Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): April 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Skinny on KSRA & Its One Time Lobbyist (Also featuring Ray Merrick and Ralph Ostmeyer)

Let's backtrack, shall we?

At the close of the regular session, circa March -- yeah, that's last month -- a few legislators drafted legislation that would expand gun rights in Kansas. The proposed pieces of legislation would have:

  • Lowered the age for conceal carry licenses from 21 to 18;
  • Required that buildings that receive public funding or financing allow those with conceal carry to carry in the buildings or provide adequate security -- so be treated as public buildings;
  • Required that public housing allow renters to have guns.
When legislators suggested these pieces of legislation to a lobbyist for the Kansas State Rifle Association -- Mike Murray -- he was not impressed.

Following a brief snit with these legislators, the lobbyist reportedly yelled that the legislation would mean some Republicans would not get re-elected if asked to take a stand on those pieces of legislation. Now, I'm no policy expert, BUT I am fairly certain that outside of certain circles like Lawrence and KCK -- where Republicans don't really have much of a toe-hold and where we certainly don't have any state legislators -- no one has ever been thrown out of office in Kansas for support of the Second Amendment.

But I digress: So Mike had a bit of a snit with some legislators over legislation he opposed personally. And he took that fight right to the top -- Speaker Ray Merrick, who ensured the bills wouldn't see the light of day in the House -- and Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, who is doing his best to ensure that gun legislation dies in the Senate today.

Back in late March, when KSRA officials heard that their own lobbyist was working against their interests, members of the KSRA board called Murray onto the carpet. Rumor has it that at this particular meeting, Murray said something along the lines of (and note to Murray's attorneys, I'm paraphrasing) And that's why I don't work well with women. KSRA's president appears to have 'XX' chromosomes. I don't want to offend anyone by calling her a women on the off chance she "identifies" as something else.

Anyway, Murray was canned as a KSRA lobbyist, but he's waiving papers around Topeka complaining that he was wronged. Meanwhile, gun legislation is at a stand still because some lobbyist dude and friend of Ray and Ralph has his Fruit of the Looms twisted.

From where I'm standing this looks like a pissing contest in which a handful of old school legislators and a lobbyist from yesteryear are trying to show their prowess by shooting long streams. Unfortunately, it looks like the people of Kansas are getting caught in the cross stream.

Passing This Along for a Friend

In the final throes of the legislative session, this is when things get crazy.

I do not know the details, and I really don't have time to find out before it's a moot point. I'll simply say I trust the person who alerted me, and I'll leave it at that. You can decide whether you trust me, and whether it's of the importance to heed this call to action:

Word on the T-town street is that the Kansas Sen. Fed and State Chair, Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, is holding up SB 65, a bill supported by the Kansas State Rifle Association. 

The bill in question would allow public employees to carry concealed weapons in municipally owned vehicles, and rumor has it, Ostmeyer is refusing to forward House Sub for SB 65, because he's pals with Mike Murray, a former KSRA lobbyist who was let go by the KSRA. 

I am uncomfortable ascribing motives to individuals and prefer to focus on their actions. So, I can't say whether Ostmeyer's foot dragging is related to his friendship with Murray or something else. But -- he is holding up the legislation.

So, those of you who are so inclined, please call Ostmeyer's office and ask him to move this legislation. His office number is (785)296-7399. Or you can email him at Ralph.Ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov.

Who ARE these people?

Almost daily, Kansans who don't live in shacks in the woods are forced to listen to nonstop drivel about the eeeevil Gov. Sam Brownback and his diabolical plan to let people keep more of their own money.

I realize that the Kansas budget has a problem, and I recognize the wise consideration legislators are giving to closing the unintended consequences of the LLC loophole. That said, I STILL believe that Kansas has more of a spending problem, and I'm also not opposed to just starving the bureaucratic beast.

Legislators returned to Topeka on Wednesday, and the Senate spent part of Thursday debating closing the loophole. From the outside looking in, it really appears that legislators are digging in their heels. I can't even guess how this one ends. 

But I do know that for the next few weeks, we'll likely be daily bombarded with quips from this group -- the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.Their drivel is tiresome, that's for sure. This outfit sprung out of nowhere in 2013. They snuck up on the Sunflower State like an uncle with boundary issues. And can I just note that today's "economic growth" is yesterday's "for the children?" At one time, no spending was too bloated if it was "for the children." Today, we can never spend enough in pursuit of "economic growth." 

An avid news reader can't throw an elbow without running into a quote from the KCEG or one of its leaders. (It boasts a staff of four people, including a lady who worked at the University of Kansas, some guy from Minnesota and a woman who has an English degree, so almost the Kansas equivalent of a degree in puppetry.)

I have some truly unkind thoughts about these people, but I'll spare you. With the exception of Duanne Goossen, the sour grapes former budget director who truly helmed the USS Kansas into the side of a budget iceberg, they are all quasi-private citizens, and I'm polite. So I'll spare you my thoughts on the individuals involved.

