Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): September 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sun Shines in KS; Eagle Digs Grave for Sunlight

This story in the Wichita Eagle is hilarious.

You can really just read the headline, Personal Incomes in Kansas Jump, because the reporter used two sentences to say that personal income in Kansas was the seventh best in the nation.

I'm almost 1000% positive that if the story were the opposite, if Kansas income growth (or decline) was seventh worst in the nation, this would be a front page story about how the Brownback agenda has decimated the Kansas economy. It would feature some photo of a down-on-his-luck guy in torn, dirty clothes and his long suffering, big-eyed and starving children begging in the streets. But since it's good news suggesting many of Brownback's policies are making Kansas the envy of other states, it nets just two paragraphs and absolutely no words offered to the policies that may have helped us grow.

The current narrative about how Kansans are suffering is complete nonsense. When compared to other states, Kansas is doing just fine and in many cases, we're doing better than other states. 

And then there's this story in the Hill, a Washington, D.C. political paper. The chart below really tells the full story.

Where other states are facing massive revenue declines, Kansas is one of the few states that boasted year-over-year growth in tax receipts. Our revenue growth was 9 percent. Nationwide, the state revenue declined, while Kansas grew. (I think we can tie some of this growth to Kansas' wise decision NOT to expand Medicaid.)

However, good luck finding these stories in local media. (or if you do, it's a two paragraph kicker on page 8,000.) They're too busy bashing the guy at the top and our once conservative legislature for wise decision-making that is positioning Kansas for growth.

If the local media could dig a hole and bury the sun until Brownback leaves office, reporters would be lined up outside the Capitol with shovels.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wagle to Release Hit List; Puts Contract on Taxpayers

Sen. Susan Wagle is planning to release a ‘Contract with Kansas.’ She should call it a the ‘Contract ON Kansas,’ because I have a feeling it’s going to read a lot like a hit list. It’s a contract out on Kansas taxpayers, and her mafia-like hitmen intend to use the list as a weapon.

Wagle will announce this contract on Kansans during a press conference next week, requiring Republican Senate candidates to sign on if they want access to the Senate Leadership PAC money between now and the November election.

I’m told the contract will include lovely features such as rolling back every Gov. Brownback policy. From expanding Medicaid to rolling back the LLC and reinstating the pass-through exemptions, Wagle intends to tax Kansans to the breaking point.

Wagle, it appears, is trying to out-Democrat the Democrats. This is short-sighted political positioning, and I don’t get it. Clearly Wagle has higher political aspirations, but she’s not going to have a base if she continues down this path of PAC hostage taking, weaponizing her agenda, and stabbing everyone she meets right in the back repeatedly. This is how mob bosses in the old days ended up sleeping with the fishes.

Wagle alienated the so-called moderates and Democrats by signing on to Brownback’s plan early. After all, Brownback’s efforts to oust former Senate President Steve Morris and his ilk like Tim Owens are precisely the reason Wagle earned the role of Senate President. As an early adopter of the Brownback policies, Wagle not only advocated for many of them, she was a consistent vote for many of his policies. Democrats and so-called moderates aren’t likely to forget her once-conservative ways, though they may do it long enough so they can hang her with the disastrous policies sure to come from the 2017 Kansas Legislature.

Meanwhile, good luck finding a conservative who will work with her. Conservatives recognize that she isn’t just a back stabber, she’s a hypocrite, too.

So I ask, in two years or four years, when Wagle decides to make a run for Governor or challenge for Congressman Mike Pompeo’s seat, who will be her base?

Shortly after Brownback’s election, it appeared Wagle’s political star was on the rise. But now, she is about to be a woman wearing cement shoes standing alone attempting to rally people who will refuse to follow her. Each of those people will also be unwilling to turn their backs on her, as it appears she carries some pretty sharp knives and isn’t afraid to bury one in the back of just about anyone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Health Reporter Makes Vapid Attempt to Call Republicans Racist

The Kansas Health Institute is attempting to paint Republicans with the racist brush today. In a horribly unfair story, Republicans were asked to explain their Facebook friendship with a complete alt-right moron named Gabriel Wilson.

Wilson wrote disturbing white nationalist messages and body outlines in chalk on Bethany College campus sidewalks in September. The school's president, who has adopted biracial children, reported that his family had also received racially-charged threats. A police report was filed. Wilson was named as a suspect in the report.

Enter a reporter for the Kansas Health Institute to determine just how politically active crazy Wilson is. The reporter makes some massive leaps in his attempts to trash the Kansas Republican Party, and his efforts are wrong, biased, and inappropriate for so many reasons.

First, the reporter's link between Republicans is based on Facebook friendship. I don't know about you, but on my personal page I have 1,017 Facebook friends. For a very long time, I limited Facebook friendships to people I'd actually met in person, but I eventually gave that up. Now I pretty much accept any friendship request from anyone who doesn't appear to be an Internet troll. If I have a mutual friend with a person who sends me a FB message, I hit the accept button. My acceptance of their friendship isn't an endorsement of their views. Otherwise, I'd have to ditch half of my liberal Facebook friends.

