Tag Archives: Republican Party

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.

United States Capitol, July 2011

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.

U.S. Capitol Dome us-capitol-325341_1280

In Kansas fourth district, fundamental issues of governance arise

The contest in the Kansas fourth district is a choice between principle and political expediency, and between economic freedom and cronyism.

While some news articles and political columns have described the contest for Republican Party nomination for United States House of Representatives between Todd Tiahrt and Mike Pompeo as a yawner, as between two candidates with few and only minor distinguishing positions — there are important differences. The press is starting to notice.

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

In the Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel made the case for this contest’s importance as a bellwether of Republican sentiment:

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.

The 50-year-old Mr. Pompeo — an Army veteran, Harvard Law grad and businessman — 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. (Potomac Watch: A Crony Capitalism Showdown, August 1, 2014)

(If the above link does not work for you because you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, click here.)

Such principles are preciselyAfter detailing some legislative activity and accomplishment, Strassel notes the difficulty that fighters for economic freedom encounter: “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.”

Concluding her column, Strassel outlines the choice that so many writers have failed to realize:

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.

Another example of the difference between the two candidates is the Export-Import Bank. Conservative groups are urging that Congress not reauthorize the bank, a vote that will happen soon. The most common argument is that it harms American jobs, and there are allegations of corruption in its operations.

While in Congress, Pompeo voted against the reauthorization of the bank. He has said he would vote against its reauthorization again unless there is significant reform. Tiahrt, on the other hand, voted in favor of the Export-Import Bank. It’s representative of the type of cronyism he has supported while in office, and would likely support again, especially as his positions tack to the political left.

Finally, Tiahrt has recently criticized Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity, leading us to wonder if Tiahrt understands or embraces the principles of economic freedom and free markets.

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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.

Shownotes

Kris Kobach campaign website
Scott Morgan campaign website
Wichita Pachyderm Club

Historic National Security Agency machinery

In Kansas fourth district, national security a dividing issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following is the letter and its signatories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

Hon. Michelle Van Cleave
Former National Counterintelligence Executive

Clare M. Lopez Former CIA Officer

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

Hon. R. James Woolsey
Former Director of Central Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quasi-lobbyist runs as earmarker in Kansas GOP primary

By Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

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

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

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

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.”

For Kansas Senator Roberts, earmark reform not worthy of his vote

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts promotes his fiscal conservatism, but failed to vote in favor of earmark reform in a recent close vote.

In 2012 an amendment to a Senate bill was offered that would have dramatically reformed the earmark process.

United States Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
United States Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas.
The vote was On the Amendment S.Amdt. 1472 to S.Amdt. 1470 to S. 2038 (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012).

The purpose of the amendment, according to Congress.gov, is “to prohibit earmarks.” Although offered in 2012, the short title of the amendment was “Earmark Elimination Act of 2011″

United States Senator from Kansas Pat Roberts voting with Democrats and against Republicans on earmark reform. 2012.
United States Senator from Kansas Pat Roberts voting with Democrats and against Republicans on earmark reform. 2012.
The nub of the amendment was “It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider a bill or resolution introduced in the Senate or the House of Representatives, amendment, amendment between the Houses, or conference report that includes an earmark.”

The amendment was rejected by a vote of 59 to 40. Among Democratic Party members, the vote was 44 to 7 against the amendment. For Republican Party members, the vote was 33 to 13 in favor of the amendment.

One of the 13 Republicans who voted against this reform-minded amendment was Pat Roberts of Kansas.

In Kansas fourth district, charges of alignment with Speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Voice for Liberty Radio: Sedgwick County Commission Candidates

In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: Candidates for Republican party nominations in two districts for Sedgwick County Commission spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.

In district 4, which is parts of northeast, north and northwest Wichita and the towns of Park City, Valley Center, and Maize, Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn is challenging the incumbent Richard Ranzau. In district 5, which is parts of south and southeast Wichita and the town of Derby and surrounding area, Derby Mayor Dion Avello is facing Kansas Representative Jim Howell. The format of the meeting was an opening statement by each candidate followed by questions from the audience and a brief closing statement.

Here are candidates for Republican party nominations for Sedgwick County Commission at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on June 20, 2014.

Shownotes

Candidates in district 4:
Carolyn McGinn | Working For Kansas
Vote Richard Ranzau for County Commission

Candidates in district 5:
Dion Avello
State Representative Jim Howell for Sedgwick County Commissioner

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Voice for Liberty Radio: U.S. Senator Pat Roberts

Voice for Liberty radio logo for featured posts 01In this episode of Voice for Liberty Radio: United States Senator Pat Roberts spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday May 30. He addressed a number of current topics in Washington such as the problems at the Veterans Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and regulations regarding the lesser prairie chicken. He also spoke about his current campaign for re-election and took questions from the audience. Roberts was introduced to the Pachyderm Club members and guests by Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Bob Dool.

Shownotes

Pat Roberts Congressional office page
Pat Roberts campaign page

Pyle, Kansas Senator, considering Roberts challenge

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

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

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

Voice for Liberty Radio: 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.

Shownotes

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

Questioning Pat Roberts

One of the small news items emerging from the Kansas Republican Party Convention last weekend is that Pat Roberts will run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year.

So is this a good thing, or not? Gidget of Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe) offers one opinion in her post on the topic:

Look, I like Sen. Roberts. He’s a nice enough guy, but he will not make any waves. He will not rock any boats. I do not understand it. Most 76 year olds are willing to wear purple suits and red hats in public as some sort of matter of pride. It’s their way of saying, I’ve lived long enough I’ll do as I damn well please.

But not Sen. Roberts.

Where every member of the Kansas delegation in the House voted against the plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff — there was Roberts being a “statesman” by raising your taxes without the agreement of any cuts.

This is a regularly repeated occurrence for those in the U.S. Senate. They are absolutely willing to sell the people down the river in return for being called “statesman” and getting re-elected.

The truly disgusting part is that we’re all going to vote for Sen. Roberts again.

If he draws a primary opponent, it will be a miracle. And even if he does draw a primary opponent, everyone will tip toe around for fear of upsetting Roberts and the many people who owe him their careers.

The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill. The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:

The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”

One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.

The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.

Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace.

The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.

If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.

Wichita STAR bonds project not good for capitalism

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers approval of the project plan for a STAR bonds project in Wichita.

The formation of the district has already been approved. This action by the council will consider the development plan and the actual authorization to spend money.

If approved, the city will proceed under the State of Kansas STAR bonds program. The city will sell bonds and turn over the proceeds to the developer. As bond payments become due, sales tax revenue will make the payments.

It’s only the increment in sales tax that is eligible to be diverted to bond payments. This increment is calculated by first determining a base level of sales for the district. Then, as new development comes online — or as sales rise at existing merchants — the increased sales tax over the base is diverted to pay the STAR bonds. Estimates are that annual revenue available for the bonds will be over $5,000,000.

For this district, the time period used to determine the base level of sales tax is February 2011 through January 2012. A new Cabela’s store opened in March 2012, and it’s located in the STAR bonds district. Since Cabela’s sales during the period used to calculate the base period was $0, the store’s entire sales tax collections will be used to benefit the STAR bonds developer.

(There are a few minor exceptions, such as the special CID tax Cabela’s collects for its own benefit.)

Which begs the question: Why is the Cabela’s store included in the boundaries of the STAR bonds district?

With sales estimated at $35 million per year, the state has been receiving around $2 million per year in sales tax from this store. But after the STAR bonds are sold, that money won’t be flowing to the state. Instead, it will be used to pay off bonds that benefit the project’s developer.

Some questions

Curiously, the city doesn’t provide a cost-benefit study for this project. This is the usual mechanism the city relies on as justification for investments in economic development projects.

Often developers ask government for incentives because they claim the project is not economically feasible without assistance. Is that the case with this development? If not, why the need for subsidies?

And if taxpayer subsidy is required for this development, we need to ask what it is about Kansas that discourages this type of business investment.

STAR bonds should be opposed as they turn over tax policy to the private sector. We should look at taxation as a way for government to raise funds to pay for services that all people benefit from. An example is police and fire protection. Even people who are opposed to taxation rationalize paying taxes that way.

But STAR bonds turn tax policy over to the private sector for personal benefit. The money is collected under the pretense of government authority, but it is collected for the exclusive benefit of the owners of property in the STAR bonds district.

Citizens should be asking this: Why do we need taxation, if we can simply excuse some from participating in the system?

Another question: In the words of the Kansas Department of Commerce, the STAR bonds program offers “municipalities the opportunity to issue bonds to finance the development of major commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and use the sales tax revenue generated by the development to pay off the bonds.” This description, while generally true, is not accurate. This STAR bonds district includes much area beyond the borders of the proposed development, including a Super Target store, a new Cabela’s store, and much vacant ground that will probably be developed as retail. The increment in sales taxes from these stores — present and future — goes to the STAR bond developer. As we’ve seen, since the Cabela’s store did not exist during the time the base level of sales was determined, all of its sales count towards the increment.

STAR bonds, or capitalism?

In economic impact and effect, the STAR bonds program is a government spending program. Except: Like many spending programs implemented through the tax system, legislative appropriations are not required. No one has to vote to spend on a specific project. Can you imagine the legislature voting to grant $5 million per year to a proposed development in northeast Wichita? That doesn’t seem likely. Few members would want to withstand the scrutiny of having voted in favor of such blatant cronyism.

But under tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds, that’s exactly what happens — except for the legislative voting part, and the accountability that sometimes follow.

Government spending programs like STAR bonds are sold to legislators as jobs programs. Development, it is said, will not happen unless project developers receive incentives through these spending programs. Since no legislator wants to be seen voting against jobs, many are susceptible to the seductive promise of jobs.

But often these same legislators are in favor of tax cuts to create jobs. This is the case in the Kansas House, where many Republican members are in favor of reducing the state’s income tax as a way of creating economic growth and jobs. On this issue, these members are correct.

But many of the same members voted in favor of tax expenditure programs like the STAR bonds program. These two positions cannot be reconciled. If government taxing and spending is bad, it is especially bad when part of tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds. And there’s plenty of evidence that government spending and taxation is a drag on the economy.

It’s not just legislators that are holding these incongruous views. Secretary of Commerce Pat George promoted the STAR bonds program to legislators. Governor Sam Brownback supported the program.

When Brownback and a new, purportedly more conservative Kansas House took office, I wondered whether Kansas would pursue a business-friendly or capitalism-friendly path: “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.” I quoted John Stossel:

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? Not at all. 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 is that the state will circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for. The existence of the STAR bonds program lets us know that a majority of Kansas legislators — including many purported fiscal conservatives — prefer crony capitalism over free enterprise and genuine capitalism.

The problem

Government bureaucrats and politicians promote programs like STAR bonds as targeted investment in our economic future. They believe that they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by the state that shapes the future direction of the Kansas economy.