I will NOT however spare the media nor the organization itself. Just who is this group of has-beens attempting to direct public policy?

That's where it gets interesting. 

Their website describes them as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and analysis to promote balanced state polices that ensure that all Kansans prosper."

First, we can throw out "nonpartisan." I have yet to find a single story in which this group offers any solution that doesn't involve bashing Brownback or conservative principles. That appears to be the organization's raison d'etre. 

If they're a "non-partisan" organization, then I am, too. Please send checks, and I'll start testifying in Topeka and knocking people over to get in front of news cameras to offer my "research" and "analysis." Seriously, send checks.

And let's chat about the questionable term "nonprofit" as used in the organization's description. Nonprofits are required to file an IRS Form 990, but according to Guidestar.com, no such org exists. You're welcome to check it out yourself, but here's a screenshot:

They're also not registered as a corporation in Kansas with the Kansas Secretary of State's Office. 

Please compare, for example, the way the Topeka Capital-Journal describes this outfit to the way the journalists at the Cap-J describe the Kansas Policy Institute -- a think tank with a very similar description, albeit one that has filed forms with the IRS and the Secretary of State's Office.

So just who is this outfit, and for the love of all things holy, why is the media just taking them at their word?

As one savvy person recently suggested to me that, "the Kansas Center for Economic Growth doesn't actually exist and is perhaps a shell organization with a fancy-sounding name that exists to criticize the Brownback administration on economic matters."

I'd add only one thing, and it's something that so-called fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal don't seem to grasp: Morals are directly tied to dollars and cents. There's a reason most fiscal conservatives align with social conservatives. Finances and morals are inextricably tied together. I don't believe that the KCEG's sole political focus is financial. That's the story they're selling -- poorly, albeit with ample assistance from the media -- and that outfit is a beast likely to grow more (social left-leaning) heads. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oh, Look, Squirrel!

Liberals today are in an uproar because Gov. Sam Brownback announced that Kansas would withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program.

I'm largely indifferent to this announcement, but I have had about enough of the liberal twits suggesting that Brownback's announcement is a slight of hand designed to divert attention from Kansas' budget situation.

These are the people who spend 90 percent of every single day demanding that men in dresses be given access to women's locker rooms. If that's not a diversion from more pressing topics, I don't know what is. 

Stick a sock in it, libs. Seriously.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pompeo Exit

One more thing: I am going to leave this here

Congressman Mike Pompeo doesn't have very nice things to say about what occurred as he contemplated a run for the Senate. Stay tuned. 

I'll be very curious to learn about the insider shenanigans. I'll let you know what I find!

Pain and Suffering

Mike Pompeo will NOT run against Sen. Jerry Moran. Apparently, Congressman Pompeo got out of bed this morning and realized he didn't have the resources to run a statewide campaign against an incumbent Senator on short notice.

I am annoyed. I can't say I was going to support Pompeo, but his actions were like asking a girl to prom a week before the big event and then canceling when he realizes he can't find a tux to rent in his size. 

I hadn't bought a dress yet, but I'd already secured a corsage. I am annoyed.

Also, the fact that Pompeo just *supposedly* came to this recognition all of a sudden calls into question his judgment. I mean, everyone in the state knew it was short notice. Why was he so slow on the uptake? 

I guess this means reluctant Jerry Moran supporters will support Moran. Warning to Sen. Moran, you may have escaped a serious primary challenge this time, but please be on notice -- no more stupidity on Garland. No more sponsoring of bills that bloat the government and give more power to bureaucrats. No more. No more. No more.

Blech. Politicians. 

Dems Brawl

Over here in the land of reality, a Kansas reporter has noticed that when you put 5 Democrats in a room together, they don't necessarily always agree.

This is quite stunning, actually -- the fact that a reporter reported something that makes the Dems look petty and small. 

Typically, the Dems can rally and walk in lockstep on any issue -- no matter how ridiculous and stupid. (I give you the bathroom wars, which suggest that your chromosomes don't make you male or female. As an aside, if I ever hear the party of the anti-Christ lecture another soul on "science" ever again, I'm going to lose it.)

So, this weekend, auspiciously timed to avoid the any real audience, (ahem. Friday afternoon) the Lawrence Journal-World revealed that Sen. Minority Leader Anthony Hensley is raging mad at the Dems who voted "pass" on school funding bill. 

It's comical, because there are only 8 Democrats in the entire Kansas Senate. It's like Hensley wants even less power and influence than Kansas Dems have today. Hensley sent a text message to Lawrence's Marci Francisco saying "You vote to undermine my leadership all the time. To vote pass on a bill that is clearly unconstitutional is a travesty to the education community... I'm done with you."