If people I don't know start posting offensive stuff--and don't get me wrong, I find that Wilson guy completely offensive--I unfriend them. But I don't see every post that every person makes, and most people probably don't see every post made by that person they met one time walking in a parade.

I balk completely at the reporter's assessment that somehow every Republican Facebook friend of the guy knew of Wilson's racist views. I just don't buy it for one single minute and neither should you.

Second, I would be very interested in knowing how the reporter suggests the Republican can create a Republican Party purity test before allowing anyone to call themselves a Republican. Seriously, this would be helpful to know. I'd like to refuse membership to all white nationalists and also to all people who pretend to be Republicans just so they can get elected. I don't know how Republicans can stop people from pretending to be something they aren't. The Dems can't do this either. I seem to recall an elected Kansas Democrat who was arrested for child pornography. Jason Croucher was a Kansas Democrat whose star was on the rise. He was an elected official and he did paid work for many Dem office holders in addition to running a liberal blog. He's serving 17.5 years for bondage child pornography. It's funny in looking up all of the old stories about Croucher how no members of the political reporting class could be bothered to track down Croucher's political friends and paint the Dems with the same brush as that sick crackpot.

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the entire story is that it was written and published by the Kansas Health Institute. KHI's stated mission is to improve the health of Kansans by supporting effective policymaking. While they admit they use a broad approach in their efforts, tracking down the people who met Wilson one time at a parade seems incredibly broad.

I recognize a "gotcha" story when I see one. This sordid tale about how one whack job in Kansas had seven racist friends--and apparently a classless girlfriend-- and managed to wrangle his way into meeting political folks is a crass attempt to make conservatives look like racists. As a biracial, conservative person (and as a human in general) the attempt is vile and unfair. When Republicans (or Dems) are racist, they should be called out on it. But to make unfair assumptions about an entire political apparatus based on one nutso does serious damage to political discourse. We should be better than this.

If you want to have an honest discussion about race and politics, let's do it. (Or not. I'm so sick of it.) But if we must, why don't we start with the regular folks and leave the crackpots out of it. 

U.S. Senate Preps to Give Planned Parenthood a Raise, Courtesy of Taxpayers

Kansans, it's time to pick up the phone and call your Senators. You should send an especially strong message to Sen. Jerry Moran. He's up for re-election, and though he tends to focus his legislative efforts lately on things like ensuring Kansans have access to cheap Broadway tickets on the secondary market, he SHOULD be reminded that Kansas voters have bigger fish to fry than cheap theater tickets.

U.S. Senators will be asked to vote on a continuing resolution sometime TODAY that will give Planned Parenthood a raise, courtesy of many taxpayers who have a real problem with that particular organization killing infants and selling baby parts (on the secondary market--get on it, Moran)!

The vote was supposed to occur yesterday, but Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky turncoat, couldn't get enough people to close the deal. (Cloture votes failed. Twice.)

The House version of this bill, which all of Kansas' Congressional delegation supported, gave $95 million in funding to address Zika, but only to Medicaid providers in Florida and Puerto Rico. Florida state legislators cut off all PP funding under Medicaid this year, so there was a possibility that only health clinics that do not participate in the practice of sticking forks in the backs of the heads of innocents would get the funding. The Senate continuing resolution, however, dropped the Medicaid requirement, meaning Planned Parenthood will have unfettered access to more taxpayer money, courtesy of the U.S. Senate, which appears to lack the stones to do anything useful or meaningful. 

The pressure will be on again today in the Senate, as the continuing resolution must be approved before Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown. For people who think stabbing unborn babies in the back of the head just prior to full delivery shouldn't be funded by taxpayers, this CR should be a non-starter. The bill includes additional funding to fight Zika. The provision doesn't include a prohibition against sending that money to Planned Parenthood, which means the nation's biggest Baby Chop Shop is going to have access to new federal money.

Here's the part where our pro choice friends will (probably in a demeaning way) attempt to explain that federal dollars cannot be used for abortion thanks to the Hyde Amendment. Anyone who uses that argument should be ignored. They're too dumb to even bother having the discussion. Money is fungible. If these federal dollars are laundered to Planned Parenthood, the money will be used to subsidize all of that organization's most abhorrent practices. 

For some bewildering reason, this information isn't getting out to grassroots pro-life voters. But now you know, and it's time to call Sens. Roberts and Moran and let them know you're aware of what this resolution does, and you will not stand for it. 

I'm sure their staff members will be thrilled to hear from you.

Sen. Pat Roberts' office:

  • (913)451-9343
  • (620)227-2244
  • (785)295-2745
  • (316)263-0416
  • (202)224-4774

Sen. Jerry Moran's office:

  • (913)393-0711
  • (316)631-1410
  • (620)232-2286
  • (785)539-8973
  • (785)628-6401
  • (202)224-6521

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Colyer Staffs Up for Run?

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer added to his communications staff last week. Though the Lt. Governor hasn't had a director of communications for at least a year, he recently hired Laura McCabe, a communications consultant.