Arnold King has written about the ability of government experts to decide what investments should be made with public funds. There’s a problem with knowledge and power:

As Hayek pointed out, knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledge-power discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. … With government experts, the knowledge-power discrepancy is particularly acute.

Despite this knowledge problem, Kansas legislators are willing to give power to bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce who feel they have the necessary knowledge to direct the investment of public funds. One thing is for sure: the state and its bureaucrats have the power to make these investments. They just don’t have — they can’t have — the knowledge as to whether these are wise.

What to do

The STAR bonds program is an “active investor” approach to economic development. Its government spending on business leads to taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form.

Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that Kansas and many of its cities employ: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.’”

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates is an example of such a policy. Government spending on specific companies through programs like STAR bonds is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach. We need to advocate for policies at all levels of government that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to say, to not act in most circumstances.

Public Hearing Considering the Adoption of a STAR Bond Project Plan for the K-96 Greenwich Star Bond Projec… by

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.

Sedgwick County voter registration changes: Impact on senate races

During the Kansas primary election season, there have been efforts to recruit Democratic party voters to change their voter registration to Republican in order to participate in Republican party primary races. Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) has asked teachers union members to switch their voter registration in order to vote in Republican primaries. KNEA has asked this on its website and in an email that has received widespread attention.

Former Wichita Mayor Elma Broadfoot has recorded telephone calls urging Democrats to switch party registration so they may vote for moderate Republicans, reports the Wichita Eagle.

Whether this effort will be successful is unknown. But we now know, for Sedgwick County, how many people have changed their voter registration to Republican in recent months.

I took a Sedgwick County voter file obtained in May and compared it to one current as of Friday, which is after the deadline for changing voter registration. In the accompanying table, I counted voters who switched to Republican registration from some other party. I grouped the data by Kansas Senate district, as this is where much of the focus has been. I also present totals for Sedgwick County, as some county-wide races may also be impacted.

Voter registration party changes in Sedgwick County

It’s important to remember that some of these senate districts are not totally within Sedgwick County, and this table includes only Sedgwick County voters. Districts 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 are entirely within the county, and all voters in these districts are represented in the table.

Numbers in context

Now that we know the number of voters who switched to Republican registration, are these numbers large enough to affect any races? The answer is we simply don’t know. We don’t know why these voters switched to Republican registration. Their motive may be to vote for the moderate candidate, but there could be other reasons, too.

To place these numbers in context, consider the race for senate district 25, which pits incumbent Jean Schodorf against Wichita City Council Member Michael O’Donnell. In this district, 230 voters switched to Republican registration.

In the 2008 primary, 2,435 people voted for Schodorf, but there was no opponent. About 4,000 voted for Les Donovan in his primary, and about the same for Susan Wagle in her district, but again these races were uncontested. In the 2008 general election, 16,016 voted for Schodorf over 9,530 cast for her opponent, for a total of 25,546 votes cast, plus a few write-ins. But general elections, by their nature, have a much higher turnout than primaries.

A better election to compare is the 2004 Republican primary for senate district 30 in east Wichita, when former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight challenged incumbent Susan Wagle in a race that received much attention. Knight received 3,140 votes to Wagle’s 5,624, for a total of 8,764 votes cast.

230 voters switching registration out of a potential vote total of 8,764 is 2.6 percent. Many races are decided by less than that margin. But again, we don’t know the intent of these 230 voters, and while these voters are probably more motivated than most, some may not vote.

We should also note that district 27 had 223 voters switch to Republican affiliation during the same period. Incumbent Les Donovan has no primary opponent. He will face a Democrat in the general election, but party registration doesn’t matter at that time. In district 30, 160 voters switched to Republican registration. Incumbent Susan Wagle has no primary opponent.

It’s also noteworthy that switching to Republican registration is not the only action I observed. For example, in District 25, while 230 voters switched to Republican, 51 Democratic voters switched to Unaffiliated registration, 42 Republicans switched to Unaffiliated, and seven voters became Libertarian party voters. On election day Unaffiliated voters can switch their registration to Republican and vote in the primary.

Finally, there are new voters of all parties, including Republican. The analysis above counts only voters who changed party registration to Republican.

Overall, 2,001 voters in Sedgwick County switched party registration during this two-month period, with 1,126 switching to Republican.

Skelton, Sedgwick County Commissioner, censured by party

Yesterday evening the Sedgwick County Republican Party censured a Sedgwick County Commissioner for supporting a Democrat in an upcoming election.

Treatha Brown-Foster, who is chair of Kansas Black Republican Council, offered a resolution critical of Jim Skelton.

The resolution read: “Whereas, Jim Skelton, an elected Republican official in Sedgwick County, who has benefited from the support of the Sedgwick County Republican Party, has publicly supported a Democratic candidate over a Republican candidate for election to the Sedgwick County Commission. Be it resolved that Jim Skelton be censured for this action.”

The resolution was met with applause. The motion was seconded and the vote to approve it was unanimous.

In June Skelton expressed his support in a Wichita Eagle article for incumbent Tim Norton over challenger Ben Sauceda. Norton is a Democrat; Sauceda is a Republican. The two face no primary challenges, and will meet in the November 6th general election.

In January Skelton joined with fellow Republican Commissioner Dave Unruh to elect Norton as commission chair. Despite Republicans holding a four to one majority, the commission is chaired by a Democrat.

Kansas teachers union email: who is reasonable?

Kansas progressives in both major political parties who want larger state government are promoting themselves as “reasonable.” Another email from an official of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) asking union members to switch their voter registration in order to vote in Republican primaries provides additional insight into the true motivations of the union, and a look at who is reasonable.

The email, printed in its entirety below, is from Tony White, Director of UniServ Southeast. UniServs are regional offices that provide services to teachers union members.

In this email, White mentions students, writing “Stand up for yourself, for your profession, and Yes, for your students.” Mention of students was absent from a previous email White sent.

White also uses words that we see progressives — including progressive Republicans — commonly use: “reasonable people” and “ideologues.” The mantra these days is that the Kansas Senate is the last bastion of a reasonable approach to government, and that hard-right ideologues have occupied the House of Representatives and the governor’s mansion.

Kansans, however, ought to take a look at what “reasonable” has meant for Kansas schools, since that is purportedly the concern of White and the teachers union.

While the Kansas school establishment touts rising test scores, this improved performance is only on tests managed by that very same establishment. On the national NAEP tests that Kansas school officials don’t control, Kansas scores are unchanged or falling. Despite this, Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says scores on Kansas tests are rising — “jumping,” in her own words. See Kansas school test scores.

Compare Kansas with Texas, a state that Kansas school spending boosters 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.

We also know that 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. See Despite superintendents’ claim, Kansas schools have low standards.

White and his education spending establishment allies want more spending on schools, and they claim that school spending has been dramatically cut in recent years. Their focus on base state aid contains a grain of truth about school spending. But despite that figure having been cut, total spending on schools in Kansas this year is likely to set a record high. See Base state aid is wrong focus for Kansas school spending and Wichita school spending: The grain of truth.

The teachers union and school establishment are opposed to, and generally successful in opposing other reforms that would help Kansas schools, such as improving teacher quality and implementing school choice. See In Kansas, school reform not on the plate.

Kansas is falling behind other states in implementing meaningful reforms. That’s the way the teachers union likes it. Kansas students and taxpayers suffer for their benefit.

This ought to cause us to reconsider who is reasonable.

Following is the email from White:

One last time, just for the procrastinators out there (which I will admit includes Member #1 – I think she’s resisting just to mess with me). Just like you, she’ll come through.

So I’m sending this to all KNEA members in UniServ Southeast, even though many of you have told me you have your registration all squared away. You can feel quietly superior and totally prepared while I go on.

Here’s the online link to register/switch to the important Republican party: https://www.kdor.org/voterregistration/Default.aspx

THIS MUST BE DONE BY NEXT TUESDAY, JULY 17TH IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY REGISTERED AS A DEMOCRAT.

If you have a valid driver’s license, you can do it online. However, make sure it “went through” (sorry for the tech talk J).

You should get a wallet size voting card back from your county clerk, or at least that’s how it worked for me in Crawford County. It took about 10 calendar days and it shows my updated registration, including the polling place. Now I’m ready if there are any hiccups at the polls when I go to vote.

If you do not receive a confirmation, you should check with your county clerk’s office to see if the change was received. There have been some instances where the clerk had no record of the update. You don’t want that when you go to vote.

Finally, it seems my emails to you all have created a bit of a stir among the radical conservatives. They have been forwarded some of them, I guess. In turn, I have received several offensive emails lambasting me for encouraging you all to register and to vote, to have a say in the type of state in which we live and the quality of school system in which we work.

They have blathered about it and me on the internet as well and in some news articles. They are greatly outraged, I tell you.

Called me lots of names. Demanded I stop asking you to register and to vote, and that I apologize for doing so.

Ain’t a gonna happen.

Their reaction does demonstrate they are worried, worried that reasonable people are exerting their own right to vote.

Maybe they know that less than 20% of the registered voters in SEK voted in the primary 2 years ago. That’s typical.

Maybe they understand how every vote counts, and that goes double for a primary with low turnout.

Maybe they want only the ideologues like them to make these decisions that will affect all of us so profoundly.

Well, we also know those numbers, and we know the ideologues will turn out to vote 100%.

The rest is up to you. Stand up for yourself, for your profession, and Yes, for your students. There are more of us than them, if we’ll do it.

Get registered, and influence any like-minded person to do likewise. And then vote on August 7.

Want to do more? For the primary:

· Yards signs – and even highway signs if you have a good location. Let me know.

· Walking as teacher/KNEA members to leaflet. We will just go to the doors of registered Republicans and hand out campaign pieces. It’s easy and fun, and the candidates love local teachers helping out. Nothing gives them more credibility than teachers helping in their own town. Help as little or as much as you can. Let me know – we’re quickly organizing things.

· We have helped walk Erie and have Independence, Baxter Springs, and Columbus set for this Saturday. Parsons, Chanute, and the rest will soon follow.

· In Cherokee, Crawford, and Bourbon counties, Bob Marshall needs you.

· In Montgomery, Labette, and Neosho counties, it’s Dwayne Umbarger. (and Rich Proehl and Ed Bideau, too.)

Thanks for reading this far. I really wouldn’t be such a pest if it wasn’t this important. We are fighting for the future of our state and the quality of life we enjoy. So I’ll risk being annoying.

Thanks for everything you do for your students and for your colleagues. See you at the polls.

KNEA email a window into teachers union

An email from an official of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) asks union members to switch their voter registration party in order to vote in Republican party primaries.

The fear of the teachers union is that control of the Kansas Senate may fall into hands of conservative members instead of the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans that forms the working majority in that chamber. If that happens, it would not be good for union members’ “professional interests,” says the email.

The email, printed in its entirety below, is from Tony White, Director of UniServ Southeast. UniServs are regional offices that provide services to teachers union members.