It's funny, because Kansans were finished with the Dems a long time ago. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Taxing and Spending (Cuts)

Members of the Kansas Legislature head back to Topeka next week for a session finale that is sure to be a super imbroglio. (That's not the word I wanted to use, but this is a family blog. I just know scores of 4th graders are pouring over my scribblings.)

Anyway, the big item on the legislative agenda will be (again) filling an enormous budget hole -- projected at the time of this scribbling to be $300 million over the next 15 months. 

Some members of the legislature want to close an unintended consequence from the 2012 tax bill. 2012's HB 2117 encouraged businesses to restructure to LLCs to avoid paying income taxes. No one can blame business owners for a savvy business decision, and I certainly don't blame these poor souls, many of whom were summarily overtaxed for decades, for wanting to hang onto the tax advantage. However, these legislators have a point – this LLC tax advantage is creating a situation in which the same work is taxed differently.

It’s also a very strange issue in which the western half of the state is seeing greater advantage from this loophole than the folks who live in the populated areas. So there’s an underlying agricultural vs. urban economy issue. Here’s what I mean: a farmer who once had his income taxed, can now restructure his farming business as an LLC and avoid paying any income tax. Urbanites can do this too, but it’s a little less common. For example, a hair stylist can choose to work for a salon or someone else, which results in having to pay an income tax. OR, the stylist can hang a shingle, form an LLC, and pay none.

It’s a conundrum.

Meanwhile, there are other forces creating undue pressure on the state budget. Ironically, low gas prices are wreaking havoc on the state’s revenue. As every driver knows, the state takes 24 cents from the sale of every gallon of gas. When the price drops, often due to decreased demand, the government receives less!

A lot of big government types are bemoaning the loss to state revenues, and if we’re being honest, I have to refrain from screaming bad words at these people. I care way less about the state revenue feeding trough than I do about the people who must fuel their cars to get to work and must buy food (with fuel costs built in) to feed their families than I care about the poor, whining bureaucrats getting fat off the gas tax. I’m sorry, but I just can’t seem to find a single tear for those people. I can’t. I won’t. Don’t ask.

The other giant elephant sucking the life out of the state budget is, of course, school funding. In a feat of epic proportions, Gov. Sam Brownback and the state legislature came up with a public indoctrination camp funding plan that maintains existing school funding levels and “keeps schools open.” (Seriously, the Republicans sent out memes and newsletters announcing the plan that would “keep schools open,” as if the members of the Kansas Supreme Court were going to close schools under some mythical authority heretofore unknown. The suggestion should have been thoroughly mocked and scored. Instead, Republicans took the bait and pretended that the KS justices could close the schools. PR fail.)

So, conservatives maintained school funding. The state will spend more than it ever has before – though less than projections and therefore less than budgeted – and this automatically for some, means the solution is increasing revenues by eliminating an unintended consequence in a 2012 tax bill.

Closing the LLC-loophole is necessary, but this loophole should be closed based on sound fiscal policy – not based on the wailings of liberals who just want to take all the money and give it to their pet causes. The loophole was an unintended consequence. The loophole is allowing some income earners to unjustly subsidize others who do the exact same job. The loophole is forcing the urban part of the state to subsidize (to a greater extent than ever before) the rest of the state. These are reasons to close the loophole.

The state is not broke. The state overspends. When revenues don’t meet projections in my own budget – which has happened – the answer is to cut spending. Immediately. In my household, that may mean buying less lean beef, or worse, the beef sold in tubes. Gross.

Or it may mean cutting my cable package, driving the more fuel-efficient vehicle more often than the big one, cutting monthly gym membership, or eating out less frequently. It may even mean adding a second job, selling stuff on Ebay, or asking for a raise. But if I don’t get that raise, you won’t see me kicking and screaming and whining.

The liberal, big government answer isn’t asking for a raise. It’s demanding that everyone else pony up more at the point of a gun. There are no efforts to create greater efficiencies – ahem. School consolidation. There are no attempts to pare down an already bloated budget. It’s just hand over your wallet, all day every day.

Gov. Brownback has announced a few options for filling the budget hole. Brownback’s preferred choice is essentially a payday loan, using the state’s tobacco settlement. Meh. I see one positive to this potential solution: If the tobacco settlement is used to fill today’s budget hole, it can’t be used tomorrow to further bloat government. This is what typically occurs when government somehow gets a windfall. The bureaucrats use the windfall for some recurring budget item, like adding staff or increasing salaries, and all of a sudden when the windfall runs out, taxpayers are stuck with a bill that can’t be eliminated.

The problem with using the tobacco settlement to fill the budget hole, however, is that it doesn’t really solve the budget problem. It’s a short-term solution for something that requires a long-term fix. (Ahem. Less spending.)

The Gov’s second option would push back pension funding. We have a pension problem already. This exacerbates it while simultaneously kicking the can down the road. Dislike.