According to LinkedIn, McCabe is a former executive producer at KSHB-TV and the former director of communications for Jeff Colyer for Congress for three months in 2002. That was apparently a thing in 2002. I do not remember Colyer running for Congress, but it must have happened however briefly!

So, why has Colyer recently hired communications help? Why now? I do not have an answer, but my crystal ball says Colyer is considering a run at something. 

My Wayback Machine tells me that at one point, there was talk of Sen. Pat Roberts not serving out his full term if reelected in 2014. It was a poorly kept secret that Roberts was going to run for Senate for the 9,000th time to avoid a bloody primary that year (That happened anyway.) and step aside after two or four years of his six year term. At that point, Colyer was going to be appointed to finish the remainder of Roberts' term.

Something changed, and that plan was scrapped at least for the foreseeable future. (I hear Roberts' wife didn't want to leave the pork-filled trough of the Washington, D.C. inner circle, but I don't know if that's true.) And so, Colyer is now left to consider his political future after 2018. Enter a communications consultant, who was likely hired to carefully and gently put political space between Gov. Sam Brownback and the Lt. Governor, so Colyer can launch a run at some other office.

It's no secret Colyer wants to join the cocktail scene in D.C., but word on the street is that he may be eyeing the Governor's office. If he chooses that route, Colyer will face Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who sources say hasn't even finished the discussion of whether to run for Governor with her family. (Sorry, but I'm not buying that one, as there's wide speculation that Jenkins has already selected a Johnson County running mate.)

We may know more as the press releases and Colyer appearances under the tutelage of a new press expert are rolled out. Stay tuned.

Democrat Drops Out, Endorses So-Called Republican

A Democrat in Garden City dropped out of the Kansas Senate race yesterday, endorsing his so-called Republican opponent.

Zach Worf, a guy who has the good graces to call himself what he is, a Democrat, endorsed his opponent John Doll, a so-called Republican from Garden City, during a candidate forum.  Worf said Doll was "more prepared," after the candidates agreed with each on just about everything.

Seriously, dude, where's my party?

Doll said he supports Medicaid expansion. Both candidates want to open the wallets of Kansas citizens and launder the cash through the state to fund school administrator salaries. 

Doll is a former state representative who defeated Sen. Larry Powell in the August Republican primary.

I am going to once again beg someone, anyone to explain the difference between the people running as Kansas Democrats and the so-called mods running as Republicans throughout the state. 

Why even bother having elections anymore? Maybe we should just let Debbie Wasserman-Schultz choose state reps and state senators in Kansas? She's done such a bang up job choosing the Dems' candidate for President, and Republicans who are actually Republicans don't seem all that interested in candidates who are actually Republicans, so why not? 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kansas Supreme Court Launders Cash for School Attorneys

The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in school attorneys' never ending quest for more money. Watching that circus unfold was a lot like banging my head against the wall.

This time, the wealthy attorney, who has lined his pockets by taking bread out of the mouths of school children, said schools need gobs of additional funding to continue in their quests to dumb down future generations.

I'm sorry. These words are harsh, but I'm at my wits' end on this one. The Kansas Supreme Court heard a case based on a word that isn't actually IN Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. Yesterday, attorneys for the state of Kansas (taxpayers) and the country club guy hoping to secure a second yacht off the backs of taxpayers were debating over whether school funding is "adequate," having settled on whether it was "equitable." (By "settled", I mean legislators, with the help of the Governor, capitulated to the special interests of the teachers' unions last summer.)

"Equitable" and "adequate" are super nice words, but they aren't ACTUALLY part of the Kansas Constitution. These are words crafted by the Kansas Supreme Court and used to ensure that as long as a conservative holds the highest office in Kansas, there will never be enough money for Kansas schools.

The arguments on all sides of this issue are insane, especially since we all know what's about to occur: The Kansas Supreme Court is going to scribble an opinion saying public school funding is unconstitutional. This is a naked emperor, because the members of the Court selected by secret committee of lawyers just basically make up what is and isn't constitutional, using the opinion they wrote last week as legal precedent. (See the words "adequate" and "equitable.")

The wealthy attorney for the children school districts teachers union argued that the most expensive schools in Kansas history are failing kids so we should give them more cash. Seriously, that was his argument.

The state attorney basically argued that the state should be able to direct the money it currently gives schools to assist the students who are struggling. Um. We have to have the state Supreme Court offer its approval for the directing of state taxpayer resources? Guys, there's something wrong with this picture. Why do we even bother electing a legislature? Shouldn't we just hand over those keys to the state Supreme Court, since that's how we've been doing this since about 2005? (And probably earlier than that. 1992? It's hard to keep track of all the school funding lawsuits. Amazingly, the common theme in all the lawsuits is more money, more money, more money.)

Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, told media he thinks school boards understand the need to direct resources. And yet, his organization rejects the block grants, which essentially gave local school boards full control of how they spend the money given to them from the state. KASB loved the old formula that "weighted" students based on a number of factors. So a student who spoke a language other than English as a first language counted as more than 1 student. A student on the school lunch program counted as more than 1 student. A student who had an IEP counted as more than 1 student. Schools received funding based on the student population of weighted students. A school may have 1,000 students, but after weighting, that same school received base state aid per pupil of 3,400 students.  