In the email, White tells union members that state revenues will be reduced by 40 to 50 percent as a result of the recent Kansas tax reform legislation. This is a great exaggeration. Projections by Kansas Legislative Research indicate a decline of revenue of about 12 percent from 2013 to 2014. After that year revenue rises each year, and by 2018 revenue is projected to rise to nearly the level of 2012.

White also writes that due process — tenure, in other words — and bargaining for salaries may be lost. While both of these reforms would be good for Kansas schoolchildren and taxpayers, they don’t seem likely very soon in Kansas.

Surprisingly, the email never mentions what the Kansas school establishment and the teachers union fears most: accountability through market-based competition. This could happen through charter schools, vouchers, or tax credit scholarships. It is this accountability that teachers unions fear most. So far Governor Sam Brownback has not forcefully advocated for these reforms that would greatly help Kansas children.

The tone of the email, overall, is that it is teachers that are important. Never once are schoolchildren mentioned. This email is another example of how the Kansas school spending establishment, of which KNEA is a prime member and political force, exists for the benefit of adults, not children and parents.

Subject: KNEA Email
Tony.White@KNEA.ORG 6/16/2012 6:13 PM
Although this might seem like a rather personal request, I’d like you to register to vote, and more specifically, to register to vote as a Republican.

That way you can vote for a supporter of public schools in the August 7 primary in either Senate 13 (Marshall v LaTurner) or new Senate 15 (Umbarger v King). The winner of those primaries will undoubtedly be the winner in November, and if you’re not a registered Republican, you don’t get to help make that decision.

Here’s the email I sent to our members, and the links to change one’s registration.

AND TELL ANYONE ELSE YOU KNOW THAT CAN HELP OUT. It’s no time for being shy. We’ll regret losing this next election for a long, long time.

Subject: Registration and Voting

I am sending this information (and a few opinions, too) to you as a KNEA member in SEK.

I realize about every election we tell you how important this one is. Those elections sure did seem important at the time. But this summer in the Republican primary Senate races and then this fall in some of the House races, the stakes simply could not be higher for teachers and for schools.

And right out of the gate, when I talk elections and politics, I means our Kansas races for Kansas House and especially the Kansas Senate.

With the electoral college system and our current Congresswoman, there’s no point spending any time or energy on the national level. It’s a lost cause. But when it comes to teachers and schools, it matters more what happens in Topeka anyway, and we can affect those!

If we don’t retain the moderate majority in the State Senate, we will be in a world of hurt. The tax cuts signed this spring by Governor Brownback – if unchecked — will reduce state revenue by 40-50%, and the deep cuts to schools and every other state service or function — will inevitably follow. Teacher protections like due process and the right to bargain salaries will probably be lost. Our current public school system will be unrecognizable.

That’s if we lose this election. So, let’s win it.

How can you help?

Vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday August 7. Vote for our moderate Republican incumbent friends, for 4-term Senator Dwayne Umbarger and for Senator Bob Marshall. They have supported us, and it’s time to step up and help them.

1. If you’re already a registered Republican, you’re ready to go. Make sure you vote.

2. If you’re registered to vote, but not registered as a Republican, you need to switch. Otherwise, you can’t vote in the primary, and frankly, these two critical races will be settled in the primary in
August. The primary winner will cruise in November.

3. If you’re now a Democrat, you need to switch to a Republican. I know, I know, but otherwise you can’t vote in the election that counts, and that’s the Republican primary. I did it today, just like we have over the years to vote for Jana Shaver or Val DeFever for State Board. You can switch right back after the election, and we promise not to tease you about it.

How does one register in the first place? Or change registration to a Republican? It’s the same form, and you can even do it online. Here’s the online link: https://www.kdor.org/voterregistration/Default.aspx

You use your driver’s license. I just tried the link and it worked fine. It’s submitted to the Clerk in Crawford County and they’ll mail me a confirmation. I’m a Republican!

But if the site gives you trouble, there is also the old-fashioned paper form: http://www.kssos.org/forms/elections/voterregistration.pdf

One prints it, fills it out and takes it in to the county clerk or mails it in. The addresses for all 105 counties are right there on the back of the form.

Registration has to be done by July 17 – or you’re locked out of the primary. So get your paperwork right so you can vote to protect our profession and our schools.

And print off extra copies of the form for spouses, adult kids, neighbors, friends, or kindred spirits. If they will vote to support public schools, we want them and need them on August 7. It’s the same form all across Kansas – it just goes to the appropriate clerk of the county where the person lives. Or use the online link.

And if you want to get involved in either the Umbarger or Marshall campaign, from planting yard signs to letters to the editor to walking with the candidates – just let me know. They both are clearly better for our professional interests than their primary opponent.

Kansas STAR bonds vote tests beliefs in capitalism, economic freedom

An upcoming vote in the Kansas Legislature, possibly today, will let Kansans know who is truly in favor of economic freedom, limited government, and free market capitalism — and who favors crony capitalism instead.

The bill is Senate Substitute for HB2382: AN ACT concerning economic development; concerning the STAR bonds financing act; relating to the provisions regarding STAR bond projects; extending the sunset date. Under current law, the Kansas STAR bonds program will expire on July 1, 2012. This bill extends the program’s life for five years.

The STAR bonds program allows increases in sales tax revenue to be directed to private interests rather than feeding the state treasury. The mechanism is that local governments like cities can sell bonds and give the proceeds to developers. Then, increments in sales tax revenues are used to make bond payments.

In economic impact and effect, the STAR bonds program is a government spending program. Except: Like many spending programs implemented through the tax system, legislative appropriations are not required. No one has to vote to spend on a specific project. Can you imagine the legislature voting to grant $50 million over a period of years to a proposed development in northeast Wichita? That doesn’t seem likely. Few members would want to withstand the scrutiny of having voted in favor of such blatant cronyism.

But under stealth-like tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds, that’s exactly what happens — except for the legislative voting part.

Government spending programs like STAR bonds are sold to legislators as jobs programs. Development, it is said, will not happen unless project developers receive incentives through these spending programs. Since no legislator wants to be seen voting against jobs, many are susceptible to the seductive promise of jobs.

But often these same legislators are in favor of tax cuts to create jobs. This is the case in the Kansas House, where many Republican members are in favor of reducing the state’s income tax as a way of creating economic growth and jobs. On this issue, these members are correct.

But many of the same members voted earlier this year for a previous version of the STAR bonds extension bill. (See In Kansas, STAR bonds vote uplifted cronyism over capitalism.) These members voted in favor of a tax expenditure program. These two positions — voting for tax cuts, but voting for targeted spending through the tax system — cannot be reconciled. If government taxing and spending is bad, it is especially bad when part of tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds. And there’s plenty of evidence that government spending and taxation is a drag on the economy.

It’s not just legislators that are holding these incongruous views. Secretary of Commerce Pat George promoted the STAR bonds program to legislators. This seems to be contrary to the spirit of tax reform plans Kansas Governor Sam Brownback promoted earlier in the session. At that time, he proposed ending spending programs implemented through the tax system. Historic preservation tax credits was a particular program that he wanted to end.

The danger of false, or “crony” capitalism

Last year at the time Brownback and a new, purportedly more conservative Kansas House took office, I wondered whether Kansas would pursue a business-friendly or capitalism-friendly path: “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.” I quoted John Stossel:

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? Not at all. 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 is that the state will circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for. The vote on the STAR bonds project will let us know how our state is proceeding. If the upcoming vote goes as did the earlier votes on this matter, the verdict is clear: Kansas legislators — including many purported fiscal conservatives — prefer crony capitalism over free enterprise and genuine capitalism.

The problem

Government bureaucrats and politicians promote programs like STAR bonds as targeted investment in our economic future. They believe that they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by the state that shapes the future direction of the Kansas economy.

Arnold Kling has written about the ability of government experts to decide what investments should be made with public funds. There’s a problem with knowledge and power:

As Hayek pointed out, knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledge-power discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. … With government experts, the knowledge-power discrepancy is particularly acute.

Despite this knowledge problem, Kansas legislators are willing to give power to bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce (along with local government officials and bureaucrats) who feel they have the necessary knowledge to direct the investment of public funds. One thing is for sure: the state and its bureaucrats have the power to make these investments. They just don’t have — they can’t have — the knowledge as to whether these are wise.

What to do

The STAR bonds program is an “active investor” approach to economic development. Its government spending on business leads to taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form.

Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that Kansas and many of its cities employ: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.’”

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates is an example of such a policy. Government spending on specific companies through programs like STAR bonds is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach. We need to advocate for policies at all levels of government that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to not act in most circumstances. But politicians have an irresistible urge to be seen doing something, even though most of what is done is harmful.

Kansas STAR bonds vote a test for capitalism

Update: The bill passed in the House of Representatives 92 to 31. A similar bill passed in the Senate 27 to 13.

An upcoming vote in the Kansas House of Representatives will let Kansans know who is truly in favor of economic freedom, limited government, and free market capitalism — and who favors crony capitalism instead.

The bill is HR 2561: Extension of the STAR bonds financing act sunset provision regarding STAR bond projects. Under current law, the Kansas STAR bonds program will expire on July 1, 2012. This bill extends the program’s life for five years.

The STAR bonds program allows increases in sales tax revenue to be directed to private interests rather than feeding the state treasury. The mechanism is that local governments like cities can sell bonds and give the proceeds to developers. Then, increments in sales tax revenues are used to make bond payments.

In economic impact and effect, the STAR bonds program is a government spending program. Except: Like many spending programs implemented through the tax system, legislative appropriations are not required. No one has to vote to spend on a specific project. Can you imagine the legislature voting to grant $50 million over a period of years to a proposed development in northeast Wichita? That doesn’t seem likely. Few members would want to withstand the scrutiny of having voted in favor of such blatant cronyism.

But under tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds, that’s exactly what happens — except for the legislative voting part.

Government spending programs like STAR bonds are sold to legislators as jobs programs. Development, it is said, will not happen unless project developers receive incentives through these spending programs. Since no legislator wants to be seen voting against jobs, many are susceptible to the seductive promise of jobs.

But often these same legislators are in favor of tax cuts to create jobs. This is the case in the Kansas House, where many Republican members are in favor of reducing the state’s income tax as a way of creating economic growth and jobs. On this issue, these members are correct.

But many of the same members are, I am told, in favor of tax expenditure programs like the STAR bonds program. These two positions cannot be reconciled. If government taxing and spending is bad, it is especially bad when part of tax expenditure programs like STAR bonds. And there’s plenty of evidence that government spending and taxation is a drag on the economy.

It’s not just legislators that are holding these incongruous views. Secretary of Commerce Pat George is promoting the STAR bonds program to legislators. He wouldn’t do that unless Governor Sam Brownback supported the program.