A third option is across the board cuts to state government. This plan makes the most sense, solves the problem long term, and does what should have been done back in 2012 when legislatures enacted the tax bill with the unintended consequences.

I sincerely hope that whatever agreement legislators and the Governor come to – they enact cuts as well. Cuts should be a major part of the solution, because the problem is overspending.

All three Brownback proposals include taking $70 million from the state highway fund this year and another $115 million next year. This will mean delaying some projects. To which I say: Thank heavens. Last summer traversing the highways around the Jo was like a trip through Purgatory. It was impossible to get ANYWHERE without weaving and sitting in orange cones. If last summer was Purgatory, this summer will be hell. It’s going to be hard for me to lose any sleep over one season without dodging orange cones. (We’re number five in the nation in highways. Yay? Kansas will be just fine if we lose a few slots.)

Legislators return to Topeka on April 27, and they’re going to face a hailstorm from the Whining Whiners Who Whine™. This is likely to be a very short wrap-up session, as I have it on very good authority that legislators are going to be in a super hurry to get out of Topeka before May 1 when April’s revenue numbers are released.

Conservatives should be reminding anyone who will listen that this “budget hole” is really a projection shortfall. The state is spending more money than ever before, and that’s a story that needs to be continually told.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Allow Me to State the Obvious... Again

Congressman Mike Pompeo will challenge Sen. Jerry Moran. I have heard all of the arguments about why this can't happen. 

  • I know it's very late in the game. The filing deadline is less than two months away -- June 1.
  • I know Pompeo doesn't have the cash to seriously challenge Moran. Pompeo has $1.1 million on hand for a 2016 campaign. Moran has $3.1 million. 
  • Moran is from the Big First -- the district from which Kansans often elect our Senators. Pompeo is from the Fourth District, Wichita, which has a less stellar record for sending people to the Senate. (Also, let me take you back to 2010 when former Congressman Todd Tiahrt of Wichita challenged Moran. This has been tried and failed.)
  • History suggests that incumbents always win. 

Because I believe this race is happening, I want to be very clear before I go any further -- I do not have a dog in this race. At this point, like most Kansans, I have been very recently stunned by Moran's behavior. This makes me very willing to hear another candidate out. Pompeo, in my experience, is the most arrogant politician I've ever met. This is saying something, because all politicians have an arrogance that borders on psychopathic. But I'll hear Pompeo out. I don't really care if my representatives are likeable. I care how they vote. 

All signs of common sense suggest Pompeo won't challenge Moran, but all of those aforementioned items can be overcome.

  • The filing deadline is still two months away. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to file paperwork. Moran himself just filed earlier this week.

  • Just because Sunflower State voters don't typically send people from the Fourth District to the U.S. Senate, that certainly doesn't mean we won't. As one wise reader reminded me recently, Nancy Kassebaum was from the Big Fourth. It has happened, and not that far in the distant past.
  • History tells us that incumbents who win in a popular election always win their next race. Pompeo wouldn't just be running against Moran; he'd be running against history. This is a stupid, pointless argument, but people are making it. First, if we always do things the way we've always done them, we'll continue to get the same things we've always gotten. I don't want to use a bumper sticker saying as an argument, but there's a reason some things are put on bumper stickers. This election cycle is different than any other in history, and I should also note that had people shied away from change based on "history," I'd still be whispering in a man's ear for whom I thought he should vote. I implore you, conservative activists gearing up to be jerks in a nasty primary, do not use history as your argument for retaining Moran. That's not good enough.
  • Finally, the money piece. Moran has more than double what Pompeo has, but I would argue Moran is still far short of the funding necessary to run in a tight race. Sen. Pat Roberts -- who was facing a political novice in 2014 -- spent $8 million to hold on to his Senate seat. Both Moran and Pompeo have a fundraising mountain to climb between now and August.
The evidence that Pompeo will run continues to mount. There's simply no reason for Pompeo not to come clean and say he isn't running at this late in the game. If he doesn't run while continuing to bash Moran, Pompeo is seriously damaging his political future.

And there's also this: It's no secret that Pompeo has greater political aspirations, but his road to the Senate or higher office is more difficult come 2018 or 2020. If he waits and intends to run for Governor in 2018, he'll face Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, whom I'm told will seek the top executive role in Kansas after Brownback. If he waits until 2020 to challenge for Roberts' Senate seat, he will likely be facing Congressmen Tim Huelskamp and possibly Kevin Yoder; and statewide office holders Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. That's going to be one crowded primary race. (I've written in the past that I do not believe Roberts will finish his term, however, rumor has it Roberts is balking at the idea of Gov. Brownback appointing his replacement.) Either way, in a 2020 race for Roberts' seat, Pompeo faces an overcrowded primary or an incumbent selected by Brownback. That's not a good race. Moran gave Pompeo an opening by saying some of the dumbest things to come out of the mouth of any Kansas politician in quite sometime. (And I say this fully recognizing that we embarrassingly boast Kathleen Sebelius among our politicians. Just let that sink in for a moment.) This year -- 2016, a primary against Jerry Moran, still in his first term -- may be Pompeo's best chance in the next 6 years to move into higher office. He'll take it.

