Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Politics: December 2009

WICHITA, Kan. - Kansas is in a financial crisis, this is not news. However David Koch's group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has the Kansas Legislature in fear of repealing tax exemptions and offering revenue enhancements that will solve this financial crisis. This extremist group attacks anything that may be perceived as threatening Koch industries profits.

David and Charles Koch are known for their generous contributions to the arts and cancer research, but the Koch brothers are also known to fund vicious attack campaigns. Such as the "No Stimulus" television and radio ads launched to stop President Obama's stimulus package.

What I Want in Health Care Reform

WICHITA, Kan. - Last week, the Senate approved their version of health care reform, quite different from the House version. Among progressives, a cry is going out: either include public option or kill the bill. A public option, it is reasoned, is the only way to control costs, and since both bills include a mandate, not including a public option forces the American people to buy into an industry that has proven itself as little more than a money-making machine allowing access to little in the way of true health care. But many Democrats are pushing back: at least it's reform, and we can change it later if we need to. Health care reform died under the Nixon Administration because Ted Kennedy would not accept the public option compromise and fought only for single-payer. When reform was brought up again under the Clinton Administration, it died a painful death. We need something, the argument goes. Both arguments are completely valid, and both are still quite short-sighted.

constitution2.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Democratic U.S. Senators who took large contributions from big health insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies need to learn a lesson from three Kansans. Senators Landrieu, Nelson, Baucus, Dodd and Lieberman, are you listening?

Exhibit A is former Kansas Governor Joan Finney, who was elected Governor in 1990 having spent only a fraction of what her opponents spent. She made crystal clear to potential donors the following: "If you think I would be a good Governor, feel free to donate to my campaign. But there are no strings attached. I'm not promising you anything." How refreshing. No wonder she couldn't raise money well.

Exhibit B is former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She was one of the only Democrats in the country to defeat a Republican incumbent in the 1994 Republican tsunami. She became Kansas Insurance Commissioner against all odds, especially considering that she refused to take one penny from the insurance companies. She made it clear the first day she launched her campaign: "I will not accept donations from the insurance companies that I will be regulating as your insurance commissioner." Voters found her decision refreshing, and she won.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - On November 1, 1967, I waited in line with hundreds of Great Bend kids to meet an astronaut. As a scrub-faced seven-year-old, I was awed when I saw him arrive at J.C. Penney Toyland in his silver space suit and space helmet.

He wasn't a real astronaut, I now know. But as a seven-year-old, you suspend disbelief. The "astronaut" was "Major Astro," a guy named Tom Leahy who had an afternoon children's program on KARD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Wichita. Each afternoon "Major Astro" would delight youngsters in Wichita and Western Kansas with his program, in which he played an astronaut on the moon showing cartoons from a space station. We only got one channel in Great Bend - KARD-TV, so "Major Astro" was the only game in town.

A few days ago, I posted something on Facebook about "Major Astro," and I got a huge response from baby-boomers, all favorable, and way beyond what I expected. And I have thought a lot about why people in their fifties still light up at the mention of "Major Astro."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Kansas campaign finance laws contain a huge loophole that allows big corporations to tilt election outcomes with "issue ads" without ever having to report who paid for the ads. The 2010 Kansas legislature should close this loophole immediately.

You've seen the ads on TV, heard them on the radio, or received them in the mailbox, usually days before the November elections. "Call Rep. Jones. Tell him to stop letting dangerous criminals out of jail!" The ads are intended to do one thing: get you to vote against Rep. Jones in the election. But as long as the ad doesn't mention voting or elections, they are exempt from campaign finance reporting laws. In other words, Rep. Jones gets slimed days or even minutes before people vote, loses the election, and never finds out who paid for the ad.

The legislative session runs from January through May, but these "issue ads" always seem to pop up right before elections in November - long after the legislature is finished for the year. So the true purpose of the ad is to defeat a particular candidate, not to influence how they legislate.

As a general rule, Republicans want to keep the secrecy loophole, and Democrats want to eliminate it. This is because Republicans tend to be the party of Big Business and the rich, and only people or entities with money can afford these ads. The average "John Q. Public" voter simply doesn't have ten grand laying around to pay for a big "issue ad".

LAWRENCE, Kan. - The film adaptation of Thomas Frank's best selling book: What's the Matter with Kansas? will be screened at Lawrence's Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts Avenue, from December 21 through the 30th.

Author Thomas Frank will appear at a screening on Saturday, December 26, 2009 at Liberty Hall. The screening will begin at 7:10 p.m. and Mr. Frank will appear afterwords to talk about the making of the film and to take questions from the audience.

Whereas the book What's the Matter with Kansas? explored the 2004 national election, the film explores the 2006 Kansas election and whether the religious right will continue to drive working and middle-class voters to the Republican Party, to vote against their own economic interests.

