as precinct committeemen or committeewomen. That election was held in August in conjunction with the statewide primary election.

In the past, there have been contentious election contests at the organizational meeting, with the dividing line being between conservatives and moderates, with the abortion issue prominent. The last organizational meeting in November 2008 was calm, with one slate of candidates offered for the leadership and delegate positions, with party leaders urging that no nominations be brought up from the floor.

This year’s meeting had two slates of candidates. One — clearly the establishment or veteran slate — was headed by Bob Dool, a Wichita businessman who has been serving as treasurer of the fourth congressional district party committee. Julie Sipe was the slate’s nominee for vice-chair. Dool was endorsed by Mike Pompeo, the recently-elected U.S. congressman from the Kansas fourth district, which includes all of Sedgwick County.

The other slate was headed by Jim Anderson, who recently ran for U.S. Congress, with Judy Park of Republican Women United as vice-chair.

There’s a backstory here that deserves mention. The 2008 organizational meeting, where there was one slate of candidates and any talk of offering nominations from the floor was strongly discouraged by party insiders, made a bad impression on many activists. Some were particularly disturbed that the slate of delegates to the fourth district committee — the next level up in the party hierarchy — included many people who were not elected precinct committeemen or committeewomen. To newcomers, the 2008 meeting smacked of “good ol’ boy” cronyism, with no consideration given to the newcomers who had ran for election to — and had to campaign in order to win — precinct committee positions.

Since then, the tea party movement started in the winter months of early 2009. This movement, operating largely outside the established Republican party, grew to become a significant force nationally. Locally, a tea party activist group led by Craig Gabel and Lynda Tyler played a significant role in the November elections by working for Republican candidates, although the group did support one Democrat, Gwen Welshimer. The group played a crucial role in electing Benny Boman and Les Osterman to the Kansas House of Representatives by defeating incumbent Democrats. The group helped in the reelection of Phil Hermanson to the House, and helped elect Joseph Scapa and Jim Howell to open House seats. John Stevens and James Clendenin came surprisingly close to gaining election over their Democratic Party incumbents.

At the county level, the group was active in helping Richard Ranzau in his election to the county commission. Gabel estimates his group distributed 4,000 blended packets of literature, placed 600 signs, and made 40,000 robo-calls plus several thousand live calls.

Having played a role in local politics — successful by their own account, but perhaps not appreciated by everyone — the group wanted inclusion in the local Republican Party process. Neither Gabel or Tyler sought leadership positions. (Tyler is running for Wichita city council in the spring.) Instead, both wanted an open and honest process that was inclusive and gave everyone an opportunity to seek office, either as leadership or a delegate to the higher committee.

Both leaders seem genuinely concerned that the Republican Party be open and seek to grow. I asked Gabel what he would like to see in a chairman. He said: “A chair that would reach out to all portions of the Republican Party, that would keep the momentum flowing that was started in the election — someone interested in filling the precincts, raising funds, and educating people.” Reaching out to young people and minorities is also important, Gabel said.

As Dool made his candidacy for chair known, Gabel, Tyler, and others invited him to a meeting. Initially Dool did not want to meet and declined the invitation. A meeting with Dool took place earlier this week, said Gabel. He described the meeting as unproductive.

Back to last night’s organizational meeting: While social issues weren’t the primary issue on voters’ minds in the recent national election, abortion politics played a role last night. In his nominating speech for Dool, Mark Kahrs said that Dool “strongly supports the sanctity of life, which is the concern of this local party, and must remain the cornerstone of our party’s platform.” That drew applause from the audience.

Before that, in her speech Park, the nominee for vice-chair, said that someone in the audience was spreading rumors that she is not conservative and not pro-life. Park said these allegations were not true.

In nominating Jim Anderson, John Stevens praised Anderson for his experience in campaigning and technology. Explicitly referring to the tea party, Stevens said that we need as chair “a person who is inclusive of all Republicans, as well as tea party active people. These folks helped make it work this time. Don’t deny them.”

Speaking for himself, Dool said he wanted to increase the Republican Party base by increasing communication, hosting events for elected officials to meet with the public, increasing opportunities for all to participate in the political process, creating a business-friendly environment with lower taxes and less regulation, and raising enough money locally for a full-time employee. He said he supports the tea party movement, saying such populist movements have helped us stay true to the Founding Fathers’ principles.

In his speech, Anderson referred to his run for U.S. Congress. He also addressed an issue that many said would prevent them from voting for Anderson — his failure to endorse Mike Pompeo after Anderson lost to him and others in the Republican primary election in August. Anderson said he pledged his support to Pompeo — privately, though. Anderson said we need to grow the party by reaching out to all people, including independents.

The results of the election for vice-chair were Park 43 votes (21 percent), and Sipe 164 votes (79 percent).

For chair, the result was Anderson 59 votes (28 percent), and Dool 149 votes (72 percent).

In the selection of delegates to the fourth congressional district committee, voters had to select 98 delegates and 100 alternate delegates. A group called “Republicans for Conservative Leadership” provided a slate. The group headed by Gabel and Tyler had a slate, but the slate did not have enough names. The RCL slates won. (Disclaimer: my mother was on the RCL slate as an alternate delegate.)