Last year at the time Brownback and a new, purportedly more conservative Kansas House took office, I wondered whether Kansas would pursue a business-friendly or capitalism-friendly path: “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.” I quoted John Stossel:

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? Not at all. 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 is that the state will circumvent free markets and promote crony, or false, capitalism in Kansas. It’s something that we need to be on the watch for. The vote on the STAR bonds project will let us know how our state is proceeding. If the vote goes as sources tell me, the verdict is clear: Kansas legislators — including many purported fiscal conservatives — prefer crony capitalism over free enterprise and genuine capitalism.

The problem

Government bureaucrats and politicians promote programs like STAR bonds as targeted investment in our economic future. They believe that they have the ability to select which companies are worthy of public investment, and which are not. It’s a form of centralized planning by the state that shapes the future direction of the Kansas economy.

Arnold King has written about the ability of government experts to decide what investments should be made with public funds. There’s a problem with knowledge and power:

As Hayek pointed out, knowledge that is important in the economy is dispersed. Consumers understand their own wants and business managers understand their technological opportunities and constraints to a greater degree than they can articulate and to a far greater degree than experts can understand and absorb.

When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledge-power discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. … With government experts, the knowledge-power discrepancy is particularly acute.

Despite this knowledge problem, Kansas legislators are willing to give power to bureaucrats in the Department of Commerce who feel they have the necessary knowledge to direct the investment of public funds. One thing is for sure: the state and its bureaucrats have the power to make these investments. They just don’t have — they can’t have — the knowledge as to whether these are wise.

What to do

The STAR bonds program is an “active investor” approach to economic development. Its government spending on business leads to taxes that others have to pay. That has a harmful effect on other business, both existing and those that wish to form.

Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business is critical of this approach to economic development. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Hall quotes Alan Peters and Peter Fisher: “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence. We need to begin by lowering expectations about their ability to micro-manage economic growth and making the case for a more sensible view of the role of government — providing foundations for growth through sound fiscal practices, quality public infrastructure, and good education systems — and then letting the economy take care of itself.”

In the same paper, Hall writes this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that Kansas and many of its cities employ: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

In making his argument, Hall cites research on the futility of chasing large employers as an economic development strategy: “Large-employer businesses have no measurable net economic effect on local economies when properly measured. To quote from the most comprehensive study: ‘The primary finding is that the location of a large firm has no measurable net economic effect on local economies when the entire dynamic of location effects is taken into account. Thus, the siting of large firms that are the target of aggressive recruitment efforts fails to create positive private sector gains and likely does not generate significant public revenue gains either.’”

There is also substantial research that is it young firms — distinguished from small business in general — that are the engine of economic growth for the future. We can’t detect which of the young firms will blossom into major success — or even small-scale successes. The only way to nurture them is through economic policies that all companies can benefit from. Reducing tax rates is an example of such a policy. Government spending on specific companies through programs like STAR bonds is an example of precisely the wrong policy.

We need to move away from economic development based on this active investor approach. We need to advocate for policies at all levels of government that lead to sustainable economic development. We need political leaders who have the wisdom to realize this, and the courage to act appropriately. Which is to say, to not act in most circumstances.

Herman Cain: My interview

In July 2010, some 15 months ago, I had a chance to interview Herman Cain, who is now at or near the top of the polls of Republican presidential candidates. At the time his name was starting to be seen on lists of possible presidential candidates. Following is what I wrote at the time.

Herman Cain: Conservatives should dream, be united, informed, inspired

Herman CainHerman Cain

At this weekend’s RightOnline conference at The Venetian in Las Vegas, businessman and radio talk show host Herman Cain delivered an inspirational message to the audience of some 1,100 conservative activists from across the country.

Cain has a nightly radio show and is a frequent guest host for the Neal Boortz show, which is heard in Wichita on KNSS radio. Cain has been an executive at several companies, including serving as president of Godfather’s Pizza, a unit of Pillsbury. He appears on Fox News, and WorldNet Daily carries his weekly column.

He also runs The Hermanator PAC, which seeks to elect economically responsible conservatives to office. His name is mentioned in lists of presidential contenders for 2012, and he may launch a presidential exploratory committee.

Speaking at Saturday’s general session at RightOnline, Cain told the audience “The tragedy in life does not lie in not reaching your goals; the tragedy lies in having no goals to reach for. It’s not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity to have no dreams.”

Cain said that his dream is that we return to the principles that the Founding Fathers envisioned for what turned out to be the greatest country in the world: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “It didn’t say anything about a Department of Happy!” It is the pursuit of happiness that is mentioned.

Cain told the audience there are three things the audience must do: First, conservatives and their citizen movements must stay united in their efforts take back our government.

Second, conservatives must stay informed. “Stupid people are ruining this country,” he said, telling the audience that over half the people can be persuaded by a slick speech or a slick campaign ad.

Third, conservatives must stay inspired. Telling the audience the story of his recovery from cancer, he said his inspiration for his work comes from God Almighty.

He also related the story of the bumblebee, and how aerodynamic equations and computer models predict that the bumblebee should not be able to fly. “There’s only one reason the bumblebee flies: He didn’t get the memo that said he couldn’t. The bumblebee believes he can fly.”

Telling the audience that they have “bumblebee power,” he believes that conservatives can take back the government in November 2010.

Cain also mentioned what he calls the “SIN” tactics that liberals employ: First, they shift the subject, then they ignore the facts. “Liberals can’t handle the facts,” he told the audience, and that’s why they shift the subject and ignore the facts.

Finally, liberals resort to name-calling, calling himself and other conservatives racists, a charge he said is ridiculous and has backfired.

Later that day, I had an interview with Cain in his suite at Encore Las Vegas. Casually dressed and sipping a glass of wine, he was more relaxed than during his energetic speech earlier that day, although eventually his engaging enthusiasm broke out.

Referring to his optimism for the chances of conservatives in the upcoming elections, I said I’m not so sure, even pessimistic. Why am I wrong, I asked?

Cain said that callers — both to his Monday through Friday radio show and when he substitutes for Boortz and Sean Hannity — express their frustrations with the direction of the country, the stalled economy, and lack of private sector job creation. That makes him optimistic. Callers say they’ve been duped by the “hope and change” message, and they’re waking up.

Another factor he cited is the ongoing Gallup poll showing conservatives outnumbering liberals two to one, and independents and moderates outnumbering liberals one-and-a-half to one. He said this tells him that the numbers are on our side.

I asked Cain about the controversy about the Civil Rights Act of 1964: As a black man, who at age 64, growing up in the south, faced real and actual discrimination: Is our country better off for it?

“Absolutely we are,” he said, for both the Civil Rights act of 1964 and the Voter Rights Act of 1965, adding that they had historical impact on our country.

The Great Society programs and the rise of the modern welfare state: Are we better off for that? No, he said. He said that these programs didn’t provide enough incentives for people to help themselves. “That’s what’s wrong with most of the social programs today. That’s why they need to be modernized. When you provide incentives, and you provide help, but you also have requirements in there for people to help themselves: guess what? The programs will work.” But people have figured out how to game the system, and then the programs don’t work.

“Look at systemic poverty, look at crime, look at the quality of education in our inner cities — it’s all worse than it was.” The welfare reform of the 1990s, which required people to do certain things in order to continue to receive a check, shows that when people have an incentive to help themselves, they will use assistance programs more effectively, he said.

Since he mentioned education, I explained that in Kansas we have very few charter schools, and no school choice. What are we missing out on in Kansas? Are we behind the curve?

Yes, he said. “Competition makes everything better.” He told about the success of the Washington DC school choice program, with over 90 percent of the students going on to college. But the Democrat-led Congress and the President would not re-authorize the program. The teachers unions don’t like competition, he said, and this was the reason why.

I mentioned that often liberals are opposed to school choice because they say that poor uneducated parents are not equipped to make decisions regarding schools for their children. This is not true, Cain said. “It’s part of that whole attitude that government can make better decisions for a poor family then they can make for themselves.”

A focus of this conference is that liberty and free markets are superior in creating prosperity for everyone. But many people believe that one person becomes rich only if others become poor. I asked: Why do people believe that? Why have we as conservatives not been successful in getting out that message? Why doesn’t the president seemed to believe that?

Cain said that President Obama doesn’t believe this because he is “at least a socialist.” Republicans have not been good about managing “sharper, clearer messages about certain things.” He said and the Republican National Committee focuses on raising money, which is good, but they don’t do a good job of explaining what the Republican Party stands for. Cain said that while he supported current chairman Michael Steele for that job, he doesn’t know what Steele believes are the priorities or focal points for Republican candidates running for office in November.

While we know that we have to do something about spending, taxes, and education, these are general, broad statements, he said. We even know how to fix most problems. “We just don’t have the political will or the leadership to fix some of these problems. That’s what America faces, that’s our biggest challenge.”

Lies of liberal progressives, Sunday edition

On the C-SPAN television program Washington Journal (Sunday August 14, 2011) Democratic strategist Mark Mellman appeared and gave viewers a lesson on how the political left lies and distorts in order to score political points against what it sees as easy targets.

Mellman said: “The tea party comes out, and has really done real damage to this country. Most people in this country think it’s okay to to stop giving subsidies to oil companies. The tea party says no. Most people say it’s okay in the country to make corporate jet owners pay taxes, or hedge fund managers pay taxes. The tea party says no, you can’t do that, you only have to cut spending. And what spending do they end up cutting? They want to cut Medicare, they want to cut Social Security. Those are the plans that have been put forth by the Republican Party.”

Mellman is not alone in his use of these lies and distortions. They are stock talking points of the Democratic Party and liberals or progressives. It’s a low form of demagoguery that picks a few targets that are easy to stir up hatred for, and then distorts facts without any regard for the truth.

On the oil industry, for example: The magnitude of the subsidies and tax breaks to the oil industry is about $4 billion per year. Eliminating this is not going to come anywhere close to balancing the budget. As a matter of fact, this annual amount that President Obama complains about is just about what the U.S. borrows each day to cover its spending in excess of its revenues.

But being a relatively small amount is not a reason for ridding the tax code of these measures, even though some of the tax measures appear to be similar to treatment that all industries receive, such as the ability to intangible costs associated with drilling a well. To the extent that conservatives and tea party groups oppose eliminating special tax treatment of the oil industry or any other industry, they become just another special interest group. It is essential for our country to eliminate preferential tax treatment and the spending of money through the tax system.

Regarding Mellman’s assertion that we need to “make corporate jet owners pay taxes” — with the implication that presently they pay no taxes: This is a lie. The measure Mellman refers to is an economic incentive implemented in the form of accelerated depreciation for purchasers of corporate jets. This provision allows companies to deduct depreciation costs from their income sooner, so they save on taxes now rather than later.

(This incentive, by the way, was part of President Obama’s stimulus bill passed in February 2009.)

Depreciation is an accepted concept that allows companies to recognize the costs of their capital investments over time, which is appropriate for purchases of long-lived assets like airplanes. Accelerated depreciation doesn’t increase the total amount of depreciation that can be deducted from income, and therefore doesn’t decrease the tax that must eventually be paid. While not as blatant as other forms of preferential treatment found in the tax code, this provision should be eliminated with all others.

