SALINA, Kan. - Voter fraud is indeed a Kansas problem, as Secretary of State Kris Kobach points out. Not the kind he alleges. The kind he perpetrates.
The real fraud is perpetrated upon voters, not by them. Kobach's failure to account for just under $80 thousand in contributions and expenses, in a campaign that raised just over $157 thousand, is breath-taking for a man who is presently the watchdog, or rather WatchFox, over the chicken house of Kansas' electoral machinery. Was his staff incompetent or did he just flout the law? Choose your poison.
Whatever the case, Kansas voters, beware! One of Kobach's most egregious fellow-perpetrators is U.S. First District Rep Tim Huelskamp. A leading example is Tim's Town Hall Phone meetings.
At first blush, they seem the essence of Democracy. Call in, talk to Rep. Tim firsthand, and hear other Kansans' questions. Efficient, direct -- what could be better?
Well, employing basic honesty, for one thing. Huelskamp's town halls are really a propaganda ploy, not a democracy device.
After many voice mails of Tim's missed robo-calls, I was home one night for this great democratic experiment. An aide asked for my question. It was: Given Rep. Tim's near-constant bombardment of anti-abortion rhetoric, what is he doing to preserve women's rights, for fair employment and for reproductive rights? I was told to hang on; I was #6 in the queue.
Callers 1 through 5 asked their questions. Callers 6, 7, 8, and 9 rolled by. Tapping the table impatiently, I listened. Caller 10 asked a question, then 11, then 12. By caller 13, I hung up in disgust. The Rep. was clearly taking no calls representing views other than those fitting his narrow nostrums and parroted policy positions.
Equally off-putting were his "poll questions," loaded as a buckshot turkey. The first asked if you approved the President's latest "stimulus spending." Not whether you approved the President's "job-creating legislation."
The second was, "Do you think federal money should ever be used for abortions?" Not "Do you think that we should help women, regardless of income, status, or race, have the right to control their own lives, reproductively or otherwise?"
Bias hung thick over Kansas' phone lines. And I hung up.
Both frauds, however, pale in comparison to the Brownback administration's latest privatizing "reforms." They are intended to confuse and divide. One example: area Republican lawmakers, moderate to conservative, now profess consternation and befuddlement about BB's new education plan.
More befuddling, and frightening, partly due to little public information, is Brownback's move to reduce and eventually eliminate the state income tax. This is the biggest elephant (or time bomb) in the room.
On its face, few proposals could be more counter-intuitive. With Kansas already in the midst of drastic cuts to social services, education, and the arts, what's their solution? Do away with the income tax.
This week a "No-income-tax" bus rolled into Kansas. It was led and funded by Kansans for No Income Tax, heavily underwritten by Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield. He is president of the Show-Me Institute, the Missouri equivalent of the Koch Brothers' Kansas Policy Institute. Both are think tanks advocating "free-market principles," otherwise known as stealing our assets for the enrichment of themselves and their cronies. Sinquefield contributed $11 million last year to repeal taxes in Missouri.
At Show-Me's 2010 open house, economist Arthur Laffer gave the keynote speech. Not coincidentally, Laffer is the consultant showered with $75,000 of your tax money by the Brownback administration to lead closed-door tax-cutting strategy sessions.
Laffer helped write the most recent edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council's "Rich States, Poor States." The foreword was written by Sam Brownback.
Laffing yet? Neither are news organizations. One filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information about the sessions. It was told the request would take seven weeks. Most state agencies, striving for openness, grant such requests in a day or two. So much for open government.
The same forces are also pushing state-by-state legislation to restrict your right to vote. But you know about that.
What can you do? First, register to vote before January 1st. You'll avoid any hassle about ID's, or later, your birth certificate. Second, go to wethepeoplecampaign.org. There you'll find many resources for fighting back against the billionaire boys stealing your democracy out from under you.
Fight for, and carefully consider, your next vote. Voter fraud runs both directions. Don't let it trickle down on you.