Meanwhile, Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes has announced an Exploratory Committee to consider running should Pompeo challenge Moran. Anyone who thinks Estes doesn't have a bit of an inside track with Pompeo isn't paying attention. Estes is also from the Wichita area.

I hear from friends and sources that the Wichita contingent fights one another, but from this end of the state, it doesn't look that way. The Wichita folks march mostly in lock step, and they do it backed often by aircraft manufacturers and Koch. 

Estes' announcement that he's forming an exploratory committee has shown Pompeo's hand. Pompeo will run. Prepare yourselves, Kansas Republicans, because there will be blood.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Subsidizing Growth -- Probably Not an Awesome Idea

This is something our elected officials need to consider -- the Growth Ponzi Scheme -- especially in this upcoming state legislature election season.

It appears the upcoming state races are shaping up to be races between education spenders and conservatives (ex. Dinah Sykes vs. Sen. Greg Smith), and races between people who are going to take the approach that the state government needs to step out of city affairs and conservatives. (Ex.Tom Cox vs. Brett Hildabrand). 

Cox is also probably going to use the "Give ALL the Money to Fund School Administrator's Vacation Homes" approach. I am not going to belabor this campaign issue much. It's been tried and failed, practically last week, but liberals gotta lib, so expect the pigs at the public school funding trough to be hangry this summer and fall.

Cox's secondary issue will be local control. We're going to see a lot of local control-issue candidates this cycle, and this is why I am linking to a series of articles about what the Growth Ponzi scheme, penned by Charles Marohn, a civil engineer and found of Strong Towns. 

Conservatives are going to need to be able to discuss these local control issues, or so-called lack of local control issues, with a dumbed down populace. 

In this series of articles, Marohn theorizes that Americans grew cities after World War II through 1. government transfer payments; 2. transportation spending; 3. debt; and 4. the Growth Ponzi Scheme.

"Cities routinely trade near-term cash advantages associated with new growth for long-term financial obligations associated with maintenance of infrastructure," he writes in the first article.

The second article showcases a number of case studies.

"(Initial growth) costs (cities) relatively little. If the growth happens, they get the tax revenue. If it does not happen, they are out relatively little. This all works find until the end of one life cycle, when large-scale maintenance or replacement is needed. At that point, the costs vastly exceed the ability of the city to pay. And this is where they Ponzi scheme aspect kicks in, because what is the solution to his unsolvable problem? In American of the post-WWII era, that's easy: The solution is more growth."

The third article -- complete with graphics -- models how the cash flow of a well-run city with steady, continuous growth appears. It's not a pretty picture in the long term, and it's the model of a well-run city.

"In reality, that is not the pattern most cities experience," he writes. "Most cities have a phase of rapid growth followed by stagnation and decline..."superimpose the financial underpinnings of the American model of development, and the results are even more devastating -- a flood of liabilities all coming due right at the time that growth is starting to wane."

In the fourth article, Marohn, shows how the first generation of suburbia was built on savings and investment. The second generation was built on debt -- unprecedented levels of it. He theorizes that the cult of growth has shifted the U.S. economy from an industrial one to a consumption based one.

He notes: "When you take away the suburban growth related jobs from our economy, what you are left with is heart surgery and KFC workers."

It's a little frightening.

The fifth article in the series wraps a bow on the first four: "Will this public project generate enough tax revenue to sustain its maintenance over several life cycles?" 

He writes that it's time we start insisting that our places show a positive financial return, which will require a completely different approach to building our cities.

Most of what Marohn writes is a little over my head, but after watching the Cult of Growth become more and more cult-like and watching city and state officials give away the farm in return for the promise of jobs! jobs! jobs! and growth! growth! growth! I think it's probably past time to have a real discussion about the ways in which we grow our economy. We place almost no value on sustained, reasonable growth, and instead place all value on new things-- new roads, new buildings (that may be vacant within 20 years). 

All that glitters isn't gold, and this election cycle, I think we're going to see plenty of people campaigning on how the state needs to step aside and allow cities to subsidize growth in more and more expensive ways. It will be an ironic discussion, considering we have a Governor (and by extension, sorry friends, the incumbents in his party) hell bent on subsidizing growth in the form of a horse arena in Kansas City, Kan.

I don't necessarily agree with all of Marohn's conclusions, but this is definitely a discussion worth having.  Unfortunately, I think we'll be hard pressed to see any officials saying it may be time to halt the great tax giveaways for growth's sake.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Unholy Alliance Strikes Again -- House Republicans Throw a Party

I want this to be a safe place, where conservatives can gather and be honest. The truth is sometimes uncomfortable, and I apologize for that. But the truth is the truth no matter what I think.