The Culture Wars, Uncle Myron, and Me

HAYS, Kan. - Some of the chain e-mails that go around the internet annoy me even more than those telemarketing calls that come during the dinner hour. You know the kind I mean--not the e-mails promising rock-bottom prices on male enhancement products, but the chilling threats of imminent Armageddon all because Mom, apple pie, and God-fearing, democracy-loving Americans are once again under attack--usually by liberals or atheists or Democrats or gays or Muslims or, worst of all, by liberal atheistic Democratic gay Muslims.

These e-mails are usually forwarded to you and 938 other idiots who were dumb enough to give your e-mail addresses to Uncle Myron, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like. Or, for that matter, one he didn't think everyone in his address book should know about.

Let's Create a Better Future Together

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It's been a fair amount of time since I have written a truly meaningful post that is more than just me covering a story or talking about an issue. Well today I plan to make up for that with this post. This post won't be about any story - just my thoughts on what I think can move Kansas forward.

I am like many other Democrats in this state that haven't been the most thrilled with the recent happenings, out of professional courtesy I won't discuss which happenings these are, but I'm sure you can guess. One thing that is particularly dear to my heart is the Kansas Young Democrats. I took over as KYD President about 4 months ago now. I am very happy to say that we have honestly done a lot statewide. We have increased our number of chapters and taken part in the planning of health care reform rallies held in Kansas City and Wichita. We brought the first Young Democrats of America meeting to ever be held in Kansas (planned for Feb of 2011). We've done multiple community service projects and we've shown that young people have, want and deserve a voice in our state.

MS EURODAM, Atlantic Ocean - The 12th Annual Nation Cruise reopened its seminar sessions after two days off to visit the ports of San Juan and Crown Bay, St. Thomas, turning attention to the US economy.

Joining William Greider and Robert Scheer, were Eyal Press, contributing writer for The Nation and author of Absolute Convictions, and Christian Parenti, foreign correspondent for The Nation. Press' role on the panel was to address the social effects of the economic downturn while Parenti would look at developing a sustainable economy. Betsy Reed served as moderator.

Panelists were given 10 minutes to give their answers to "What to do about the economy?" After which they would have an opportunity for a two-minute response to the other panelists before taking questions from the audience.

tom-wiggans.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - Tom Wiggans announced that he has ended his exploratory committee, and his campaign for governor. Wiggans announced he was running less than a month ago.

In an email to his supporters, Wiggans said,

What I have learned from my discussions, and from public opinion polling, is that Kansans are hardly in sync with Sam Brownback and they are deeply concerned with the performance of Congress. What I have also learned is that for a candidate who has recently returned to my home state and who has never run for political office, it will take more time and resources than I can assemble to mount a winning campaign. While I have remained involved in many activities in the state over the past years, I have spent much of my business career away from home and thus am unknown to many voters and donors.

Therefore I believe it is in the best interest of the voters for me to end my exploration of running for Governor and entering public service at this time, and instead offer my ideas and experience to state leaders, institutions, and companies and focus my energies on creating new jobs and a strong economy for the future. I am committed to continuing my dialog with the voters of Kansas and becoming fully engaged in the many issues facing our state.

WASHINGTON - The talk now is that the Senate bill has stripped away any mention of a public option in order to capitulate to Joe Lieberman because they need his vote. The story goes that all the Republicans are going to vote against any sort of health care reform because they don't want to see any Obama policy put into law (which is true) and Democrats need Lieberman's vote in order to get any bill passed (which may or may not be true as well). So the Democrats now have the scapegoats they need in place in order to begin the great flim-flam they are going to call "health care reform."

While it is true that the obstructionist party would have voted no on anything that the Democrats put forward and Lieberman has been huffing and puffing all along about what he "will" and "will not" vote for, this is all smoke and mirrors, folks. Let me tell you what is really going on behind the scenes right now.

America Through the Looking Glass

TOPEKA, Kan. - One of my best friends from grade school in Topeka forwarded me an e-mail entitled "Bumper stickers to annoy liberals." I read through them, there were maybe 20 or 30. They were clever, caustic, hostile jokes. Millions of these things swirl around the Internet. Many are falsely attributed to people like Jay Leno or George Carlin and they borrow a little of those satirists' style of sarcasm, but are based on a solidly right wing ideology and they muster up a great deal more genuine, well-stewed hate than those comedians ever could. They lash out furiously at "liberals," whom they see as some sort of subhuman beasts intent on taking everything from them and destroying civilization.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The Democratic party is the voice for working people, farmers, and small business. The Republican party is the voice of Big Business. Never was this contrast between the parties more clear than on February 12, 2007 in the Kansas House of Representatives.

