Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dr. Marshall and the Ethics Board

If you've been asking yourself why the Kansas Ethics Commission would be investigating the financial report of a Congressional candidate, you're not alone.

Typically, the Federal Ethics Commission investigates these things. So a few weeks ago, when I received an email about a complaint filed with Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission about Roger Marshall, a doctor vying for Congressman Tim Huelskamp's seat in the Big First, I thought, well, whoever is filing that complaint is just trying to stir up some campaign shenanigans. 

This story may be more than just campaign fodder. The Kansas ethics commission has now ruled that a Marshall Statement of Substantial Interest, or SSI, was missing several key pieces of financial information about the Great Bend doctor. 

 I don't put much faith in the Kansas ethics commission, as I know it's often used as a tool of the Left and of Establishment incumbents to punish those on the Right or those who think they should be able to just up and launch a campaign against an incumbent. However, Kansas state public officials must file campaign finance reports -- if they're running for office-- and/or SSIs for a variety of roles in Kansas government, and THAT is how Marshall (rightfully so, it appears) got caught in the snares of the Kansas ethics commission.

Marshall is kind of a public official. Who knew? Marshall is a commissioner, appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback, to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Commission. Because if there's anyone who knows about Kansas wildlife and tourism, it's a medical doctor. (And… I am a little discouraged to learn that this “job” pays. Not well. But commissioners earn $35 per day. I don’t even…)

Because he is a state appointed employee (why yes, the gig of Kansas Wildlife, Parks, Tourism and Everything Under the Sink Commissioner pays! Not well --$35 per day – but still), he is required to submit an SSI showing all of his finances, including IRAs, company ownerships, etc.

When he decided to run against Huelskamp, Marshall had to file a similar form with the Federal Ethics Commission. And someone – probably opposition research for the Huelskamp campaign—compared Marshall’s federal form to the one he disclosed to the state of Kansas.

Doc left about $750,000 worth of assets on the cutting room floor when he turned the SSI form into the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Rumor has it the Doctor has made some bank, and folks are suggesting he didn’t want to appear too wealthy in his search for a Kansas appointment.  (He’s rumored to be worth about $10 million.)

So, what all does this tell us about Dr. Marshall?

He didn't reveal all of his assets to the state of Kansas as required. He definitely didn’t take that Kansas Wildlife Commissioner role for the money, and he probably doesn’t use his vacation time exploring Kansas tourism. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

This Is a Total Crock

Apparently, some group surveyed members of the Communist Party of America and then pretended they had surveyed just regular ol' folks about members of the U.S. Senate.

Not surprisingly, the communist's favorite member of the U.S. Senate is Bernie Sanders. Can we talk for half a second about the Bern? On what planet is that guy considered cool? I'm baffled that the yutes are charmed by this slobbering grandfather type who has never held a real job and talks with a bizarre accent. I understood why the kids thought Obama was cool. I mean, he shoots hoops and has good teeth. But Bernie's supposed hipness just shows me how out of touch I really am. I am officially not cool. Not even kind of. And if Bernie is hip these days, I'm going to go ahead and take a pass.

This outfit also determined that Kansas' very own Sen. Pat Roberts is the second least favorite member of Congress, followed only by Sen. Mitch McConnell. (The McConnell assessment is probably accurate as outside of Kentucky, I have never met a single person who thinks McConnell is even kind of tolerable.) But Roberts?

Um... has anyone outside of Kansas even heard of Pat Roberts? 

This survey is a complete joke. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Closing the LLC Loophole Is Dead

It had a good run, but in the end, there just weren't enough votes to close an unintended consequence of the 2012 tax cuts. 

The strange thing is legislators voted, and it would have passed had so-called moderates voted to close the loophole. You'll recall the moderates have been some of the most vocal proponents of closing the LLC-loophole, suggesting that closing the loophole must happen FOR THE CHILDREN. 

There are some very good arguments for fixing the LLC-loophole, and an awful lot of really smart people disagree on this course of action. The Tax Foundation supports closing the loophole. Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform says the tax cuts are working. Bottom line: Reasonable people can and do disagree in rational ways about the LLC loophole and whether it's a good solution to Kansas' current budget challenges.