This was always a horrible plan. I don't see how counting every student differently is "fair" or "equitable". Remember when the U.S. counted black Americans as 3/5ths of a person? Kansas' school funding formula essentially counted some students as more equal than others. As a former student who probably only counted as 1 instead of 1.5 or whatever, I'm a little offended.

I'm also offended by the criteria used to determine which students are more equal than others. Students on free and reduced lunches received extra weighting. Students on an IEP received extra weighting. This funding mechanism created an incentive to get parents and children to sign up for free and reduced lunches. It created an incentive to put more students on IEPs, or labeling these children as special needs. This includes "gifted" students as well.

If we're going to "weight" students so we can direct resources appropriately, we should weight them in a way that provides incentives to improve. Give schools bonus money when they improve instead of giving them more cash when they fail. (I realize that's not perfect. However, incentivizing failure really hasn't been working all that well.) 

There is no formula that will make the teachers' unions happy. They want as much money as possible with as little input from "non-educators" (parents and taxpayers) as possible. There is no solution that will appease them. How do I know this? The Kansas Association of School Boards is demanding $1 billion more in school funding next year, as if we can just pop out back of the Capitol and pick some cash off of the Kansas Money Tree. That's not how it works. 

Teachers unions don't just want to indoctrinate your children--they want parents to be so broke from tax burden that they HAVE to rely on the school to feed and care for their children via social programs. 

The tragedy of all this is that we can't have an honest conversation about any of it, because we have a partisan state Supreme Court acting as the tax collector to pad the pockets of wealthy attorneys and school administrators.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

So-Called Republican Campaigns for Actual Dem

In the JO, we've got a lot of Republican candidates on the ballot who are about as palatable as a plate of chicken liver. A few people like to eat the organ responsible for creating urine, but most people just can't stomach it.

I've promised myself I would do my best not to say unkind thing about the top of the Republican ticket. This election IS a binary choice. Sorry, Gary Johnson fans, and many voters in Johnson County have a choice between someone who admits to being a Democrat on the ticket and another who calls themselves a Republican so they can look like the cool kids at the Country Club meeting. (Or wherever the worst kinds of "Republicans" hang out these days.) 

A few weekends ago, a so-called Republican showed her true colors during the Old Settler's Day Parade. The good news is this once-Republican candidate lost her primary attempt. The bad news is half of her friends didn't. Kim Palcic, you'll recall, challenged Rep. Erin Davis in August. Palcic campaigned with and used the same political campaign outfit--ahem, Stephanie Sharp--in attempts to oust actual Republicans in August. While successful, it's quite telling that Sharp losers are now actively campaigning for Democrats. Tells us what we can probably expect from our new "Republican" candidates. (Probably all Obama voters, too.)

So, here's Palcic, walking in the Old Settler's Parade for state Democratic Senate candidate Chris Morrow. (Full disclosure: Chris Morrow is a personal friend, but his opponent, Sen. Julia Lynn, Republican, is a friend, too. And I am a conservative. End of story.)

And so, I think it's fair to question whether Palcic's allies in the August primaries are actually Republicans, though saying that out loud right now is paramount to treason. 

A few weeks ago, Congressman Kevin Yoder hosted Johnson County Republican primary winners at a breakfast during which he requested that candidates join hands and sing, Kum ba ya. 

Yoder has a special reason for attempting to unify the party: It appears he's worried that at least one actual Dem candidate, who shall remain nameless, could be a real contender for the Third District Congressional seat in the future. At the breakfast, Republican candidates were encouraged to focus on their own races and unify for the good of the party.  And so in solidarity--I wasn't there, but candidates who attended received a check--I have done my best not to bash the Democrats running as Republicans in the upcoming election. 

The struggle is so real. You can imagine this causes a few challenges, especially when the campaign materials for some so-called Republicans almost exactly mirrors the campaign materials for some Dems. (This also creates a special kind of voter confusion when there's an actual Republican running for say, House, in the same district as a became-a-Republican-last-week candidate for Senate.)

That said, Palcic is fair game, because she lost. And I must wonder, do the rest of the candidates who linked arms with the Mainstream Coalition and marched to the Sharp drum wish they could be out campaigning for the Dems? My guess is probably.

And while I've made a personal effort not to speak ill of the Republicans (for now), I STILL think it's fair game for voters and party leadership to demand a list from all candidates as to which items on the party platform they agree. For several JoCo candidates, it appears not many.

Monday, September 19, 2016

And This Guy Is on a List to Be Commerce Secretary

Rep. Mark Hutton is gunning for a job as Secretary of Commerce in a hypothetical Lynn Jenkins administration. (Jenkins will run for Governor in 2018. Stay tuned. I can give a list of those rumored to be on the ticket with her AND a short list of potential cabinet members as soon as my sources give the go ahead. <Taps foot>)

(Note: I'm hearing quite varied accounts on a hypothetical Jenkins run. Specifically, I'm told from people I trust that there IS a list of potential cabinet members and running mates and that there IS NOT a list. The rumor mill is in full swing.)