So it's with some sheer annoyance that I have to report that Kansas House Republicans (read, the Speaker's Office)  are touting despicable news as "good news."


The latest email from the Kansas House Caucus lists expansive economic development and growth in Kansas. And listen, I'm a fan of growth -- real growth. But to pretend that the Amazon deal is an amazing piece of news is just dishonest when anyone with half a brain knows that Amazon is shafting Kansans. This deal isn't a win.

The newsletter also celebrates the expansion of a GM plant in Fairfax. This is closer to good news. At least the GM plant expansion isn't robbing jobs and wealth from one Kansas community to give it to another. This time, we're just transplanting jobs from Michigan to Kansas. I have trouble celebrating, at least not in this fashion.

In the case of Amazon and GM, these aren't brand new jobs. This is a shell game. 

I am thrilled to celebrate the success of DH Pace, which will hire 150 people at an expanded facility in Olathe. These appear to be new jobs -- not just to the area -- but actual, real expansion. That's great!! And the expansion or Emerald Aerospace in Wichita is equally exciting. These are actually new jobs, and that's exciting. 

Including the Amazon and GM jobs in the newsletter greatly diminishes the real success of the other expansions. And let's be honest -- this is one reason people don't trust Republicans. It looks like we have no scruples when we pretend we've had a hand in creating news jobs when in fact all we've done is subsidize  (through the taxes of working Kansans) the movement of jobs across state lines or worse, across county lines. 

I am so sick of the unholy alliance between business and Republicans. We're better than this, or at least, we should be. I guarantee I am not the only person who recognizes this unholy alliance, though I may be one of the few who actually says it out loud.

Friday, April 15, 2016

About JCRP, the Third District, and Grassroots

There are 3 kinds of people in the Republican Party – thinkers, doers, and politicians.

I mention this universal rule of really all organizations, because the local Republican Party is set to reorganize after the November election. It may seem a little early to start thinking about who will next lead the Johnson County Republican Party (JCRP) and who will lead the Third District, but  these are important decisions and mark my words, some of the wrong people are probably already thinking about it. I'm pretty certain there was some crafting occurring a the precinct event last weekend. (I do not know who is slated to use that as a platform to run for JCRP Chair, but... I'm onto you.)

Right now, Theresa Segraves is the chair of the Johnson County Republican Party. You’ll recall she took over when Ronnie Metsker, who served in the role for almost 8 years, was appointed to lead the Johnson County Election Office. Word on the street is that Segraves will not seek the chairmanship. The other officers are Kay Rutherford, secretary, and Mike Kuckelman, treasurer.

Metsker left a large hole. Yes, he was a little squishy, and I can’t bear to mention his name without mentioning the Jody Kramer Experiment. However, he managed to keep a once very damaged Republican Party – filled with so-called Johnson County mods and conservatives – halfway at peace. Not an easy task.

I attribute part of that success to his efforts to open and maintain a county party office. The office gave space and resources to Republicans activists and candidates. The office has been an invaluable party asset, and one the party cannot afford to lose. This home base allowed Republicans of different stripes and different neighborhoods to work together and get to know one another in a safe and mutual place. It sounds silly, but these things matter.

I don’t think keeping the office open and the lights on has been a walk in the park. In fact, I hear there was a real danger of its doors closing not all that long ago. Whoever helms JCRP next should be committed to maintaining an office and holding regular office hours with the assistance of volunteers.

Generally in these elections, loose affiliations of people attempt to draft a slate of people to chair, vice-chair, serve as secretary and treasurer of the party. I’m not a huge fan of this practice. I think if someone wants to run for chair or secretary, she should run without a slate of others. And I think the precinct people, who will elect the next chair and leadership, should vote on the best person – not on a slate of candidates. There’s usually at least one total dud in a slate, and having a formally established leadership isn’t the best way to build bridges and create cohesion or make everyone feel welcome.

But that’s where we’re at. There will be at least one group of people running as a slate. Ick. My guess is there will be two slates vying for the role. One slate will be so-called conservatives. The other side will be so-called grassroots activists. The irony is both slates will be Establishment, though both will vehemently deny it.

Whoever takes the helm at JCRP should be a doer – not an idea or thinker-type and not a politician. This leading doer will need to have fundraising skills – or at least be surrounded by a slate of people with proven fundraising experience. This leadership team will need to have the disposition to help a somewhat divided and diverse (in thought at least) group of people find common ground. It’s not enough to have a plan. This leader will need to execute. In my head, I’d like to see a slate that includes some of these people: John Nelson, Chad Bettes, Candy Cole, Beverly Gossage, Dennis Kriegshauser, Mike Kuckleman. I’m pretty much just spit balling here.