Of course, taking a deduction this year rather than in a later year is valuable. But receiving this deduction a few years sooner is nowhere near the same as paying no tax at all, which is what Mellman asserted.

At the same time Mellman and liberals attack industries they sense they can stir up hatred towards, they pick programs they believe are unassailable to accuse conservatives of attacking.

For example, Mellman mentioned Medicare. He didn’t tell viewers that President Obama has proposed cutting Medicare spending, too. It’s rare that any Democratic source mentions this.

And according to the Washington Post at one time this summer Obama proposed Social Security cuts as part of the debt ceiling negotiations.

In either case, the changes that are usually proposed to these programs by conservatives are quite gentle, and recognize that reforms must be made or these programs will sap the country of its vitality.

Democratic political operatives, on the other hand, ignore these problems and attack those who recognize them. They must do this. The entire system of modern American liberalism is based on the lie that human freedom and liberty is enhanced by expanding government beyond what is minimally necessary to secure our true rights and freedoms.

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: Tuesday December 21, 2010

Steineger switches teams. Chris Steineger, a Kansas State Senator from Kansas City, has switched to the Republican Party. As a Democrat, Steineger had compiled a voting record more conservative than many senate Republicans. On the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year — recognizing that supporting economic freedom is not the same as conservatism or Republicanism — Steineger had a voting record more in favor of economic freedom than that of 15 of the senate’s Republicans.

Kansas school funding reform to wait. Incoming Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says that the Kansas economy comes first, and then school finance, Medicaid, and KPERS in a “year or two.” Tim Carpenter of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports in Revitalizing the Kansas economy is the governor-elect’s No. 1 priority.

Tax cuts in Kansas not likely, says new senate leader. Yesterday Kansas Senate Republicans elected Jay Emler of Lindsborg to be the majority leader, replacing Derek Schmidt, who will become Attorney General. As the Associated Press reports, Emler is not in favor of any tax cuts, including a repeal of the recent increase in the statewide sales tax.

McGinn to lead Ways and Means. Carolyn McGinn, a Kansas Senator from Sedgwick, will chair the Ways and Means Committee. This important committee handles appropriations — in other words, the actual spending of money. On the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year, McGinn scored seven percent, tying her with Senate President Stephen Morris as the Republicans most opposed to economic freedom. She also scores low in the Kansas Taxpayer Network/Americans for Prosperity ratings.

Kansas holds on to House seats. At one time it was feared that the 2010 U.S. Census might find Kansas losing one of its four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But Kansas will retain them. Texas picks up four seats, Florida adds two, while Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah gain one seat each. Ohio and New York lose two each, while Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and New Jersey lose one each.

Rasmussen polls. As often, Rasmussen is the bearer of bad news. Like: What’s the deal with Obama? “For the first time since he became president, only 35% of voters say Barack Obama thinks society is fair and decent. That’s almost half as many as voters who hold that belief themselves. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 49%, on the other hand, say Obama thinks society is unfair and discriminatory.” See America’s Best Days: Fewer Voters Than Ever Say Obama Thinks Society is Fair and Decent. … Tea Party people skeptical of newly elected officeholders: “Most Tea Party members view the candidates they elected in November as agents of change from government business as usual, but non-members are a lot more skeptical. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll finds that only 34% of all Likely U.S. Voters think Tea Party candidates elected in November will remain true to their beliefs. See Most Tea Party Members Think Those They Elected Won’t Sell Out, Others Aren’t So Sure. … Others are pessimistic, too: “Just 23% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction.” See Right Direction or Wrong Track.

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.)

Analysis

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: Thursday November 4, 2010

The future of politics is here, now. After noting how California reached way back to the past to elect a governor, Denis Boyles writes in National Review Online about the future, and how it’s being made right here: “If you want to see the bright and shining politics of the future, you have to go to the country’s heartland, and specifically to Kansas, a place most Democrats only know from Thomas Frank’s liberal folklore. There, the election has yielded two new congressmen — Mike Pompeo and the remarkable Tim Huelskamp — who were not created by the Tea Party movement because their politics were already ahead of that helpful wave. Here‘s a local paper’s coverage. Pompeo is a natural leader, while Huelskamp is something even more — an inspiration, maybe. (He’s briefly sketched in Superior, Nebraska). Mark these guys. Politically, they’re how it’s going to be.”

Schools hope we won’t notice. Kansas Reporter tells of the new Kansas school funding lawsuit, filed on Election Day. Schools must have hoped that news of the filing would get swamped by election day news, which is what happened. The remedy asked for is more money, which has been shown not to work very well in terms of improving student performance … but it makes the education bureaucracy happy. I would suggest that students sue the Kansas State Department of Education for the inadequate education many have received. For a remedy, ask for things that have been shown to work: charter schools and widespread school choice.

Kansas House Republicans. Yesterday I reported that Republicans gained 15 seats in the Kansas House of Representatives. Double-checking revealed that I had made a data entry error. The actual number of Republican gains is 16, for a composition of 92 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

Kansas House Conservatives. In the same article it was noted that since some Kansas House Republicans — the so-called moderates or left-wing Republicans — vote with Democrats more often than not, there was a working caucus of about 55 conservatives. It is thought that conservatives picked up four seats in the August primary, bringing the number to 59. With most of the Republicans who defeated Democrats expected to join the conservative cause, it appears that conservatives now fill over 70 seats, constituting a working majority in the 125-member Kansas House of Representatives. Conservatives do not enjoy a majority of votes in the Kansas Senate, however.

Local smoking bans still wrong. As noted in today’s Wichita Eagle, there might be a revisiting of the relatively new Kansas statewide smoking ban. Incoming Governor Sam Brownback believes that such decisions should be left to local governments, presumably counties or cities in this case. For those who believe that the proper foundation for making such decisions is unfoundering respect for property rights — plus the belief that free people can make their own decisions — it doesn’t matter much who violates these property rights.

GOP: Unlock the American Economy Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on spending and what Congress really needs to do: “It is conventional wisdom that what voters, tea partiers and talkers want the Republican Party to do is cut the spending. … Getting the spending under control matters a lot.” But Henninger says controlling spending is not enough: “The new GOP has to find an identity beyond the Beltway power game, a way to make the nation’s most important activity not what is going on in Washington, as now, but what is done out in the country, among the nation’s daily producers and workers. The simplest way for the Republican Party to free itself and the economy from this unending Beltway hell is by reviving a core belief of one of the country’s most successful presidents: If the government will get out of the way, Ronald Reagan argued, there’s no limit to what the American people can achieve.” Government getting out of the way was one of freshly-minted Congressman Mike Pompeo’s campaign themes. National figures are warning Republicans that they have one chance to get things right in Washington or risk losing the support they won in this election. And Pompeo urged his supporters, more than once, to hold him accountable in Washington. Maybe Raj Goyle might want to linger in Wichita for a few years to see how things work out.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday November 3, 2010

Republican Party on probation. Noted conservative figure Richard A. Viguerie of ConservativeHQ.com expressed a common idea: “Voters have given Republicans one more chance to get it right. They are on probation, and if they mess up again, they won’t get another chance. The last time the Republicans were in charge, they became the party of big spending, Big Government, and Big Business. They abandoned the philosophy of Ronald Reagan and cozied up to lobbyists and special interests. And they paid a price at the polls.”

Limited government and economic freedom not desired. In today’s Wichita Eagle editorial assessing the election results, Rhonda Holman just can’t grasp the importance of limited government and economic freedom to prosperity. Instead, she prefers what some call “nuanced” politicians, who can be pressured by newspapers to vote for big-government boondoggles: “Incumbent Commissioner Dave Unruh and Wichita City Council member Jim Skelton already have proved to be thoughtful leaders; the same cannot be said of Richard Ranzau, whose tea party tendencies could put important county priorities at risk.” The victories of Ranzau — there were two, one in the primary over an Establishment Republican and again in the general election over a Democrat in a Democratic district — were gained the old-fashioned way: by meeting voters and letting them know what he stands for. And he was not bashful in his message of limited government. Both times, voters responded. The Wichita Eagle ought to take notice.

Future of Sedgwick County Commission. Yesterday’s defeat of incumbent Gwen Welshimer by Jim Skelton replaces a commissioner committed to low taxes and spending with someone with a less convincing record. While Skelton has sometimes voted against TIF districts — he and Paul Gray voted against the $10.3 million Exchange Place TIF district, although they were okay with it at $9.3 million — he firmly believes it is his duty — as city council member and as future county commissioner — to direct the economic development of the region.

Future of Wichita City Council. Skelton’s move to the county commission means there will be another new face on the council be fore long. Already the spring elections will bring two new faces, as members Sue Schlapp and Paul Gray will be leaving the council due to term limits. Now Skelton will be replaced, either by city council appointment or election next spring, depending on the timing of Skelton’s resignation. That’s a total of three new members. Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell must run for relection in the spring if they want to stay on the council. Brewer has already announced his intent to run.

Commission criticized as “gutless.” Because Wichita real estate developer Rob Snyder wasn’t granted some $400,000 in taxpayer subsidy because of the action of the Sedgwick County Commission, he criticized the commission as “gutless,” according to Wichita Eagle reporting. When testifying before the Wichita City Council as to the need for his developer welfare, Snyder whined about how that earmarks are now unpopular with the American public and not available to finance his proposed Save-A-Lot grocery store. An earmark — that is to say, a grant of money paid for by U.S. taxpayers — was used as a large part of the financing for the other Save-A-Lot in Wichita at 13th and Grove.

Kahn to substitute at Pachyderm. A scheduling change means Wichita State University political science professor Mel Kahn will be the presenter at this Friday’s (November 4) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. The always-interesting and entertaining Kahn 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.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 11, 2010

Moran at Wichita Pachyderm: This Friday’s speaker at the Wichita Pachyderm Club is current United States Representative and Republican Party Senate nominee Jerry Moran. As a large audience is expected, please arrive by 11:45 to get your buffet lunch in time for the noon start (the larger meeting room will be used). Cost is $10, which includes lunch.

Wichita, get control of incentives: Rhonda Holman’s lead editorial in yesterday’s Wichita Eagle urged caution and restraint in Wichita’s use of tax incentives — a welcome message not expected from the Eagle. One conservative wrote to me: “I am stunned to find myself to be largely in agreement with today’s editorial by Rhonda Holman. Wow.” The editorial was critical of past city policy and practice, with Holman referring to special taxing districts as “tax tricks.” On the need for public investment in downtown, she wrote “the city must ensure its use of special taxing districts is strategic, fair, farsighted and defensible.” Whether our present political and bureaucratic leadership can accomplish this is, in my opinion, unlikely.

Rasmussen key polls from last week: California Senate moves from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up” … Most Americans feel Nobel prizes are politicalHarry Reid’s son trails in race for Nevada governor … Cyber bullying seen equally dangerous as physical bullying.