This may be the reason Hutton decided to throw flames at current Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan. Jordan penned an opinion piece for the Star and Wichita Eagle last week. Jordan argued that the LLC income tax exemption has created a a healthy environment for business growth. Hutton scribbled a stunning rebuke essentially saying individual earnings rightfully belong to the government. 

I feel like a broken record saying this, but I'll say it one more time: Good people can and do disagree about the LLC exemption. It's reasonable to discuss whether the policy is fair to all Kansans. It's reasonable to discuss whether the government is absconding collecting enough revenue to provide vital services.

There's nothing wrong with having the debate about a policy issue. That said, Hutton should probably be removed from consideration for any role dealing with revenue or economics, because his main argument shows a stunning misunderstanding of basic economic principles. He argues the tax policy should be scrapped because the savings individual business owners garnered via the LLC exemption aren't enough to add a single staff worker.

He writes:

You can't create a job with $1,046... It takes about $20,000 to pay a person minimum wage, including the payroll burden, and the average paycheck in Kansas is about $25,000. Less than 1 percent of the 331,174 tax filers realized enough tax savings to create a single job--and that's if you believe it only takes extra cash to create a job, regardless of whether or not the business has a task for the employee to perform.

I feel like beating my head on a desk, because I have to explain this, but here goes: The idea behind low taxes to increase growth is simply this: If 300,000 of the small business owners who received tax relief of $1,000 decided to use the extra money to install a single window in their businesses, that's millions, which would employ quite a few new window installers. More simply put: Individuals can spend their money better than government can.

I guess Hutton believes that in order for a tax incentive to be worthwhile, it needs to save every individual an average of $20,000 to $25,000 per year. I'm fine with that target, but my math says that won't work. Most people don't pay that much in the first place.

And if a policy goal is simply to create jobs that pay the Kansas average, why don't we just take everyone's earnings over $25,000? The government could create SO many jobs that way. Oh wait. That kind of thing has been tried before about a million times throughout human history. It starts with people waiting in bread lines slowly starving, followed by riots, wars, and piles of bodies. 

I will give Hutton credit for his admission that government hasn't done a reasonable job of controlling costs. Back in 2012 when this tax plan was initiated, the budget presented to legislators included a variety of pay-fors. Making cuts is politically difficult, so to pass a budget, it required a compromise--one many conservatives should have refused to support. Part of that was a sales tax increase and the other was just removing spending cuts. Brownback signed it, but he wasn't the author of it. That was Sen. Vicki Schmidt and former Sen. John Vratil, so-called moderates, who were content to craft a burn-it-down budget. The tax plan we're arguing about today should rightfully be called the Schmidt plan or the Vratil plan. (Dear Brownback, please learn from this. When presented with a Sophie's Choices sure to be presented by the next legislature, do yourself a favor and veto. OR, if you are unwilling to do that, let their garbage become law without your signature. Please!)

If we're going to have a debate about the LLC exemption, then we need to be careful to argue it in ways that don't damage the very foundation behind the fight for smaller government and more freedom. We need to remember that when we are talking about taxes, the state budget, and revenue, we're not talking about government's money. Government didn't earn it. Government didn't produce it. Small business owners earned that money. Politicians can debate all day about how much money is needed to efficiently fund government, and I will ALWAYS argue the dollar amount required is far less than any politician suggests. When Republicans take part in that debate, they need to remember that the money they're talking about is money they intend to take out of the pockets of the people who earned it, and debate accordingly.

Hutton's opinion reads as if he believes government should be in charge of all the money, and the plebes who earned it by producing something or serving others should get an allowance from our government overlords. I thought all Republicans agreed that the free market is great policy in general, and any Republican who doesn't believe that probably shouldn't be in charge of Kansas revenue or commerce in a future administration.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kansas Roads Get an A; Liberals Remain Stompy

The caterwauling about Kansas roads is reaching epic proportions, and it makes absolutely no sense at all. As usual, Kansas roads are in peak condition, but because Gov. Sam Brownback exists, everyone has to make an issue of it.

Last week, the Kansas Department of Transportation issued a press release revealing that Kansas roads exceeded targets. The vast majority of Kansas roads are in "good" or "very good" condition. The state's performance target was 85 percent of roads meeting that standard. In 2016, 96.7 percent of interstates and 91.7 percent of state highways met the goal. And yet, the liberals scream. (By the way, those numbers of Kansas' road performance came from the feds. The numbers didn't come from the Brownback administration. They were just reporting the numbers given to them by the feds.)

Guys, I don't get it. I am doing my level best, but I've got nothing. The people who are saying Kansas roads are in deplorable condition apparently don't have driver's licenses, and seriously I'll have a little bit of whatever those people are smoking. 

I have a driver's license and a car, and I get behind the wheel almost every single day in Johnson County. You can't swing a gear stick without driving through orange barrels. There were times this summer when getting from point A to point B without sitting in a road construction induced traffic jam was impossible. Every.single.road.was.under.construction. Cruising Interstate 35 this summer was a special kind of torture.