Finally, the Third District reorganization will be of slightly less importance than JCRP, in part, because it only meets once or twice a year. However, there’s no reason the Third District can’t be elevated to a more meaningful part of the party. My heart would be warmed to see a fundraiser and potentially outreach in Wyandotte County courtesy of the Third District. This is unlikely to occur however, without putting doers in leadership positions.

And finally, whichever brain trust is handed the keys to JCRP and the Third District needs to have some media savvy. The television cameras are somewhat regular visitors at party headquarters and events. 

I don’t want to seem like a snob, but if I must I’ll say it: By media savvy, I mean someone who owns nice pair of plain loafers or heels and isn’t afraid to wear them. And for the love of all things, no more cowboy boots OR deck shoes on a Johnson County Republican being interviewed on television ever again. Ever. 

Republicans are already a giant stereotype of either frat boys or hillbillies. Let’s not give the media ammo by dressing as if we’re one or the other. 

Cleveland Rocks...Philly Smells Like Rocky's Sweat

No matter what happens this summer in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention -- and it looks like that event is going to be a clusterjam -- Cleveland will be nothing compared to the moronathon that's about to happen in Philadelphia.

The Dems will hold their national convention in the City of Brotherly Love in late July. It's going to be a steaming pile of mess, no doubt, based on that party's superdelegate shenanigans.

The Dems -- long noted for their interest in democrazy -- have delegates who just get to cast a nomination ballot for whoever they want. The Dems' candidate is selected essentially at the whims of this select group of elected members from the DNC, distinguished party leaders (whatever THAT means), Dem members of the Senate, House and Dem Governors. 

According to my estimates, there are about 55 Democrats in Kansas, so just fewer than 10 percent of Kansas Dems serve as superdelegates. Yes, Kansas has superdelegates. I was as surprised as you are!

The include national committeeman and national committeewoman Bill Roy Jr. and Teresa Garcia Krusor. Roy is the son of a former Kansas doctor, who also wrote a regularly appearing column for the Topeka Capital-Journal. (His wiki-site says he was one of the few liberal columnists ever to write for the Cap-J. Um... Sometimes Wikipedia is slightly off and sometimes it's just short of a Bill Clinton deposition.) Krusor is pledged to Hilary Clinton, but it should be noted these supers can just change their minds whenever the mood strikes. Roy Jr. is uncommitted.

The other two Kansas superdelegates are Melody Mcray-Miller, a Dem member of the Kansas House, and Lee Kinch. McCray-Miller has yet to say who she'll support. Kinch replaced Larry Meeker as the chair of the Kansas Dems. (Meeker, you'll recall, was kicked out of town for essentially saying the Kansas Dems should be ever-so-slightly less crazy, because they're in sensible Kansas.) Kinch is uncommitted as well. Someone should probably tell the Kansas supers that Bernie won Kansas. Not that that matters. 

As as aside, the Dems are letting supers from Missouri vote at the national convention too. Their numbers include Dick Gephardt and Sly James, both committed to Clinton.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Paging Jerry Moran's Sense

I am sputtering here. Is Jerry Moran TRYING to get himself thrown out of office? Has he lost his senses? Is some liberal blackmailing him with a puppy torture scandal hidden in his background?

First, Moran proposed just hearing out Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Moran, who has historically been controversy adverse stepped out of line with the majority of Republicans, offered cover to more liberal leaning Republicans and Democrats, and slapped the majority of his supporters right across the face with the suggestion. Fortunately, he figured out his mistake rather quickly and walked that disaster of a suggestion right back.

And today, I read this.

Do I look all red-faced with anger? I'm trying not to curl up in the fetal position and scream, but Moran is treading on dangerous waters at this point. 

According to the New York Times, Moran has joined New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker in proposing legislation to hold on to taxpayers' money just a little while longer, because clearly we're all too stupid save money without the help of Uncle Sam.

I am kind of spitting mad at this proposal. I do not like it when politicians deign to save us all from ourselves. That's a giant recipe for disaster. (See all social programs since the dawn of time.)

The proposal would allow the Treasury to hold taxpayers' refunds for a time, and then the stupid poors who signed up for this program would be paid interest on the amount of their refunds that the government held longer. Uh... how about paying us all interest for taking more money than you should have federal government and then holding it until refund time. How about that?

I don't even...

This shell game the government plays with taxpayer money is such a joke. I realize at refund time every poor financial planner in America blows their overpayment (or handout, in the case of earned income credit) on stupid things like computers, brand new cars, and gambling. 

But in reality, these brain trust savers should be told -- repeatedly -- that their refunds aren't a cause for celebration. That refund means you overpaid -- OR that the government took more money out of my pocket to give it to someone who didn't earn it. 

Second, I would think that Republicans -- um, that's supposed to be you, Jerry Moran -- would understand that any plan that allows government to just hold onto people's money is a slow moving train wreck. See Social Security.