Kansas initiative and referendum: The Wichita Eagle takes a look at initiative and referendum. A focus of the article is Secretary of State candidates Chris Biggs and Kris Kobach, which is a little misplaced, as they don’t have a say in whether Kansas has I&R, although they would administer the process and Kobach has made it a campaign issue. Key takeaways: “States with initiatives spend and tax less than states without them.” Politicians of both stripes hate I&R, with Kansas Senate President Steve Morris — a big-spending, big-taxing, liberal Republican — hating the idea, according to the article. Same for Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neil, a conservative. Not reported in the article is one of the first things the people may do in states that have I&R: impose term limits on their elected officials, an idea most of the political class hates.

China Emerges as a Scapegoat in Campaign Ads: The New York Times reports: “With many Americans seized by anxiety about the country’s economic decline, candidates from both political parties have suddenly found a new villain to run against: China. … Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for allowing the export of jobs to its economic rival.” Kansas fourth district Congressional hopeful Democrat Raj Goyle is mentioned as one of 29 candidates using China as a foil in campaign ads, just in case you thought Goyle’s attacks were novel. But the issue is murky, as the Times notes: “Never mind that there is hardly any consensus as to what exactly constitutes outsourcing and how many of the new overseas jobs would have stayed in American hands.”

Regulation — Baptists and Bootleggers: “Here is the essence of the theory: durable social regulation evolves when it is demanded by both of two distinctly different groups. ‘Baptists’ point to the moral high ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable public benefits promised by a desired regulation. Baptists flourish when their moral message forms a visible foundation for political action. ‘Bootleggers’ are much less visible but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists, grease the political machinery with some of their expected proceeds. They are simply in it for the money. The theory’s name draws on colorful tales of states’ efforts to regulate alcoholic beverages by banning Sunday sales at legal outlets. Baptists fervently endorsed such actions on moral grounds. Bootleggers tolerated the actions gleefully because their effect was to limit competition.” From Bruce Yandle, Bootleggers and Baptists in Retrospect. A podcast on the topic is Bruce Yandle on Bootleggers and Baptists.

Obama fails education: From Three Reasons Obama’s Education Vision Fails at Reason: “While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $4 billion to fund innovative programs, he’s spent more than $80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.” Obama also killed a school choice program in Washington, and has snuggled up to the teachers unions with a stimulus bill to preserve and add union teacher jobs “despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.” The status quo describes outgoing Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson and his education “vision.” Not that presumptive incoming governor Sam Brownback is a radical on school reform, however. His education plans are quite tepid and not likely to produce the results Kansas schoolchildren need.

Wichita Eagle Opinion Line: “If Kansans want lower taxes and less government, why are there so many homeowners’ associations here?” I guess the distinction between government and voluntary action escapes this person.

Sedgwick County Commission candidates to appear

On Friday October 1, 2010 at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Republican candidates for the Sedgwick County Commission will speak. The candidates that will appear are:

Dave Unruh, District 1
Richard Ranzau, District 4
Jim Skelton, District 5

All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). You may park in the garage (enter west side of Broadway between Douglas and First Streets) and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. The Petroleum Club will stamp your parking ticket and the fee will be $1.00. Or, there is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Fire Pelosi bus to roll through Wichita

This Monday (September 27) the “Fire Pelosi 2010 Bus Tour” will roll through Wichita. This nationwide effort is sponsored by the Republican National Committee as a way to attract attention to the policies of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders.

In Wichita, the bus will stop at the Sedgwick County Republican headquarters at 555 N. Woodlawn, just north of Central, at 4:30 pm, although that time is tentative.

For Kansas Rep. Don Hineman, loyalty is a one-way street

For Republican Kansas Representative Don Hineman of Dighton, party loyalty is a street that runs in only one direction: towards himself.

In 2008, Hineman challenged an incumbent Republican in Kansas House District 118. Hineman narrowly won the primary. The loser, Virginia Beamer, decided to mount a write-in campaign for the November general election. Hineman won, gathering 6,112 votes to Beamer’s 2,716.

During the general election campaign, a well-known conservative political communications company worked on behalf of Beamer. Hineman complained, saying that this work violated the Kansas Republican party’s loyalty amendment. In an email, he wrote: “As the nominee of the party I had expected to have the support of party officials, regardless of whatever differences we may have over political philosophy.”

While I don’t agree with party loyalty oaths, this matter would be just a footnote — and not very interesting at that — if not for Hineman’s recent actions.

Now, just two years after insisting that a political communications firm cease working for his opponent based on party loyalty, Hineman is campaigning for a Democrat. Not just any Democrat, but former Republican consultant Rob McKnight, who defected to the Democratic Party in order to run for a Kansas House seat from Overland Park.

The party loyalty section of the Kansas Republican Party Constitution doesn’t apply to elected officials like Hineman. It didn’t apply to the situation in 2008 either, but that didn’t stop Hineman from complaining that “it certainly violates the spirit of that amendment.”

Hineman’s voting record in the Kansas House is that of a big-taxing and big-spending liberal. He voted for both the big-spending budget and for the statewide sales tax increase this year. He earned a rating of 19 percent on the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for 2010, and 30 percent on AFP’s legislative scorecard for 2010. He’s also opposed to giving citizens the power of initiative and referendum in Kansas.

Here’s the email Hineman sent:

Dear Kansas City-area friends and family,

I am forwarding this email to introduce you to Rob McKnight. Rob is a very good friend, and has been my campaign advisor since I first ran for the Kansas House of Representatives in 2008. Evidently he thought I was having too much fun, because this year Rob is a candidate himself, after over twenty years as a campaign advisor to others. He is running to represent the 20th District in the Kansas House, and I would consider it a privilege to serve with Rob in Topeka.

I would ask you to consider helping Rob during his campaign. Please think about making a contribution to his campaign (see information below) or help him during one of his scheduled “literature drops”, the first of which takes place the tomorrow, Saturday, September 18. The attached flyer has more information. Please note this is not knocking on doors; it is merely a door-to-door literature drop. Participants will cover a large amount of territory in a short amount of time.

Rob thinks of everything. The drop is scheduled on a Saturday when the Kansas Jayhawks are idle, so no one need to be distracted by other events. Please consider helping Rob with this event tomorrow. Rob is very deserving, and I know he will be very grateful for your help.

Thanks!

Don Hineman

Panel on political involvement to be in Wichita

This Friday (September 17th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club presents a panel discussion on the topic “How you can become involved in the political process between now and the November 2nd General Election.”

Panelists:
Susan Estes, citizen activist
Lynda Tyler, founder of Kansans for Liberty
Craig Gabel, local conservative activist
Kelly Arnold, Chair, Sedgwick County Republican Party

All are welcome to attend Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings. The program costs $10, which includes a delicious buffet lunch including salad, soup, two main dishes, and ice tea and coffee. The meeting starts at noon, although it’s recommended to arrive fifteen minutes early to get your lunch before the program starts.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). You may park in the garage (enter west side of Broadway between Douglas and First Streets) and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. The Petroleum Club will stamp your parking ticket and the fee will be $1.00. Or, there is usually some metered and free street parking nearby.

Wink Hartman, Libertarian Party candidate?

As reported by Rebecca Zepick on State of the State KS, former Republican Congressional candidate from the fourth district of Kansas Wink Hartman may be considering another run for that position, this time as nominee of the Kansas Libertarian Party.

Zepick reported the news Saturday in the story Hartman Considering Re-Entering Race For Congress Against Pompeo and Goyle. She appeared later that day by telephone on KNSS Radio’s Jim Anderson Program, as did several others involved in this story.

Anderson’s radio program proved to be a sounding board for several issues surrounding this race. For example: All the Republican Party candidates pledged, several times, to support the winner of the Republican primary. A caller to Anderson’s radio show brought up this point, and reminded Anderson — the host of the show — that he, too, made the pledge. Anderson became agitated, at one point threatening to cut off the caller.

Anderson said that after a certain point, the campaign changed and became negative. Although he didn’t say so explicitly, it is clear that Anderson believes the negativity releases him from his pledge to support the winner of the primary. “I’m not supporting anybody right now,” he told listeners. He repeated this later in the show.

After this, Kansas Libertarian Party Chair and candidate for governor Andrew Gray appeared as a guest, calling in by telephone. Gray said the key to Hartman joining the ticket is Hartman’s ability to — currently or in the future — fit in the “Libertarian mode.”

Michael O’Donnell, a staff member in the Hartman campaign, then appeared by telephone and noted, as had Anderson, that the pledges to support the eventual primary election winner were made before the campaign became negative. True enough.

But where O’Donnell missed the mark is in his assertion that the Pompeo campaign launched the first negative attacks, referring to information made available about Hartman’s Florida home ownership and his Florida voting record. Hartman’s recent Florida voting record was first reported by me on this site.

While this information was not convenient to the Hartman campaign, it did not fall into the category of negative campaigning. This is the type of information voters are interested in. It was a matter of public record. It was all true.

O’Donnell said that the Hartman campaign merely retaliated. But it did much more than that, launching some vicious attacks on Pompeo using the techniques of negative campaigns. Hartman’s campaign escalated the attacks, culminating with a charge against Pompeo that Hartman could not back up with convincing evidence.

The pledges to support the primary winner were not made conditionally. They were absolute. In particular, candidates Anderson and Jean Schodorf need to step up and support Pompeo, the nominee. Evidently Paij Rutschman has made a financial contribution to the Pompeo campaign, but her website doesn’t endorse Pompeo.

Looking forward, O’Donnell said that he wanted to make sure that Hartman didn’t appear as a “sore loser mentality.” Losing a primary and then running on a different ticket qualifies as just that: a sore loser. And Hartman lost the primary election in a big way. Hartman’s support declined in the polls as the election drew closer. From July 1 to July 28 his campaign did not receive a single dollar in campaign contributions other than those made by the candidate himself.

Now Hartman may seek another round.

It’s difficult to see what positive things Hartman would accomplish as the Libertarian Party candidate. His political views are barely compatible with those of libertarians. Hartman seems the type of Republican that pokes fun of libertarians — like me — for their absolute defense of personal liberty (including legalization of all drugs and prostitution), a peaceful and non-imperialist foreign policy, deregulation of marriage (not prohibiting gay marriage), a welcoming approach to immigrants (instead of the fortified border that Hartman advocated during the campaign), and uncompromising opposition to corporate welfare (as reported, Hartman will receive many millions in such welfare in conjunction with his Hartman Arena).

Radical forms of libertarianism, including anarcho-capitalism or even the milder minarchism, seem beyond Hartman’s ability to grasp and understand.

The Kansas Libertarian Party has a decision to make, too. Will it embrace a candidate — one clearly non-libertarian and blemished from running a negative campaign — who can contribute millions to its cause and give the party a big boost in coverage and recognition?

In Kansas, some campaigns for Congress face charges of hypocrisy

A guest editorial by Sue C.