I have a special request of everyone reading: Please, when you read the never ending stories about how Kansas is falling apart, stop and think if that's something you've witnessed with your very own eyes. When someone tells you we're not spending money on roads, ask yourself if that's true in your experience. Don't just take some so-called journalist's word for it, because I am telling you, that so-called journalist or editorialist bemoaning the state of Kansas' roads has an agenda, and if he is scribbling that the Kansas roadway system is in shambles, that agenda isn't truth.

Stand Up Kicks Conservatives

Stand Up Blue Valley--the organization we're all supposed to believe is just a bunch of soccer moms--hosted a candidate forum earlier this week. In theory, the goal of the forum was to give voters a chance to learn about statehouse candidates. In reality, Stand Up Blue Valley used it as an opportunity to demagogue. (I'm shocked. I tell you. Stunned.)

The forum was moderated by Sam Zeff, who somehow has a job at a Kansas City taxpayer funded radio station, KCUR. Zeff appeared to take imminent joy in launching gotcha questions at Republican incumbents Sen. Jim Denning and Rep. James Todd during the event. 

The Stand Up event isn't the first time Zeff has taken a shameful turn. When he worked for KCTV 5 in 2007, registered Democrat Zeff stalked a young teacher, attempting to determine whether Phill Kline lived at the teacher's address. Acting as a special projects editor for KCTV 5, he also harassed Kline's landlord, following him and even following him into a cemetery! It freaked the landlord out so much he called the Johnson County Sheriff's Office. 

After sitting outside Kline's apartment for days, Zeff eventually tried to break into Kline's apartment. Most disgracefully, Zeff followed Kline's teenage daughter. It made her so nervous that her mother called police. Even Pitch Weekly called the attempts of Zeff and KCTV 5 reporter, Ash-Har Quraishi, shoddy journalism. The left-leaning Pitch actually wrote a story defending Phill Kline against the actions of Zeff. 

Let's just say that prior to pretending to be an impartial moderator at a Stand Up Blue Valley event, Zeff was experienced at picking targets and aggressively attempting to discredit them up to the point of having police called on him. Repeatedly.

There were a lot of ridiculous moments during the event, but perhaps the most nutty was Democrats calling the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, "sinister." (Hilariously enough, the person calling ALEC "sinister" to crowd approval was Skip Fannen, a Democrat running against Republican John Skubal--Stand Up Blue Valley's premier candidate in the August primary. Skubal beat Sen. Jeff Melcher, you'll recall in August. I'll be quite curious to see whether the organization continues its support of Skubal into November. My guess is probably not.)

As one attendee said, Zeff asked BS questions with the express purpose of making jabs at Denning and Todd. To some attendees, it appeared that the Democrats had been given the questions in advance. The good news is both Denning and Todd gave substantive answers and facts, while other attendees used, as one attendee put it, "empty rhetoric and grandstanding."

This forum certainly wasn't fair, nonpartisan ground for all attendees, and anyone who suggests such a thing should be laughed off the planet.

Denning and Todd deserve credit for attending the forum, but guys, we, grassroots people, have to work on this for next cycle. During the primary, a common refrain heard on doorsteps was that conservatives were inaccessible; they didn't attend forums. Now I don't blame any candidate for choosing to avoid the lion's den that is a forum hosted by a leftist, socialist group, but this is something we, as grassroots people can do. We can plan and host actual nonpartisan forums. I'm not even opposed to finding open-minded liberals who want a fair, honest, and accurate opportunity for voters to get to know candidates. Those people exist. They are not, however, members of Stand Up Blue Valley.

This well-funded group isn't what it claims to be. From answers at the forum, it appears their main concern is padding the pockets of the Kansas National Education Association. As one national teacher's union president once said, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children." 

Stand Up Blue Valley is supposedly a group of concerned parents so interested in the welfare of children that they let a guy accused of stalking a teenager moderate their forum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Newspaper Attempts to Wrangle a Scandal at State Fair

It’s mostly fun and games at the state fair, but one news organization isn’t having any of it. The Hutchinson News is attempting to back the bus over Gov. Sam Brownback for his recent appointment to the Kansas State Fair Board.

Brownback could save a drowning toddler from a municipal pool, and the media would turn it into a story about how Brownback’s state funding of municipal services was responsible for the toddler falling into the water. And so, of course, when Brownback made an appointment to the lesser known (in JoCo, at least) board, the scribblers sensed blood in the water.

A Hutch News story begins: “Gov. Sam Brownback appointed Hutchinson business executive Matt Lowen to the Kansas State Fair Board this year even though his qualifications were the weakest on paper among the nominees forwarded to the Governor.”

That’s quite a subjective start for a news piece.

The reporter, Mary Clarkin, goes even bolder, naming who she thinks was the most qualified candidate for the gig.

“The strongest candidate on the letter submitted to the Governor’s office was West McArthur of Minneapolis, Kansas.”

