The Kansas Statehouse stands in front of a gray sky during the 2021 session. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. J.C. Moore served two years as the Republican representative for District 93 and has written more than 300 articles for local newspapers and his website, “Current Events from a Science Perspective.”
Many high-profile disasters such as the Challenger explosion, the Deepwater Horizon debacle and the Chevrolet Corvair that asphyxiated its passengers can be traced to a failure of ethics.
For Kansans who value people’s rights, health care, the environment, fiscal responsibility, lower food taxes, fair courts, and good schools, the 2021-2022 legislative session has been an unmitigated disaster. The failure that made it all possible was that of the Kansas Chamber. In the 2020 election, it used unethical tactics to purge the Legislature of moderates, leaving a supermajority of Republicans and far-right extremists.
Two core values of the Kansas Chamber are to be ethical in all that it advocates for and does, and to be passionate about the economic growth of Kansas and its people. However, the Chamber is not passionate about the economic prosperity of all Kansans or all businesses.
Under the leadership of CEO Alan Cobb, the Chamber has become aligned with Americans for Prosperity, which favors the prosperity of the already wealthy. That is not surprising, as Cobb once managed governmental affairs for Koch Industries and later founded the AFP organization in Kansas.
After the 2020 elections, Don Hineman, past majority leader of the Kansas House, wrote a Facebook post, When is the “Truth” Not Enough?
Cobb had claimed the Chamber’s political endorsements are 100% fact-based. Hineman disagreed, writing: “That might technically be true, but he and his crew are nothing like Paul Harvey because they never bother to tell you the ‘rest of the story.’”
He wrote: “Against incumbent legislators whom they want defeated they claim they ‘retroactively raised our state taxes by $1.2 billion.’ But here’s the rest of the story: That 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 Brownback tax cut of 2012, which had devastated state finances. And the $1.2 billion cost was over two years, not one.
“Among those voting yes were Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, and House Majority Leader 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 obediently go along with whatever the Chamber wants.”
One thing the Chamber really wanted was a Kansas tax cut for corporations that had repatriated intellectual property hidden offshore, even though those corporations had already received a lowered federal tax rate. The Republican leadership was happy to comply.
– J.C. Moore
One thing the Chamber really wanted was a Kansas tax cut for corporations that had repatriated intellectual property hidden offshore, even though those corporations had already received a lowered 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 that going to large corporations.
Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed it. Several moderate Republicans joined Democrats in sustaining the veto, even though they received severe arm twisting from the Republican leadership. One of the moderates spoke on the House floor, saying that while we teach children not to be bullies, leadership was trying to bully legislators into voting for the bill. He explained how people had died on roads in his district because there wasn’t money to repair them, and how the state needed many things it couldn’t afford because of previous tax cuts.
After the veto was upheld, the disappointed corporations proceeded to “postcard” that legislator, flooding his district with mailers attacking him, until he had had enough and resigned in the middle of his term, citing stress as the reason.
In the next election, the Kansas Chamber and AFP ran a smear campaign against many of the moderate Republicans who had voted to sustain the veto. They sent out dozens of postcards demonizing them, distorting their positions, misquoting them, and using misleading Photoshopped pictures.
The postcards were lies and bullying at its 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 dropped from about 30 to just five.
So, the Kansas Chamber got the tax cut it wanted, and Kansas is suffering the consequences.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.
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