I have been active in the Kansas Tea Party Movement since March of 2009. The basic tenants of it are attractive to me. The emphasis on freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, and love of the Constitution is inspiring. The tea party movement is supposed to be “a new politics” — one of honesty, integrity, and a return to traditional values.

Unfortunately I have been observing a disquieting hypocrisy in the movement of late, especially in campaigns that said they were going to run clean, honest races. Many are acting like the same Washington politicians they have been critical of. Some of these campaigns are staffed with Tea Party members, hoping to support honorable candidates. Many are my friends.

I will outline a few examples of the “hypocrisy” I have observed, and let you decide for yourself if you agree with me or not. I choose to leave off names. My observations are from campaigns in the in the Kansas first district, Kansas third district, and Kansas fourth district (KS-01, KS-03, and KS-04).

  • Campaign staff constantly complain that their competitors are flush with money from “big donors.” Yet when asked if their campaigns would take the same money, if offered to them, I was told, “Oh, yes!”

  • Various campaigns have told me that they are very upset about all the endorsements their competitors are getting. Then in the next sentence I am hearing about their attempts to solicit endorsements from similar groups and individuals. One campaign was even encouraging their volunteers to start up blogs, and give the campaign “endorsements” from them.
  • One campaign staffer was demonizing the political action committee (PAC) donations another campaign was getting, even going so far as to call them “Washington Insiders.” Come to find out, that same campaign had applied for many of the same PAC monies and endorsements! They expressed anger to me that “their guy” didn’t get the nod. These same campaigns are continuing to this day to try and get money from various PACs not yet committed to a candidate.
  • The candidates that are getting PAC money feel that they need to minimize these contributions, which saddens me. The truth is PACs are important in politics: Individuals with similar value systems combine their resources in an effort to help get candidates, who share their same beliefs, elected.
  • “We’re not politicians!” This is a constant refrain in so many of the statewide races, and it makes me laugh every time I hear it! These candidates have been kissing the babies, shaking the hands, working the phones for donations, and marching in the parades along with all the other candidates for over a year now. I have to disagree with this refrain: They are all politicians now.
  • Tea Party “leaders” are signing up every Conservative they can find to run for precinct committeemen and committeewomen positions, and encouraging all their friends to get in local races. This is at the same time they lament all the “career” politicians who worked their way up through the party through this very same method.
  • Some campaigns are saying “We hate lawyers.” The truth is that all these candidates, if elected, will have to hire staffs full of lawyers! The House and Senate bills are written by them. Reality needs to set in: lawyers have a vital place in politics. Folks on the Right will need really good ones to help reverse the harmful laws the current Congress has already passed.
  • Quite a few blogs and emails have been written lately which are attacking candidates, starting gossip, and spreading rumors. This is definitely a sad trend that I am seeing. It is horrible to see people I had previously admired practice this destructive behavior. Personal responsibility and integrity are being sacrificed in attempts to advance a political campaign.

Although I could share many other examples, I will now stop. One thing that I have realized is that if we want the Tea Party Movement to continue to inspire citizens, we will need to pull back from the trend toward hypocrisy that I have just outlined. Otherwise the movement will fail. And so too, might our country.

Tiahrt rally features Rove endorsement

On Saturday, about 300 supporters of Todd Tiahrt gathered in a steamy hot airport hanger in Wichita to hear the Congressman and his guest, political strategist and commentator Karl Rove. Rove enthusiastically endorsed Tiahrt’s candidacy for the United States Senate from Kansas, one of only two such endorsements he said he is making.

Tiahrt’s best-known opponent in the August 3rd Republican primary is first district Congressman Jerry Moran of Hays. Tom Little of Mound City and Robert (Bob) Londerholm of Overland Park have also recently filed for this nomination.

Speaking before Rove, Tiahrt said that the tea party movement has been successful in some elections, and he is proud to be associated and endorsed by Tea Party Express and Kansas groups like the 9.12 group and Icaucus.

He said that although he’s been campaigning for 18 months, the real campaign is just beginning. He said some of his televisions ads are “a little rough,” because “we need to tell the truth.” Tiahrt told the audience that he’s never voted for a tax increase, while his opponent has, adding that he favors the Fair Tax.

Tiahrt called for regulatory reform, saying that for manufacturing in America, regulation adds 17 percent to costs. Cutting that in half would make America more competitive.

He said we need to get health care back “into our hands,” adding that a free market system would lower the costs and give more choices to patients and doctors.

He told the audience that energy independence is important for putting Americans back to work.

Finally, he said that litigation reform is important, saying that America has more lawsuits than any other country. Although not opposed to lawyers — noting that his daughter is an attorney — he said there are too many lawyers in Congress. He let the audience know that Moran, his opponent, is a lawyer.

Rove said that he is endorsing only two candidates in the Republican Senate primary elections — Tiahrt and Marco Rubio of Florida.

He said that he knows and has worked with both Tiahrt and Moran, and that’s why he’s endorsing Tiahrt. He called Tiahrt a “principled conservative,” saying that although you may disagree with him, you always know he comes to a conclusion because he thinks it’s right.

Referring to Moran’s statement criticizing Rove as a Washington insider, Rove told the audience that Moran went to Washington five years before he did.

He told a story about working with Moran on an issue, trying to get his vote. The Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske reported this based on an interview with Rove earlier in the day:

In the interview, Rove was particularly harsh on Moran for how the congressman approached a 2001 bill on trade promotion authority that Rove said was aimed at knocking down trade barriers and would have helped Moran’s rural western Kansas district.

Rove said Moran tried to cut a deal on the bill, offering to back it, but only if the president or Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed to come to Kansas to help Moran raise campaign money.

Rove said the idea was ridiculous because Moran already had a big cash-on-hand total and likely wouldn’t face a serious opponent. Moran was from one of the safest Republican districts in the nation.

It was, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Rove said of Moran. He said Moran told him, “You’ve got to give the president to me in a safe Republican district or the secretary of commerce to me in a safe Republican district to do a fundraiser.”

The Bush team eventually pressed a North Carolina Republican to vote for the bill, which resulted in its narrow passage.

Referring to Moran, Rove told the Wichita crowd that it is the Washington insider that says “I’m not doing what’s right for my state or my people, or my district, unless you give me something.”

The Moran campaign released a statement that read, in part: “Karl doesn’t like Jerry Moran because Jerry stood up to him. Karl’s job was to line up votes to pass the President’s agenda and while Jerry agreed with much of the Bush agenda, he put his foot down against major increases in spending and government bureaucracy, like opposing No Child Left Behind.”

Rove said that we have important battles to fight, and we need to put forth the best team: “We need people who will go there and do the tough things that are necessary to put our country on the right path again.”

In questions after the speeches, Tiahrt said he was honored to have someone with the knowledge and stature of Rove endorse him. On why he is the “real conservative” in this race, Tiahrt said conservatism is his core value, and that he is not an election-year conversion, mentioning an Almanac of American Politics description of Moran’s voting record as “moderate.”

Rove said that in order to win this election, Tiahrt needs to tell Kansans what he would do and believes in, and contrast that with the record of his opponent.

Rove said that the tea party movement is a grass roots movement driven by concerns about government spending, deficit, and debt. He said that Tiahrt’s record in Congress fits in with the tea party philosophy.

I asked Rove if he thought it was possible for Republicans to take majorities in the House or Senate this year. Rove said that for the Senate, the Republicans would have to keep every seat that is up for election, and then win many Democrat seats., noting that Republicans have twice as many seats up for election as do Democrats. He said he believes Republicans will gain more seats in both chambers than the historical average since World War II in mid-term elections like this.

I asked if a conservative strategy was the best strategy in the third congressional district in Kansas (Wyandotte and Johnson counties, and part of Douglas county), noting that the district had elected blue dog Democrat Dennis Moore to several terms and moderate Republicans before that. Tiahrt said that he believes a majority of Johnson County voters are conservative. Rove said that Moore didn’t get out of the race “because he thought conservatism was on the wane in the third district.” He added that Moore had been saying he was a blue dog Democrat, but then voted for liberal policies in Congress.

When I asked what it means that Moore’s wife Stephene is running for the office, Rove said “It means he’s got better political judgment than she does.”

I asked if the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is Obama’s issue, or will it impact Congressional races? Rove said that it will impact the midterm races indirectly because it impacts the president’s popularity, adding that in midterms, the president’s job approval and the unemployment rate are two of the biggest drivers in voting. “That’s why Democrats lack enthusiasm and Republicans have intensity, because of what President Obama’s done in office.”

I mentioned a recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Fred Barnes, which leads with this sentence: “In Washington these days, President Obama is rumored to be hoping Republicans capture the House of Representatives in the midterm election in November.” The idea is that “If Mr. Obama wants to avert a fiscal crisis and win re-election in 2012, he needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be removed from her powerful post. A GOP takeover may be the only way.” Would a Republican takeover of the House lead Obama to a Clinton-style presidency, since the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, Clinton’s first midterm election?

Rove said that Clinton was a centrist to begin with, and therefore was able to work with a Republican Congress. He said we haven’t seen this ability in Obama.

I asked Tiahrt if he would endorse one of the fourth district Republican Congressional candidates, and he said no, he trusts the voters to decide.

More coverage from State of the State KS is at Karl Rove Endorses Todd Tiahrt, Takes Shots At Jerry Moran.

Tiahrt, Moran vote ratings show slight difference

The campaign for the Republican Party nomination for the United States Senate from Kansas between Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays is making national news. The issue is over who is the most conservative. A new article in U.S. News and Word Report states: “Both Tiahrt and Moran have portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives, favoring lower taxes and less spending by the federal government.”

The Washington insider publication The Hill recently wrote of the “internecine fight for the GOP Kansas Senate.”

Merriam-Webster defines internecine as “of, relating to, or involving conflict within a group,” which might describe any contested political primary election. But this one is turning in to something resembling the other definition given: “marked by slaughter: deadly; especially: mutually destructive.”

Perhaps the reason why this campaign is turning negative is that on many issues, there just isn’t much difference between the two candidates and their voting records. Looking at vote rankings from several sources can help us see this.

One respected source of vote ratings is National Journal. Some Tiahrt supporters are using a chart of National Journal vote ratings on Facebook, showing their approval of Tiahrt’s performance in these ratings.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from National Journal

The chart shows Tiahrt with a more conservative vote rating in years past, but converging to nearly identical values last year. The chart shows Moran moving in the more conservative direction, while Tiahrt, after three years of less-conservative ratings, moving to a more conservative rating.

National Journal produces three ratings for each legislator, based on votes on economic, social, and foreign policy issues. The number I plotted in the chart is the average of the three values for each year. In its own method of producing composite scores for 2009, National Journal gives Tiahrt a score of 85.3, and Moran gets 84.3.

In terms of where they rank in order, Tiahrt is the 54th most conservative voter, and Moran is the 64th.