McArthur told the newspaper that the selection of Matt Lowen, a Hutchinson businessman, was political.

Um. Yes, that’s how all of these appointments by politicians to boards work. All of them, and not just Brownback’s appointments to boards.  I mean, President Obama gave Kathleen Sebelius the job of running one-sixth of the U.S. economy. I’m still waiting for the breathless story about how she was appointed as a political favor. She was clearly not qualified, and she botched it in epic fashion.

I’m told that some of McAurther’s words to the Hutch News reporter were left on the cutting room floor. He serves on the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation, and it would be very surprising if he didn’t mention something like his ultimate goal is to make the fair a success.

Of course, kind, decent words didn’t fit the narrative, and so, we get instead the few words he said about appointments being political. Well, yes, and this Hutch News story with its breathless accusations of wrongdoing, is political as well. You can trace the Hutch News’ ire back to one person-- Terry Bruce.

Brownback’s choice for the board, Lowen, was the treasurer for Bruce’s campaign. Bruce is a state senator who lost his re-election bid in the August primary.

There are 13 members of the Kansas State Fair Board. Some are at-large; others are related to specific roles. For example, the Kansas Extension Office has a presence on the board. The Governor appoints to the board but candidates for different seats must meet some statutory requirements. The at-large appointments are simply the Governor’s choice. Others, like Lowen, must meet some requirements like having ag interests, but that ag interest may be as little as owning some farmland.

The Extension Office parses through the candidates and forwards three names to the Governor from which to pick. Originally, the extension office forwarded the names of the incumbent, Brad Rayl, who had served on the board for 20 years; McArthur, and Lowen.

Rayl withdrew his name from contention, and the extension office replaced it with Christopher Charlton. Charlton sells ads for the Hutchinson News. No conflict of interest there, Hutch News!

The appointment statute makes no mention of “most qualified” or “person the Extension Office likes best.” It’s simply a binary option--either the candidate meets the requirements or they do not, and the extension office sent the Governor’s office a letter saying that all three nominees, McArthur, Lowen, and Charlton had ag interest.

You would think that Hutchinson folks would be happy to have a local businessman on the slate of the largest event in the community, but the Brownback appointment of someone who is friends with Terry Bruce was just too rich for the newspaper to ignore. (Instead, I would suggest that the Hutch News should consider doing an expose on who insures the fair and the connections to fair leadership. Word on the street is there’s a story there, if some journalist wants to take a brief reprieve from screeds about the evil of Sam Brownback.)

Lowen met the requirements, and the Governor appointed a successful businessman to the State Fair Board. This will probably be a good thing for the fair. All appointments have an element of politics, and it’s ridiculous to pretend there weren’t politics behind the other top candidates for the fair board gig.

There’s really nothing to see here. The Hutch News is trying to wrangle up controversy where there should be none. They would be wiser to just grab a Pronto Pup and enjoy the fair instead.

(Full disclosure: Many years ago, I worked for the Hutchinson News, very, very briefly.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Kansas Trump Connection

The Kansas connection to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump runs deep. Trump's coalition adviser, Alan Cobb, is a Kansan, and Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback have both signed on as agriculture advisers. Brownback told an audience last week that he'll be named to another Trump campaign advisory committee at some point soon. 

And now, Kansas state Rep. Willie Dove is featured in the B roll of a Trump campaign ad. Watch below:

Friday, September 9, 2016

These Victims Are Not Partisan

Johnson County voters spared members of the Kansas Supreme Court in 2014. The voters showed much more empathy for Kansas Supreme Court Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson than those men showed for victims of the Carr brothers. Rosen and Johnson were retained to the bench receiving 52 percent of 'yes' votes in the 2014 retention election.

Had the election been left up to Wichita voters, those justices would have been tossed off the bench. Why were Wichita voters so enraged by those two judges? And why didn't Kansas City-area folks know the full vile story of what occurred in Wichita on Dec. 14, 2000? And most importantly, what does all of that have to do with the 2016 judicial retention election? 

Allow me to explain. Set aside your breakfast unless you want to see it a second time.

On Dec. 14, 2000, Jonathan Carr, 20, and his brother Reginald Carr, 22, busted into a Wichita apartment where they discovered roommates Jason Befort, Brad Heyka, and Aaron Sander. Jason's girlfriend, HG; and Aaron's friend, Heather Mueller. It's difficult to find HG's name, because on the night of Dec. 14, she became a rape victim, and those victims are rarely identified in the press.

(The following is graphic and violent and devastating.)

When the Carr brothers busted in waving guns and golf clubs, they demanded that Jason, Brad, Aaron, HG and Heather remove their clothes. The brothers--by this time on a crime spree that included car jacking, robbing another man and shooting a cellist, who would eventually die of her injuries-- took HG and Heather to the bedroom. HG and Heather were forced to perform oral sex on one another. Eventually, the Carr brothers forced their male hostages to have sex with both women. (When Jason was unable to perform, HG assisted him so that he wouldn't be killed for it.) 

