Legislature

Where have the moderates in the Kansas Legislature gone? The Kansas Chamber targeted them.

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. JC Moore served two years as Republican Representative for District 93 and wrote over 300 articles for local newspapers and his website, “Current Events from a Science Perspective”.

A lot high profile disasters like the Challenger explosion, the Deepwater Horizon debacle, and the Chevrolet Corvair that asphyxiated its passengers can all be attributed to a lack of ethics.

For Kansans who value human rights, health care, the environment, fiscal responsibility, reduced food taxes, fair courts and good schools, the 2021-2022 legislative session has been an absolute disaster. The failure that made all this possible is that of the Kansas Chamber. In the 2020 election, he used unethical tactics to purge the Legislature of moderates, leaving a supermajority of Republicans and far-right extremists.

Of them fundamental values of the Kansas House must be ethical in all they stand for and do, and be passionate about the economic growth of Kansas and its people. However, the House is not passionate about the economic prosperity of all Kansans or all companies.

Under the direction of the CEO Alan Cobb, the House aligned itself with Americans for Prosperity, which promotes prosperity for the already wealthy. This is not surprising, as Cobb once handled government affairs for Koch Industries and later founded the AFP organization in Kansas.

After the 2020 election, former Kansas House Majority Leader Don Hineman wrote a Facebook post, When is “truth” not enough??

Cobb had claimed that House policy endorsements were 100% fact-based. Hineman disagreed, writing, “That could technically be true, but he and his team are nothing like Paul Harvey because they never bother to tell you the ‘rest of the story’.”

He wrote: “Against sitting lawmakers they want to see defeated, they claim they have ‘retroactively raised our taxes by $1.2 billion.’ But here is the rest of the story: This tax bill, passed in 2017, was deemed necessary by more than 2/3 of the Kansas Senate and 2/3 of the Kansas House, in order to correct the excesses of the 2012 Brownback tax cut, which devastated state finances. And the $1.2 billion cost was over two years, not one.

“Among those who voted yes were Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch and House Leader House Majority Dan Hawkins. But is the Kansas Chamber targeting these leaders? Of course not. Instead, they are selectively using the issue to try to replace independent-minded incumbents with challengers who would more meekly accept what the House wants.

One thing the House really wanted was a Kansas tax cut for corporations that repatriated hidden offshore intellectual property, even though those corporations had already received a reduced federal tax rate. The Republican leadership was happy to comply.

One thing the House really wanted was a Kansas tax cut for corporations that repatriated hidden offshore intellectual property, even though those corporations had already received a reduced federal tax rate. The Republican leadership was happy to comply. They passed a tax bill that would have cost the state about $600 million over the next three years, much of it going to big business.

Governor Laura Kelly vetoed it. Several moderate Republicans joined Democrats in maintaining the veto, even though they received severe arm wringing from Republican leaders. One of the moderates spoke in the House, saying that even though we teach kids not to be bullies, leaders were trying to bully lawmakers into voting for the bill. He explained how people had died on the roads in his district because there was no money to fix them, and how the state needed a lot of things it couldn’t afford in due to previous tax cuts.

After the veto was upheld, disappointed businesses proceeded to “postcard” this lawmaker, flooding his district with mail attacking him, until he had had enough and resigned mid-term, citing stress as the reason.

In the following election, the Kansas House and the AFP organized a smear campaign against many moderate Republicans who had voted to maintain the veto. They sent out dozens of postcards demonizing them, misrepresenting their positions, misquoting them and using misleading photoshopped images.

Postcards were lies and bullying at worst, but there was little the moderate candidates could do. Political lies are considered protected speech. The negative campaign was effective, and the number of moderate Republicans in the Legislature fell from about 30 to just five.

So the Kansas House got the tax cut it wanted, and Kansas suffered the consequences.

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