Meanwhile, the so-called mods and their Democrat friends have been moaning about the 2012 tax package since well, before 2012. I believe their base belief is that government should have all the money, and we plebes should receive allowances courtesy of the state.

It looks like closing the Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer named LLC-loophole is dead after a very long day under the Dome yesterday. The measure, SB 63, failed by 16 votes in the House. 

I mention this only because voters should recognize that the mods and Dems have been lying from day one about their real concerns about the Kansas budget. When given the chance to overturn the 2012 tax reform and given the opportunity to reverse the LLC-loophole, they voted against both measures. 

These 24 mods/Dems voted against reversing the LLC loophole not once, but twice. Once in 2014, when they voted against overturning the 2012 tax reforms, and again this session when they voted against closing the LLC-loophole. They include Barbara Bollier, Tom Burroughs, Sydney Carlin, Stephanie Clayton, Diana Dierks John Doll, Blaine Finch, Gail Finney, Stan Frownfelter, Broderick Henderson, Jerry Henry, Larry Hibbard, Don Hill, Don Hineman, Roderick Houston, Russell Jennings, Annie Kuether, Tom Moxley, Tom Phillips, Melissa Rooker, Kent Thompson, Brandon Whipple, John Wilson and Valdenia Winn.

Their argument for the latest vote against closing the loophole is that it didn't fully solve the problem, meaning it wouldn't completely close the budget hole.

Don't buy their story. While it may not have closed the hole, it would have been a start -- and a start that the so-called moderates and Democrats said they wanted. (Here is where I must note that more spending cuts is also a start in closing the gap.)

But these so-calleds really have no interest in solving Kansas' problems. I believe their approach is Burn It Down. This means they'd rather set fire to Brownback's Kansas than let him have any credit for positive results.

It's childish and pathetic, but that's where we're at. It's not really about what's best for Kansas; it's about having power and attempting to embarrass the Governor and conservatives. While conservatives are busy looking for solutions to keep the lights on and please everyone -- even the money grubbing K-12ers -- the mods and Dems are pouring gasoline on the process. 

For those 24, it was never about the budget, making ends meet or protecting Kansans. They had two opportunities to reverse what they said was bad for Kansans, and they voted against it--twice. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Skinny on KSRA & Its One Time Lobbyist (Also feature Ray Merrick and Ralph Ostmeyer)

Let's backtrack, shall we?

At the close of the regular session, circa March -- yeah, that's last month -- a few legislators drafted legislation that would expand gun rights in Kansas. The proposed pieces of legislation would have:

  • Lowered the age for conceal carry licenses from 21 to 18;
  • Required that buildings that receive public funding or financing allow those with conceal carry to carry in the buildings or provide adequate security -- so be treated as public buildings;
  • Required that public housing allow renters to have guns.
When legislators suggested these pieces of legislation to a lobbyist for the Kansas State Rifle Association -- Mike Murray -- he was not impressed.

Following a brief snit with these legislators, the lobbyist reportedly yelled that the legislation would mean some Republicans would not get re-elected if asked to take a stand on those pieces of legislation. Now, I'm no policy expert, BUT I am fairly certain that outside of certain circles like Lawrence and KCK -- where Republicans don't really have much of a toe-hold and where we certainly don't have any state legislators -- no one has ever been thrown out of office in Kansas for support of the Second Amendment.

But I digress: So Mike had a bit of a snit with some legislators over legislation he opposed personally. And he took that fight right to the top -- Speaker Ray Merrick, who ensured the bills wouldn't see the light of day in the House -- and Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, who is doing his best to ensure that gun legislation dies in the Senate today.

Back in late March, when KSRA officials heard that their own lobbyist was working against their interests, members of the KSRA board called Murray onto the carpet. Rumor has it that at this particular meeting, Murray said something along the lines of (and note to Murray's attorneys, I'm paraphrasing) And that's why I don't work well with women. KSRA's president appears to have 'XX' chromosomes. I don't want to offend anyone by calling her a women on the off chance she "identifies" as something else.