For her efforts, HG was raped by Jonathan Carr. He then raped Heather. Then the hostages got a brief reprieve from the sexual degradation as the brothers loaded each into the car and took them to various ATMs where they were forced to withdraw cash. When they returned back to the apartment, the brothers found an engagement ring Jason had purchased for HG. So, Reginald took HG to the dining room and raped her on the floor. He ejaculated in her mouth and forced her to swallow, and then Jonathan raped both women one more time.

Three hours after the torture began, the brothers loaded their hostages, barely clothed, into a car. The men were stuffed in the trunk of Aaron's car. The women were in passenger seats, one in Aaron's car driven by Jonathan, and the other in Jason's pickup driven by Reginald. The brothers drove them to a snowy field, forced them to kneel in the snow, and shot them all in the back of the head. Aaron pleaded for his life. HG was shot fifth, though she remained on her knees after the shot, the brothers kicked her face first into the snow and ran over her with the pickup truck before driving away.

HG survived because a her hair barrette deflected the bullet. She went to Jason and removed her sweater--the only thing she was wearing--and wrapped it around his head to try to stifle bleeding from his eye. She checked on the others and ran for more than a mile to the nearest house, diving into the snow face first every time a car passed as she was afraid it may be the brothers returning to finish the job.

The brothers didn't find her. They were too busy heading back to the apartment to ransack and loot it further. They stole valuables and in a final act of depraved violence, beat HG's dog, Nikki, to death with a golf club.

  • Jason Befort was 26. He was a science teacher and an assistant baseball coach at Augusta High School, planning to propose to his girlfriend, HG, also a teacher.
  • Aaron Sander was 29 and a graduate student at Wichita State University. He was planning to join the priesthood.
  • Brad Heyka was 27. He was a financial analyst.
  • Heather Muller was 25 and a church preschool teacher. 

That night, the Carr brothers tortured and demeaned five people before ending the lives of four of them. For their crimes, a Kansas jury unanimously sentenced the brothers to death.

I personally am opposed to the death penalty, though I waver on that position. The Carr brothers are quite the argument in favor of capital punishment. Law abiding citizens must always fear that no matter how abhorrent the crime, some liberal may come along and just let the most egregious murderers back on the street. I note that the recidivism rate for those who receive capital punishment is 0 percent. 

What I think about the death penalty is irrelevant. It is the law in Kansas, and the U.S. Supreme Court has continually held that capital punishment is constitutional.

Members of the Kansas Supreme Court, apparently, think their personal beliefs were more important than the law, and they ruled as such, overturning the Carr brothers' death sentence on appeal in 2002. That must have been a lovely moment for HG, the lone survivor, who now had to suffer through another agonizing news cycle in which the Carr brothers were relieved of some of the punishment for their heinous crimes. 

The state of Kansas appealed the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to the highest court in the land. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court take the case, the Supreme Court justices ruled in near unanimous fashion that the Kansas Supreme Court used questionable judgment in overturning the death penalty sentence. Eight of nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court said they rejected the Kansas Supreme Court's decision. Even the liberals' beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg signed on to the opinion reversing the Kansas Supreme Court's decision. (Justice Sotomayor dissented, because she did not believe the Supreme Court should have reviewed the case. Her dissent is really something strange. She basically wrote that the Kansas Supreme Court was being overprotective of the citizenry and that states should be allowed to experiment. Seriously, it's weird.)

Specifically, the U.S. Court rejected claims that Kansas jurors weren't given clear enough instructions. The Court rejected the idea that each brother's sentence was prejudiced by being tried alongside one another. 

"In light of all the evidence presented at the guild and penalty phases relevant to the jury's sentencing determination, the contention that the admission of evidence by one brother could have so infected the jury's consideration of the other's sentence as to amount to a denial of due process is beyond the pale," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a scathing rebuke to the Kansas court.

"It is improper to vacate a death sentence based on pure 'speculation' of fundamental unfairness 'rather than on reasoned judgment,'" Scalia wrote.

Judgement is the entire purpose of the Kansas Supreme Court, and the Kansas Court, as it existed in 2002, didn't use it. That's not just my opinion, and it's not just the opinion of victims of that brutal crime and their families. It's the opinion of the United States' highest court. 

Liberals and people trying to defend their questionable legacies--that's you, former Kansas Govs. Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Graves, Mike Hayden and John Carlin-- are attempting to sell the story that the movement to remove Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier, and Dan Biles is a political movement designed by Republicans just to be mean. 

Conservatives do have reason to remove these self-serving individuals who make rulings based on their own biases as opposed to the law. The justices have politicized the retention elections in hope of retaining their little empires.

They should be ashamed for forcing HG to relive what was likely the very worst night of her life repeatedly in the justices' quest to make law rather than interpret it. And every Kansan should be appalled at the four former Governors for attempting to discredit a group of victims and their families for seeking the only redress they can: The removal of the justices who prolonged their suffering. 

Kansas law provides a remedy for removing justices who refuse to exercise good judgement. Members of the Kansas Supreme Court aren't promised lifetime appointments. Voters can vote against keeping those people in office, and voters should exercise that right come November.