Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign is in big trouble. Elected as Kansas’s governor in 2010, his fiscal policies should sound familiar to all of us – cut taxes on the wealthy and businesses, raise sales taxes, fees and property taxes (which hit poor and middle income families disproportionately), and slash state education and government services’ budgets. This in turn has led to unprecedented deficit spending, depleted balances, soaring debt and downgraded credit, as well as lagging economic growth.
So, the chances are pretty good that Brownback won’t be re-elected, and that at least some of his policies will be overturned. In fact, over 100 centrist Republicans have publicly endorsed his Democratic opponent. So what’s a good religious (as a Senator, Brownback lived at the C street house made infamous by the John Ensign scandal), conservative nutcase supposed to do to leave a lasting legacy in Kansas? Why, stack the courts, of course!
Enter Caleb Stegall. Caleb’s been considered as an up-and-comer on the religious right for over ten years. He’s had a rather interesting career as an attorney, representing at various times the Kansas Republican Party, former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and Kansas’s favorite astroturf group, Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity. In 2009, he ran for Jefferson County District Attorney and won. In 2011, Brownback named Stegall as Chief Counsel to the Governor of Kansas, and appointed him to the Kansas Court of Appeals last year
Yesterday, in a move that surprised nobody at all, Brownback appointed Stegall to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court. Though Brownback claimed that Stegall didn’t have an inside track, we have to question his statement, considering that the two other candidates had fifteen and twenty years experience in the Court of Appeals respectively, compared to Stegall’s one year.
We also have to wonder about Stegall’s ability to remain impartial on the bench, as he’s been known to utter gems like this excerpt from a 2005 interview with the website GodSpy:
“It is true that liberalism – which is really the engine of modernism – as an ordering principle is tremendously powerful, and now has the inertia of centuries driving it forward still, but it has some significant weaknesses, chief among them that it lies. It lies about the human condition and it lies about the reality of natural limits embedded in reality. Human freedom and consumption simply cannot expand infinitely. Eventually, the structures supporting such expansion will give way, and it remains to be seen what, if any, civilizing forces will be left to bring order out of that chaos.”
Erin Larson, a lawyer based in Mission, stated her reservations about his impartiality:
“I think the concern is the Kansas Judicial Branch has such a great tradition of being independent and really bringing a common sense balance to the other branches of government. And when you have somebody with that ideology it is concerning,”
Then, there’s how long he could serve. Stegall is 43; by Kansas law, he can sit on the bench until he’s 75. That’s 32 years – long enough to do serious damage by anyone’s standards. Hopefully, the good people of Kansas will elect enough sane people to office in the upcoming years to minimize his effect.