Tag Archives: Kansas

Kobach Under Fire as Pushback to ‘Repugnant’ Voter Data Demand Swells

Trump’s vice chair of “voting integrity” commission stands accused of violating Hatch Act

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-4-2017

“We deem the President’s Election Integrity Commission to be a baseless tool to promote voter suppression and Mr. Kobach’s unlawful abuse of his role as head of the Commission for partisan ends only underscores the illegitimacy of the Commission itself,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

As the number of states rejecting a “repugnant” and “alarming” voter data demand from the Trump administration’s so-called Election Integrity Commission swells to 41, one of the officials at the helm of that commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is under fire for allegedly violating federal law.

A civil rights group says that in his role as commission vice chair, Kobach, a Republican who’s been dubbed “the king of voter suppression,” appears to have violated the Hatch Act.

The 1939 law, which applies to Kobach in his role as committee vice chair, bars federal employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” Continue reading


In Major Tax Speech, Paul Ryan Lays Out Plan to Lavish Rich With Tax Cuts

“Paul Ryan is not serious about tax reform. He’s serious about tax giveaways—for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-20-2017

Photo: YouTube

After spending months selling a healthcare plan that proposed kicking millions off their insurance and gutting crucial safety net programs, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has now shifted his focus to tax reform, where he hopes to provide significant tax relief to the wealthiest Americans.

On Tuesday, after weeks of failing to offer any details on his ambitious plan to permanently overhaul the tax code, Ryan made his first major pitch to the National Association of Manufacturers—a business advocacy group that has in the past received funding from the Koch brothers. Continue reading


Insufficient Funds – Kinky In Kansas

Sam Brownback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sam Brownback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

For the last four years, we’ve been watching an interesting (yet totally predictable) political and economic experiment play out in Kansas. After the 2010 elections, which saw Republicans win super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s race, Governor Sam Brownback put into place the economic and social policies promoted by the evangelical conservative and/or Tea Party movements.

As anybody with half a brain could have predicted, this hasn’t turned out so well. Over just one three month period (from April through June of this year), tax revenues were $334 million short of expectations. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the state’s credit rating. The Kansas Supreme Court found the level of funding for education unconstitutional. This is not a good place for Brownback to be, considering that the Kansas Constitution requires a balanced budget.

How are they addressing this problem of insufficient funds? On Thursday, the Brownback administration claimed to have found an estimated $101 million in savings. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the savings include lower costs in healthcare expenses for state employees than was projected and standardizing computer systems across the state government. The Kansas Division of Budget told seven state agencies to evaluate whether they can operate more efficiently; it’s funny how the agencies singled out for this include the Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department for Children and Families and the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. They’re also having a sex toy auction – a what?

Yes- you heard us correctly. Earlier this week, a Kansas state official said that thousands of sex toys seized by the revenue department would be auctioned off. The items were seized in a four-county raid on a Kansas company known as United Outlets LLC. Why the raid? Because the owner, Larry Minkoff, owed $164,000 in unpaid income and sales taxes.

Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley said about the news: “Brownback is so desperate to fill the massive hole in the state budget caused by his reckless income tax cuts that the state of Kansas is now in the porn business.” The double entendre was probably unintentional, but we digress…

Four years ago, Sam Brownback was hailed as a shining star in conservative circles; the poster child of the evangelical right. With his implementation of a God, guns and unfettered free market agenda, he would show the rest of the nation how a state run by those principles was bound to succeed beyond everybody’s wildest dreams, or so the conservative talking heads would lead us to believe.

Instead, Kansas these days is running budget shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and needs to sell sex toys to help pay down its debt. The irony is staggering.


Fly Like A Stegall

Sam Brownback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sam Brownback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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.