Here’s a very good piece on Kansas politics written by Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network. Karl has amazing knowledge of Kansas politics and politicians of the past two decades. I wish he would write a book about it.
Kansas Media Spin on Moderates and Conservatives
Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network
The liberal Republican Steve Rose has taken a break from advocating tax hikes to editorialize in the Johnson County Sun newspapers contrasting the difference between GOP “moderates” and “conservatives.” He does this without mentioning fiscal, property rights and other issues. I’m copying Rose’s commentary at the end of this response for your inspection.
In this commentary Rose cites the pathetic left-wing Iola Register owned and operated by the Lynn family. Emerson Lynn’s daughter Susan now runs this daily southeastern KS newspaper with a gradually shrinking paid circulation of 3,803 subscribers. Emerson never found a statewide tax hike proposal that he didn’t like. He never found a fiscal conservative that he did. Emerson is a liberal in a conservative county in a conservative state and so he tried to influence public policy the way that liberals who dominate the Kansas news media do: they back the liberal faction in the Republican Party at whenever time they think it matters. If the Democrats have a chance, they back them. If the Bolsheviks had an electable candidate on the ballot and occasionally a couple win GOP nominations in certain areas of Johnson County, they would back them.
The liberal Kansas media lets liberals, like Governor Sebelius, campaign as “fiscal conservatives,” while she prevaricated on whether she’d support raising taxes or not while running for office in 2002. Like her predecessor, once the inconvenience of the election was behind her, she was looking for places to spend more tax money. Higher taxes then became part of the scene. See her 2004 tax hike scheme. Her proposal in December for a tax cut on machinery and equipment is an election year ploy that is needed as a starting point but inadequate to restoring a competitive Kansas. It might be enough to help her reelection prospects on the fiscal front.
I had hoped that Lynn’s daughter would turn the Iola Register both fiscally and editorially around when I heard that she had taken over from Emerson but I suspect that is probably a faint hope based upon the word I’ve heard from KTN supporters who see that paper regularly. I suspect Susan is more like her counterpart running the N.Y. Times than a David Horowitz.
If you are in a “red” county in the “red” state of Kansas and you want a career or role in KS politics you often become a Republican even if down deep your politics are more socialist or just another big government advocate. That explains part of the voter registration disparity here.
Just look at the “moderate” Republicans who have voted against protecting private property from eminent domain abuse. When this was voted upon in a floor amendment in the Kansas senate last year it was mainly conservatives and some Democrats trying to stop this abuse. GOP “moderates” were uniform in clobbering property rights.
Liberal Republicans in Kansas are well connected and often have business ties to the spending lobbies or certain developers with connections who don’t want to negotiate with unhappy landowners. That’s one of the reasons for the liberal Republicans desire for expanding the ability of local units to grab private property.
A few days ago I posted the fiscal vote ratings of four former state senators (Bond, Buhler, Emert, and Langworthy) who are part of the latest liberal Republican effort to “take back,” the Kansas Republican Party. Based on their votes that I have seen while monitoring the Kansas legislature from 1993 to the present here is what these four GOP “moderates” stand for (their average KTN fiscal vote rating: of 27.4% (I’m including Buhler in this too) is actually lower than the very liberal Democrat leader Sen. Hensley’s vote rating. It doesn’t matter whether you look at between 1996-2000 or 1996-2005, their combined score is below Hensley’s on fiscal matters.
Expanding taxes, preferably on consumer and excise taxed items but income and property tax hikes are not beyond the pall–look at former RINO (Republican In Name Only) Rep. Bill Kassebaum’s tax hike proposals in 2004; expanding bonded indebtedness (a number of bond houses have traditionally helped fund the KS GOP) without voters having any say; using the property tax appraisal process to automatically generate additional state and local taxes and stopping automatic income tax hikes; weakening 2nd amendment provisions and making Kansas one of only four states without any sort of conceal carry law; stop any laws that would limit or restrict abortions; tried unsuccessfully to kill the marriage amendment and keep it from getting to voters; stop voter referendums particularly on fiscal issues like property taxes and non school bonding by local units; expand select businesses ability to use their local government contacts to do eminent domain and grab property on the cheap; often vote against any death penalty legislation; defend the school spending lobby’s efforts to expand school spending without providing accountability or choice; and keep the political power in the hands of bipartisan “experts” who receive suitable cover from the news media while expanding government faster than our ability to pay for it. This last point is crucial because it explains why there was a large number of GOP “moderates” siding with Democrats to protect the activist and Democrat dominated (5 of 7 judges are registered Democrats) Kansas Supreme Court from any legislative or citizen response to their spending edicts in the school finance lawsuit.
