Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PACs attempt to mislead Kansas primary voters

8/1/2014

With less than a week before Kansas’ primary election, the misinformation machine of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity is running in high gear.

This week, some members of the Kansas House of Representatives are being smeared in commercials and being featured alongside various barnyard animals on postcards as a way to illustrate those candidates’ love for Obamacare, higher taxes and dislike of education. As in 2012, the material is filled with tales but wanting for truth.

With less than a week before Kansas’ primary election, the misinformation machine of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity is running in high gear.

This week, some members of the Kansas House of Representatives are being smeared in commercials and being featured alongside various barnyard animals on postcards as a way to illustrate those candidates’ love for Obamacare, higher taxes and dislike of education. As in 2012, the material is filled with tales but wanting for truth.

In western Kansas, state Rep. Russ Jennings has been targeted by Americans for Prosperity, which is painting Jennings as a dipped-in-blue liberal who voted to expand Obamacare and cut education spending in Kansas.

Jennings explained the vote in question had nothing to do with expanding Obamacare but rather was a motion to amend a bill to exempt the current Medicare system from falling under a plan to create a multistate health-care compact to replace Obamacare. Jennings said Medicare works relatively well, that the people who use it are generally happy with it and that it’s paid for completely with federal money. He didn’t see a reason to change something that was working — a distinctly conservative quality.

He also voted against a measure that would’ve stripped from the governor the authority to decide whether to accept a federal expansion of Medicaid — a program run jointly by the federal and state government.

“I felt the executive branch was in a better position to decide on an expansion,” Jennings said. “I respect the separation of powers.”

Another distinctly conservative quality, and for the record, Jennings said he doesn’t support Obamacare, despite the images portrayed by Americans for Prosperity.

Likewise, in Johnson County, state Reps. Stephanie Clayton and Barbara Bollier are under attack by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC, which is painting the lawmakers as education opponents. The truth, however, requires a little more telling.

“I am being attacked for voting against HB 2506, the education bill that was cobbled together at 4 a.m. and was not available to be read until 10 days after the vote was taken,” Clayton explained. “The postcards are a vindictive backlash against me for refusing to vote for a bill that was not available for me to read. I don’t negotiate with bullies, and I don’t vote for a bill and find out what’s in it later. The people of Kansas deserve to have a state legislature that is free from the vile practices employed in Washington.”

They’re not the only ones under attack. State Reps. Kent Thompson, Iola, Blaine Finch, Ottawa and Bollier, Mission Hills, also are targets of Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber because they didn’t wholeheartedly support the groups’ legislative priorities.

In each case, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber have oversimplified lawmakers’ votes to twist the truth into a lie, and in each case they are working to seat lawmakers who lack independent thought and will be unquestioningly compliant to those groups’ demands.

Unlike the misleading messages spewed by Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber, it’s a challenge for attacked lawmakers to explain in a handful of catchphrases a thoughtful vote on a complex issue.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity are not at all interested in Kansas. Instead, they want lawmakers who won’t act without their blessing, guidance and money, and will unquestioningly do their bidding to advance the goals and priorities of their financiers.

“The Kansas Chamber actively recruits and funds candidates they can control on their issues,” Jennings said. “The legislative process can’t be run that way. If it is, we should get rid of the legislature and just let Mike O’Neal [Kansas Chamber chief executive officer] decide what goes to the governor. They don’t just want to influence the Legislature; they want to own it.”

So you’ve been warned: Before election day, you’re likely to see your local lawmaker standing alongside a cow or a pig on a flier with a statement that he or she is wasteful, liberal or otherwise unfit for office. But remember what falls from animals in barnyards, and you’ll know the full value of any message that falls from Americans for Prosperity or the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Keep that in mind when you cast your ballot Tuesday.

The Hutchinson News

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