For 2009, the average composite score for Republican members of the U.S. House was 79.4, ranging from 57.8 to 94. So while Tiahrt and Moran rank as more conservative than average, neither are anywhere near the top, in terms of conservative voting according to National Journal.

Other organizations produce vote ratings too, such as the American Conservative Union. In these ratings, Tiahrt and Moan have the same, or nearly same score in all years except 2007, when Tiahrt had a more conservative rating. For the period shown, Tiahrt’s average score is 92.5, and Moran’s is 91.3.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from American Conservative Union

From Americans for Tax Reform, we find a mixed picture. For the period shown, the average rating for Tiahrt is 94.6, and for Moran, 90.3.

Tiahrt and Moran vote ratings from American for Tax Reform

Do these relatively small differences in vote ratings amount to a true distinction between the candidates? While Tiahrt generally earns the more conservative rating, the differences are so small that voters will want to make sure they take into account other factors when they decide who to support.

At forum, Kansas Secretary of State candidates have different attitudes regarding voter fraud

Last week’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Republican Party featured a forum with the three candidates seeking the Republican party nomination for Kansas Secretary of State. The candidates and links to their campaign websites are J.R. Claeys, Elizabeth “Libby” Ensley, and Kris Kobach.

During the forum, the different attitudes of the candidates towards the extent of voter fraud in Kansas and the measures that should be taken to combat it — such as photo ID and proof of citizenship — became apparent.

In his opening remarks, Kobach mentioned his role in helping write the recently-past Arizona immigration law. He said during the past 10 years, at both the United States Department of Justice and privately, he’s worked to help cities and states enforce the law. His goal for the next four years, should he be elected Secretary of State, would be to help Kansas restore the rule of law in its elections.

He said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a “whole division designed for immigrants’ rights.” He said that the ACLU will be the “first to run into the courtroom if we try to pass a photo ID law in Kansas.” He also mentioned the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as another group involved in the immigration fight, and it has sued Arizona over its law.

(A photo ID law would require voters to identify themselves with a photo ID, such as a drivers license, when they vote.)

Kobach said that both of these organizations are willing to sell out the rule of law in order to gain political power. Democrats, he said, view illegal aliens as a source of votes, and that is why Democrats always oppose photo ID laws. “In my definition, that is the highest form of corruption. That’s corruption, not for money, but for power.”

Kobach said that he is in favor of a photo ID law. The problem, he said, is making a law stick, as these laws are challenged by the ACLU wherever they are passed. As a constitutional law professor, he believes he can write a bill that will survive a court challenge. He said he’ll defend the law, “because nothing makes my day like a lawsuit against the ACLU.”

Kansas must also prosecute voter fraud, he said. He mentioned a report from the secretary of state’s office where 11 counties in Kansas where voter fraud was reported, but there were no state prosecutions. He said the problem is that when prosecutions are forwarded to the local county attorney, prosecutions do not result because of lack of resources or wrong incentives, and in some cases, lack of political will. He proposes parallel jurisdiction, where either the local county attorney or the Secretary of State could proceed with prosecution.

Claeys, in his opening remarks, said he had worked for the Republican National committee as a fundraiser, as communications director for the National Small Business Association, and CEO of the National Association of Government Contractors. He also served as an election observer in Bolivia and El Salvador. These countries recently implemented voter security measures.

Claeys said that photo ID, besides improving the security of voting, actually streamlines the voting process and reduces the training needed for both voters and election workers.

He said there are 600 statutory duties for the Secretary of State, many having to do with small business. “It is the filing center for the state,” and it is important that businesses be served efficiently and well by that office. Increasing fees and regulations, he added, acts as a tax on business, and he said he will work to keep fees and costs low.

Ensley’s opening remarks told of the importance of the Secretary of State, noting that “every single business in the state of Kansas touches the Secretary of State’s office.” She said she had worked in the Secretary of State’s office for 11 years, and then for 18 years as the Shawnee County Election Commissioner. Because of that, she said she has the endorsement of the last three Kansas Secretaries of State.

She said she has been watchful for election fraud during her years as election commissioner, and has provided the evidence that has resulted in the conviction of 12 election criminals.

She said an important issue to her is military voting, saying that these voters do not have the same rights as local voters. They are not allowed to vote for precinct committee officials or for local ballot questions, for example. She said this needs to be changed.

Questioning from the audience included a question whether the candidates would pledge to support whoever wins the August primary election. All answered yes.

Another question mentioned nursing homes, where it was alleged by the questioner that voting fraud is taking place. Kobach said that the “stories are legion” about what happens in nursing homes. He said this type of voter fraud is difficult to detect. But once someone is prosecuted, this will discourage others from contemplating this type of voter fraud.

Ensley suggested that any suspected voter fraud be reported to local officials. She mentioned a recent Kansas law that allows election officials to work with nursing homes to delver ballots directly to voters, and assist them with voting if requested.

Claeys agreed that prosecutions would serve as a deterrent to others.

One questioner noted that several recent holders of the Secretary of State’s office have run for, or aspired to run for, Kansas governor. Do you have political ambitions beyond Secretary of State? Claeys and Ensley answered no. Kobach answered that the future is difficult to predict, but that he probably would not occupy that office for 16 years, as Ron Thornburgh would have if he served out his last term.

In my question, I asked about the claim of the Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman, based on evidence from then-Secretary of State Thornburgh, that voter fraud in Kansas is not a significant problem.

Kobach said that there is voter fraud, it is a problem, and he doesn’t know why Holman doesn’t believe it is a problem.

Ensley said that Kobach is referring to alleged voter fraud. She said she’s done statistical research on aliens registering to vote. She identified the six counties in Kansas that are required to do bilingual ballots and asked these county clerks — these are the election officials in these counties — about the situation in their county. She said that each clerk said that they watch out for illegal registrations and voting, but that it is not a significant problem in their counties.

She said she compared the proportion of the population that is registered to vote statewide with the same figure in these six counties. If a large number of ineligible registrations was a problem, these counties should have a higher than average number. She found that these counties had a lower proportion of registered voters than the stateside average, which lead her to believe that registration and voting by aliens is not a problem.

She said that having to prove citizenship in order to vote would lead to lower voter turnout by eligible voters, and she is not in favor of requirements to prove citizenship. Displaying her tattered birth certificate, she described how it would be difficult for many citizens to obtain their birth certificate in order to prove they are citizens and eligible to vote. Her contention that requirements to prove citizenship creates more barriers to Americans than it prevents aliens from registering to vote was greeted with disapproval from the audience.

Claeys mentioned the Arizona voter law — which he said he favors — which requires proof of citizenship, with several ways to provide proof. He added that even a small amount of voter fraud is important. “Anytime someone votes who’s not supposed to be, they’re taking your vote away.”

Kobach added that courts have not agreed that requirements to produce citizenship documents such as birth certificates are too much of a burden. He added that these requirements apply to only newly-registered voters, not currently registered voters. He also produced several reasons as to why Ensley’s survey of voter registration rates in counties may not be valid.

Later questioning brought out a distinction between “voter ID” and “photo ID.” Voter ID can take many forms, such as a utility bill showing a voter’s name and address. Kobach and Claeys are in favor of requiring a state-issued photo ID, while Ensley said voter ID is sufficient.

Some in the audience asked questions that showed they believed a photo ID was more secure than other forms of ID, but Ensley pointed to easy availability of fake IDs, both photo and other.

– –

Eagle editorialist Holman’s op-ed from last May contained this statement: “Fraudulent voting, particularly by an illegal immigrant, makes no sense, because there is little to nothing to gain by the individual voter — while the potential punishment is severe.” (“Beware of claims of voter fraud,” May 28, 2009 Wichita Eagle)

This curious claim by Holman — that there is little to gain by individuals when they vote– might make anyone wonder why they should make an effort to vote.

Kansas is a Republican, not conservative, state

A recent editorial prepared by the Kansas Republican Party concluded with: “Kansas Republicans are presenting a united front with sound plans to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy. Our philosophy centers on liberating the promise of the individual and family as the answer, not more government growth, on a path to prosperity.”

That’s a fiscally conservative message. The practice of many Kansas Republicans, however, is far removed from this message advocating limited government. Kansas Republicans, especially the Senate leadership, are working to increase taxes in Kansas in a way that leads to more government growth at the expense of many thousands of private sector jobs in favor of government jobs.

It starts with Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. Although he is a Democrat, it was not long ago he was a Republican, even holding the chairmanship of the Kansas Republican Party. In his State of the State address in January, Parkinson proposed a temporary once cent on the dollar increase in the sales tax and an increase in cigarette taxes. Although the majority of the sales tax is pitched to Kansans as a temporary measure, these temporary taxes have a nasty habit of becoming permanent.

In the Senate, the leadership trio of President Stephen Morris, Vice President John Vratil, and Majority Leader Derek Schmidt agree with the governor that increasing taxes is the way to balance the Kansas budget. In particular, Vratil imported a California law that taxes the sugar content of soda pop. The California law had the benefit that the tax revenue would go towards promoting childhood health. In Kansas, the revenue would go to the general fund.

In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Republicans hold a majority of seats. But many Republicans do not vote a conservative position on taxes and spending. At a recent legislative forum, Representative Ray Merrick, who is House Majority Leader, explained the political reality in the House. There are 76 Republican members of the House, but Merrick said that on the “very best day” there are 55 who will vote with him, meaning they are conservative Republicans. 63 votes are required to pass legislation in the House.

Who are these legislators that belong to the Republican party but don’t vote with conservatives on issues of taxation and spending? According to rankings prepared by Americans For Prosperity-Kansas, for the 2009 session of the Kansas Legislature, the Democrat with the highest (most fiscally conservative) ranking is Jerry Williams, with a ranking of 55%. There are 11 Republicans who rank equivalent or lower than this. Their names are:

Jill Quigley of Lenexa,
Sheryl Spalding of Overland Park,
Kay Wolf of Prairie Village,
Ron Worley of Lenexa,
Terrie Huntington (now in the Kansas Senate) of Fairway,
Jo Ann Pottorf of Wichita,
Tom Sloan of Lawrence,
Don Hill of Emporia,
Bob Brookens of Marion,
Barbara Craft of Junction City, and
Charles Roth of Salina.

For the Senate, a similar analysis is clouded by the presence of Democrat Chris Steineger, who is an outlier among Democrats for his consistent votes in favor of fiscal restraint and taxpayers. But some of the worst-ranking Republicans are these:

Jean Schodorf of Wichita,
Pete Brungardt of Salina,
Stephen Morris of Hugoton, who is President of the Senate,
Tim Owens of Overland Park,
Roger Reitz of Manhattan,
Derek Schmidt of Independence, who is Senate Majority Leader,
Vicki Schmidt of Topeka, and
John Vratil of Leawood, who is Vice President of the Senate.

The Kansas Economic Freedom Index, a new project of mine, will also let us learn who votes in favor of economic freedom and against big government, no matter what their party affiliation indicates.