After the meeting, reaction was mixed as to whether the group of tea party or new activists felt welcomed into the process. Some felt the process was improved over 2008, as there were two candidates for each of the top leadership positions. Others felt that the outcome was nonetheless predetermined. But like in most elections, the winning candidates had the message most voters agreed with, and simply did a better job of campaigning for their positions.

Going forward, the local party has the same challenge as does the national party: how to integrate or channel the energy of the tea party. If the vote for the challengers — about one-fourth of the party members present — is a measure of the numbers in the tea party, it’s a significant force that Republicans should welcome. But an initial challenge for Dool and party leaders is that many tea party activists will resent anything they perceive as channeling of their energy or integration of their politics.

Also, some had asked that the slates of delegates should have been made available before the meeting. Voters had to vote for 98 delegates and 100 alternates. But party officials refused to release the names before the meeting, which seems to be the type of needless secret-keeping that breeds distrust and conspiracy theories.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday November 5, 2010

Political attacks on tap at Pachyderm. Wichita State University political science professor Mel Kahn will be the presenter at today’s (November 5) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The always-interesting professor will speak on the topic “Do Political Attacks Help or Harm our Republic?” This seems like a timely topic given the recent general and primary elections. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Hold the celebration “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds, in fact, that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters think it is at least somewhat likely that most voters will be disappointed with Republicans in Congress before the next national elections. That includes 38% who say it is Very Likely.” More at Most Voters Think House GOP Likely To Disappoint By 2012. Is this evidence of a deeply-ingrained cynicism by American voters? I hope not — but I can’t blame people for thinking so.

We understand, that’s why we resist. The incredibly insightful George Will discusses in the Washington Post what he calls the “nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government” and explains why progressives (the people who used to be called liberals) are so confused and unable to accept the political reality of the day: “The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.” I added the emphasis to make sure we grasp the essence of Will’s description of the progressive mindset: that we regular people are just not capable of understanding what is in our own best interests. That is the working belief of Obama and the progressives. As an aside, it’s amazing the the Post can have a columnist as good as Will and as corrupt as Dana Milbank at the same time.

Obama really doesn’t get it. In a preview of a 60 Minutes interview to be broadcast on Sunday, CBS News reports: “After a [sic] suffering a ‘shellacking’ in the midterm elections, President Obama acknowledges what many have seen as his chief weakness — failing to sell the importance of several legislative milestones to the American people. … ‘Making an argument that people can understand,’ Mr. Obama continued, ‘I think that we haven’t always been successful at that.'” In other words, it’s a marketing problem for Obama. Others have said the same. Recently Jonathan Alter wrote “It’s a sign of how poorly liberals market themselves and their ideas that the word ‘liberal’ is still in disrepute despite the election of the most genuinely liberal president that the political culture of this country will probably allow.” But I think that people understand perfectly well the liberal or progressive agenda — if not at a deeply intellectual level than by instinct — and I agree with George Will: “Is political power — are government commands and controls — superseding and suffocating the creativity of a market society’s spontaneous order? On Tuesday, a rational and alarmed American majority said ‘yes.'”

Kansas Republicans a spry bunch. After January, ten of the 12 Kansas statewide or federal offices will be held by people under the age of 55. Exceptions are Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and Senator Pat Roberts. Roberts has indicated he’ll run again in 2014.

Kansas Senate after the election. The Kansas Senate, unlike the House, was not up for election this year, although there were two special elections. In one, the appointed incumbent was elected, and in another, a replacement for Jim Barnett was selected. While the composition of the Senate remains 31 Republicans and nine Democrats, not all the Republicans are conservatives. Quite a few — including the Senate leadership and two Wichita-area members — have voting records indistinguishable from many Democrats. A good guess at the number of conservative-voting senators is 17, short of a majority. Upcoming: There will be at least three new senators selected. In two cases — to replace Tim Huelskamp and Jeff Colyer — the likely replacements will be conservative, as are the two resigning members. In the third case, to replace majority leader Derek Schmidt, it is likely that the replacement will be more fiscally conservative, although Schmidt did vote against the big-spending budget and sales tax increase this year. With a conservative governor taking office and the House controlled by conservatives, might a few senators decide to adopt a more conservative view? Those left-leaning members who are looking to run for reelection in 2012 have a decision to make.

Kansas City Star on Parkinson’s pollution. The Kansas City Star laments outgoing Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson‘s decision to fire Kansas Department of Health and Environment chief Rod Bremby. The issue is Parkinson’s desire to get a coal-fired electricity plant in Kansas permitted before new rules come into effect. There are several problems with the Star’s editorial. First, cabinet secretaries like Bremby serve at the pleasure of the executive. If they don’t do what the boss wants, they’re gone. Second, the Star refers to the “tons of new pollution” that will “drift eastward across Kansas.” The editorialist should remember that Bremby denied the permit for the plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions, not for emissions of actual pollutants like sulfur dioxide. To the extent that carbon dioxide is harmful, it is because of its (alleged) impact on global warming, and that impact is disputed. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant in the sense that it is poisonous or harmful to those who breath it, as it is naturally abundant in the atmosphere. By the way, Bremby’s decision to deny the permit was entirely political, as he was apparently willing to approve a permit for an oil refinery that would emit 17 million tons of carbon a year, when he denied the power plant solely because of its emissions of 11 million tons. See Rod Bremby’s action drove away the refinery.