This also explains why the “economic development” seems to center around narrow projects or narrow provisions in the law to help various special interests instead of a broader policy that benefits all Kansans and levels the playing field and strengthens the rule of law. Instead, there are too often special benefits for special folks.
These policies, that are often hard to distinguish between the moderate GOP and Democrat governors in this state over the last 50 years explains why there is low interest in politics among some Kansans: 1) few meaningful differences between liberal factions–the GOP liberals are more pro-business on workers compensation or unemployment insurance than AFL-CIO Democrats and rearranging the decks chairs at SRS seem like their big issues but for many Kansans these issues are secondary to issues like taxes or abortion; 2) regardless of election results the same group of insiders keeps rotating between the top state positions; 3) elections that are more often dominated by personality than policies; 4) continuing to limit the ability of the people to participate either through tax referendums, bond votes, and binding votes on other issues reduces voter interest and hence participation; 5) a political structure where many candidates are unopposed in both (or either) primary and general elections; 6) this is why many Kansas governors have been Democrats because they could easily run to the right of these spend and tax Republicans.
Here are some examples of how this works in practice naming some of the names: 1) Dave Corbin is a RINO senator who loses his senate seat in 2004 and is shortly thereafter hired into the Sebelius administration’s revenue department; 2) Sebelius and Graves retain their predecessors from the theoretically “opposite” political parties in the critical position as budget directors; 3) Former RINO Governor Mike Hayden is now serving in the Sebelius cabinet–hey, he needs a job; 4) One of the candidates seeking to replace Democrat State Rep. Bruce Larkin ran for the GOP nomination to that state senate seat (dist. 1) that covers that same area in 2004 as a GOP “moderate”; 5) Look at the numerous “Republicans for Moore,” “Republicans for Sebelius,” and “Republicans for (fill in the blank for your favorite left-wing Democrat)” organizations: Audrey Langworthy, Tim Emert (former senate majority leader and current law partner to the current senate majority leader) were both prominent Republicans for Sebelius members, as well as a large cast of other “moderate” folks whose policies are LIBERAL in office and often become more liberal once they get bumped out of office; 6) Legislators “hand off” their seats to hand picked successors by resigning in mid-term. Conservatives are learning this latter maneuver and are almost as good at doing this as liberal Republicans or Democrats.
These self-described GOP “moderates” claim national ties to the Republican Party but seem out-of-step with the national GOP and President Bush. These are the same folks who had no use for a conservative like Ronald Reagan 20 years ago. President Bush has signed a pledge not to raise taxes and has succeeded in getting two major tax cutting bills passed as well as repatriation of overseas corporate money which has strengthened the U.S. dollar. In contrast, Kansas GOP moderates prefer raising taxes, fees, and other “revenue enhancements,” (see KTN’s vote ratings at www.kansastaxpayers.com for details).
Bush is pro-life on abortion and conservative on defending marriage from activist judges. Kansas GOP moderates are not. Bush is from Texas where conceal carry has been working for ages and the death penalty is not a legal joke like it is here. GOP moderates have been successful in stifling these policies in Kansas. Actually, GOP liberals in Kansas are more of a throw back to an earlier GOP president and I’m not thinking of Eisenhower. Think Nixon. Think “we’re all Keynesians now,” with wage and price controls, more federal bureaucracy (think what was then new agencies like OSHA/EPA), higher taxes, and expanding government lands and employees. While a Democratically controlled U.S. Congress hindered Nixon the buck stops with the top elected official whether it is in Washington or one of the 50 statehouses and KS GOP moderates are very Nixonian in their use of government.
GOP “moderates” campaign as “conservatives” when they run for office. I remember voting for the “fiscal conservatives.” I could name some folks but let me stick with former Governor Graves. Bill Graves’ first campaign for governor was successful because he campaigned as a fiscal conservative advocating a constitutional lid on state spending growth (it didn’t hurt that 1994 was a great year to run as a Republican anywhere). He did everything he could to get away from that promise after being elected. Graves is a prototype for the successful “moderate” Republican. He holds only one elected office that has only administrative functions so his policy positions are largely a blank slate; he campaigns as a “fiscal conservative” but begins “growing in office” almost the day after he is sworn in; he’s personally wealthy so campaign fund raising is not as critical for his candidacy; and now that he’s left office he’s bailed out of Kansas and cashing in as a national trucking lobbyist. Ain’t politics great in Kansas!