That's the day State Rep. Mark Treaster (D-Pretty Prairie) tried to tone down a corporate welfare bill sponsored by Republicans. The Republicans planned to abolish the "Franchise Tax" on all corporations in Kansas, regardless of size. The "Franchise Tax" is the annual fee that corporations pay to do business in Kansas. At that time, the cap on the franchise tax was $20,000 per corporation, and the franchise tax raised $44 million for the State of Kansas each year.

Democrat Rep. Mark Treaster offered an amendment to eliminate the state's franchise tax on all businesses licensed in Kansas with a taxable equity of a half a million dollars or less. The bill not only would have provided a tax break to small businesses, but also included a provision rewarding those small businesses who provide health insurance to employees. (The exemption could climb to 3 million if the company provided health insurance for workers.)

Who could be against such a win/win bill for both small businesses and the everyday Kansans who work for them? The Kansas Republican legislative delegation, that's who. The Treaster amendment was defeated 73-48. The vote was strictly along party lines.

Why did the Republicans object to the Treaster amendment?

EURODAM, Atlantic Ocean - The Nation's 12th Annual Cruise got underway this morning with The Nation's editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert Scheer ( Times) interviewing Gov. Howard Dean, Chair of the Democratic Party.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Howard Dean, Robert Scheer
Scheer opened the discussion by looking at the two major issues facing the nation: the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the banking crisis.

While the Democratic Party often has been the party of war in recent history, Scheer thought the party had made fundamental changes following the disaster of the Vietnam War and its fallout. But instead, what he heard in Obama's recent speech at West Point in which he outlined his intent to send an additional 30,00 troops to Afghanistan is that the party "seems to be back to (the days of) Scoop Jackson."

TOPEKA, Kan. - Moments ago on the Senate floor, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts compared health care reform to a pivotal moment in American history. Of the following five options, can you tell us which it was...

A) The passage of the Social Security Act
B) Pearl Harbor
C) Man walking on Moon
D) Balloon Boy
E) None of the above

Click here to submit your guess on what Pat Roberts compared health care reform too!

If you get it right, you'll get a sneak peek of the new KDP website. trust me, (you'll want to see it!)

P.S. The answer and video is below, but we'll trust you! ;)

HAYS, Kan. - With Sen. Sam Brownback (R) not seeking reelection to the Senate in order to launch his run for Kansas Governor, two House Republicans are apparently in a dead heat in the Republican Primary for the open U.S. Senate seat. The primary contest is now just 8 months away.

Jerry Moran
Earlier this fall it appeared that Jerry Moran had the lead. In November, Todd Tiahrt catapulted forward and is now running neck-and-neck with Moran.

The two are effectively tied. Moran is nominally ahead by 3 points, 37% to 34%, according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted for KWCH-TV Wichita and KCTV-TV Kansas City.

Who will win? The conservative or the maverick? And which is which?

Contrary to popular myth, the facts show that Tiarht is slightly more independent, more of a maverick legislator. On the other hand, Moran tends to vote in lockstep more consistently with the Republican leadership in Washington. Closer scrutiny shows that Moran is indeed the more conservative of the two.

Change the Tone of Our Discourse

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Where I work we happen to sell a President Obama bobble head doll that speaks when you push the button beneath him. I know you all know what I'm talking about - it's the kind of thing that you see while you're waiting in line at a Walgreens and then you make it talk even though you know the 5 people ahead of you already did it and the cashier is most likely going insane. Obviously, working around one of these dolls can get rather obnoxious.

After listening to this Obama bobble head day after day, however, I began to actually think about what I was hearing. Granted, the doll spouts about 6 different quotes (rather impressive actually...the sound quality is crystal clear!) but the one that I hear the most is from the election night speech in Chicago:

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there."

ELLSWORTH, Kan. - Rookie State Representative Don Svaty (D-108th) is a man of many accomplishments. However, he is usually introduced to people as "Josh Svaty's father." Svaty, speaking to Rice County Democrats on Wednesday night, seems smitten with the situation, and is justifiably proud of his son, Joshua Svaty, the new Agriculture Secretary for the State of Kansas.

Josh Svaty
Fresh out of Sterling College in 2002, Josh Svaty had barely reached the legal drinking age when he challenged two-term Republican State Representative Jerry Aday. Svaty stunned the political establishment when he upset the incumbent in the 2002 general election, becoming the youngest member of the Kansas House of Representatives.

When Governor Parkinson recently tapped Joshua Svaty to become Kansas Agriculture Secretary, Josh's Dad, an Ellsworth County farmer, was unanimously selected by 32 Democratic precinct committee members in the 108th District to replace his son. This is probably the only time in Kansas history that a parent has succeeded his or her child in the legislature.

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Politics: November 2009. The next archive is Politics: January 2010.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Politics: December 2009 section.

The previous archive is Politics: November 2009. The next archive is Politics: January 2010.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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