Kansas House of Representatives, a bloodbath for Democrats

Before yesterday’s election, conservatives in Kansas hopefully thought it might be possible to gain a working majority in the Kansas House of Representatives. The surprising result was a conservative wave larger than any election observer could have foreseen.

Before the election, the party breakdown in the Kansas House was 76 Republicans and 49 Democrats. As 63 votes constitute a majority, it is often said that the House is a conservative body. The reality, however, is that there had been a core of about 55 conservative Republicans, meaning those who would vote against big-spending budgets and tax increases. A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans — “left-wing Republicans,” as KansasLiberty.com describes them — worked together to pass measures like a big-spending budget, a statewide sales tax increase, and other decidedly non-conservative legislation.

Those days may be over, at least for now.

It appears that Republicans picked up 15 seats in the Kansas House. (Update: The number of Republican gains is 16, for a composition of 92 Republicans and 33 Democrats.) Most of the Republicans who defeated incumbent Democrats ran on an explicit platform of limited government. They can be expected to join the core of 55 conservatives to create a working majority of conservatives in the House — although you never know.

Representative Steve Brunk, who was unopposed in his own reelection, said it was a good night not only for Republicans, but also for those who believe government should live within its means without raising taxes, and for those who believe that money belongs to taxpayers first.

These results represent a major pushback against the statewide sales tax increase championed by Governor Mark Parkinson, who decided not to seek election to the office he holds. The “bipartisan, moderate coalition” that Parkinson often praised is gone, having been soundly rejected by voters.

Some notable results from yesterday include Kansas House District 4 (Fort Scott and areas to its north and west), where Caryn Tyson defeated incumbent Shirley Palmer. Palmer had voted for the big-spending budget this year, but didn’t vote for the sales tax to pay for it.

In Kansas House District 23 (Merriam and part of Shawnee), incumbent Democrat Milack Talia had also voted for the budget increase, but not the sales tax. He was defeated by Brett Hildabrand.

In Kansas House District 16 (parts of Overland Park and Lenexa), Democrat Gene Rardin had also voted for the budget increase but not the necessary sales tax to pay for it. He was defeated by Amanda Grosserode, who organized the first tea party event in Kansas, although at that time it was billed as a “tax revolt protest.”

In Kansas House District 97 (parts of south and southwest Wichita) incumbent Democrat Dale Swenson ran for the first time as a Democrat, having switched parties last year after representing the district since 1995 as a Republican. He lost to Les Osterman.

Kansas House District 87 (parts of east and southeast Wichita) saw political newcomer Joseph Scapa handily take back the seat given up by Raj Goyle as he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress.

In Kansas House District 95 (parts of west and southwest Wichita) Benny Boman, who has run for the office several times before and didn’t even have a campaign website, defeated Melany Barnes, who had been appointed to fill the seat that Tom Sawyer had represented for many years.

Kansas House District 67 (Manhattan and surrounding area) saw incumbent Democrat Tom Hawk fall to Susan Mosier.

Going forward

Most of the new Republican members of the Kansas House can be expected to join the conservative camp, which should give conservatives a working majority. But how these new members actually behave once in Topeka will have to be observed over time.

After the Democrat/moderate Republican coalition got their way in the last session, there was some talk of a “coalition Speaker” — someone chosen from the moderate Republican camp. This possibility is now gone, and it is certain that the current Speaker, Mike O’Neal, will be reelected to that position without a serious challenge.

The majority leader, however, will likely change. Ray Merrick, the current leader, may be interested in moving to the Senate to replace Jeff Colyer, who will resign to become lieutenant governor. Even if Merrick stays in the House, he is butting up against the customary term limit for majority leader. At last night’s gathering of Republican legislators in Wichita, none were willing to speculate about who is interested in becoming leader, although Arlen Siegfreid, current Speaker Pro Tem, is mentioned as in the running. Richard Carlson and John Grange are two other names mentioned as interested in this position.

To replace Siegfried, names mentioned include Steve Brunk, Jene Vickrey, Virgil Peck, and Larry Powell.

Peck, along with Jeff King, is mentioned as being interested in replacing Senate Majority Leader Derrick Schmidt, who will leave the Senate to become Attorney General.

House Republican leadership also will select a new chair of the powerful Appropriations committee to replace Kevin Yoder, who is moving on to the U.S Congress.

Other important committees in the House of Representatives that may see changes in their chairs include Taxation, should Richard Carlson become Majority Leader, and Commerce and Labor, should Brunk become Speaker Pro Tem. Federal and State Affairs was chaired by Melvin Neufeld, who was defeated in his bid for reelection.

The House will meet on the first Monday in December to elect their leadership.

The next legislature will also draw the new district boundaries during the redistricting process.