I am leaving aside all of the horrible, rotten, no good, very bad things Jerry Moran did as the chair of the NRSC during the last election, although I sincerely hope Moran has personally made some apologies to some individuals for the behavior of the organization he ran at the time. (Ahem. There's at least one person in Mississippi owed an apology. Do it, Jerry. Get right with him so you can be right with the Lord.)

Someone needs to have a serious talking to with Jerry Moran. If Pompeo mounted a campaign against Moran, I thought I'd still be a Moran supporter. Every day, I get a little less certain of that position.

KCMO Public School Board Election Results

The results are in: Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools continue to be a dumpster fire.

This is a school district that had its accreditation yanked by the Missouri State School Board. And so into this disaster stepped zero candidates for the Kansas City Public School Board. 

That's not completely true. There were write-in candidates. Read the results and weep. 

A school district that spends more than $14,065 per student per year, has a student-teacher ratio of 18 to 1, and an 85 percent graduation and is not accredited had no candidates on the ballot for school board. And the number of people who cast ballots is devastating. 

It pains me to say these things about KCMO. I love KC, and I want this beautiful city to be successful. However, throwing money at a problemed institution doesn't mean results. Kansas officials should heed the lesson.

There's absolutely no reason Kansas should offer incentives to move businesses across the state line. The KCMO Public School system is doing it's level best to offer all the incentive anyone needs to move to the other side of State Line Road.

Survey Says...

According to my non-scientific poll, which at this very moment has 100 respondents, Mike Pompeo will not challenge Sen. Jerry Moran. 

Of my savvy insider-y respondents, 55 percent say no, Pompeo will not challenge Moran, and 41 percent say Pompeo will primary the sitting U.S. Senator Moran. Four people clicked the "other" button in the poll. (I do not know why I included that option. That was dumb.)

I'm still betting Pompeo does it. Yes, it's really late in the game, but Moran really, really shot himself in the foot with those comments about Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Pompeo saw an opening, and I think he will take it. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Counting Money While Sitting at the Table

Friends, I now have enough intel to put money on whether Congressman Mike Pompeo will run against Sen. Jerry Moran.

If I were a betting woman, I'd be counting my money at the table and suggesting that Pompeo is going to primary Moran. The whispers are just getting a little too loud to be ignored.

However, I'm curious what you all think. This survey has one question -- will Pompeo file to run against Moran? Yes or no.

I think this blog is read by enough actual insiders that this poll's results will be an accurate indicator.

Silly Season Is Upon Us

Congressman Tim Huelskamp is a short king in cowboy boots among men. I am a fan.

But I can live without what's about to occur during this, the silliest season of all silly seasons. It's officially primary season when I begin receiving dirt about candidates. So, take what I am about to report with a heaping serving of salt. (And don't shoot the messenger.)

It appears that someone --probably someone from the Huelskamp campaign-- has filed an ethics violation with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission against Dr. Roger Mashall. The information alleges that Marshall, who is attempting (and will likely fail) to unseat Huelskamp, failed to file a Statement of Substantial Interest(SSI).

This form requires candidates to list corporations, trusts, businesses, land for income, etc., in which the candidate or candidate's spouse has more equitable interest worth $5,000 or 5 percent of the company, whichever is less. 

Basically, this reader alleges that Marshall's April 8, 2015 SSI did not disclose ownership 24 disclosable items in mutual funds and in ownership of NCM Bioscience Partners, MV Purchasing, and the Club at Stoneridge.

The SSI also requires candidates to disclose compensation from businesses of $2,000 or more. The complaint alleges that Marshall omitted compensation from Farmers Bank & Trust and that he was an officer or director of Farmers Bank & Trust, Great Bend Regional Hospital, Heartland Regional OBGYN, Rattlesnake Ranch, Quivira Ranch, Rotary International, and First Christian Church.

Intentionally filing a false SSI is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. 

This is political fodder and nothing more for a few reasons: 

1. It's nearly impossible to prove "intentional" unless the candidate confesses. So there's exactly zero chance that Marshall will receive a misdemeanor. Period.

2. He may be fined, but even that is unlikely. The Kansas Ethics Commission is a joke, and a politicized one at that. This strong arm of the bureaucracy is used primarily to punish conservatives for things liberals get away with and to frighten potential challengers of either political stripe away from running for office. The ethics commission essentially acts as state-funded incumbent protection. I am not a fan.

Consider me #TeamHuelskamp in this race. There are plenty of Establishment-types (and by Establishment types, I mean those folks who are extremely squeamish and uncomfortable with people who rock the boat) who aren't fans of Huelskamp. I think he's very Big First in the best way. 

That said, I don't particularly care for these kinds of campaign tactics. These political disclosures aren't as black and white as they seem, and it's very easy for newcomers, even well-financed ones like Marshall, to mess them up. You shouldn't need a finance degree and a law degree to run for public office without accidentally committing a class B misdemeanor, but that's where we find ourselves.