Anyway, Murray was canned as a KSRA lobbyist, but he's waiving papers around Topeka complaining that he was wronged. Meanwhile, gun legislation is at a stand still because some lobbyist dude and friend of Ray and Ralph has his Fruit of the Looms twisted.

From where I'm standing this looks like a pissing contest in which a handful of old school legislators and a lobbyist from yesteryear are trying to show their prowess by shooting long streams. Unfortunately, it looks like the people of Kansas are getting caught in the cross stream.

Passing This Along for a Friend

In the final throes of the legislative session, this is when things get crazy.

I do not know the details, and I really don't have time to find out before it's a moot point. I'll simply say I trust the person who alerted me, and I'll leave it at that. You can decide whether you trust me, and whether it's of the importance to heed this call to action:

Word on the T-town street is that the Kansas Sen. Fed and State Chair, Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, is holding up SB 65, a bill supported by the Kansas State Rifle Association. 

The bill in question would allow public employees to carry concealed weapons in municipally owned vehicles, and rumor has it, Ostmeyer is refusing to forward House Sub for SB 65, because he's pals with Mike Murray, a former KSRA lobbyist who was let go by the KSRA. 

I am uncomfortable ascribing motives to individuals and prefer to focus on their actions. So, I can't say whether Ostmeyer's foot dragging is related to his friendship with Murray or something else. But -- he is holding up the legislation.

So, those of you who are so inclined, please call Ostmeyer's office and ask him to move this legislation. His office number is (785)296-7399. Or you can email him at Ralph.Ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov.

Who ARE these people?

Almost daily, Kansans who don't live in shacks in the woods are forced to listen to nonstop drivel about the eeeevil Gov. Sam Brownback and his diabolical plan to let people keep more of their own money.

I realize that the Kansas budget has a problem, and I recognize the wise consideration legislators are giving to closing the unintended consequences of the LLC loophole. That said, I STILL believe that Kansas has more of a spending problem, and I'm also not opposed to just starving the bureaucratic beast.

Legislators returned to Topeka on Wednesday, and the Senate spent part of Thursday debating closing the loophole. From the outside looking in, it really appears that legislators are digging in their heels. I can't even guess how this one ends. 

But I do know that for the next few weeks, we'll likely be daily bombarded with quips from this group -- the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.Their drivel is tiresome, that's for sure. This outfit sprung out of nowhere in 2013. They snuck up on the Sunflower State like an uncle with boundary issues. And can I just note that today's "economic growth" is yesterday's "for the children?" At one time, no spending was too bloated if it was "for the children." Today, we can never spend enough in pursuit of "economic growth." 

An avid news reader can't throw an elbow without running into a quote from the KCEG or one of its leaders. (It boasts a staff of four people, including a lady who worked at the University of Kansas, some guy from Minnesota and a woman who has an English degree, so almost the Kansas equivalent of a degree in puppetry.)

I have some truly unkind thoughts about these people, but I'll spare you. With the exception of Duanne Goossen, the sour grapes former budget director who truly helmed the USS Kansas into the side of a budget iceberg, they are all quasi-private citizens, and I'm polite. So I'll spare you my thoughts on the individuals involved.

I will NOT however spare the media nor the organization itself. Just who is this group of has-beens attempting to direct public policy?

That's where it gets interesting. 

Their website describes them as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and analysis to promote balanced state polices that ensure that all Kansans prosper."

First, we can throw out "nonpartisan." I have yet to find a single story in which this group offers any solution that doesn't involve bashing Brownback or conservative principles. That appears to be the organization's raison d'etre. 

If they're a "non-partisan" organization, then I am, too. Please send checks, and I'll start testifying in Topeka and knocking people over to get in front of news cameras to offer my "research" and "analysis." Seriously, send checks.

And let's chat about the questionable term "nonprofit" as used in the organization's description. Nonprofits are required to file an IRS Form 990, but according to Guidestar.com, no such org exists. You're welcome to check it out yourself, but here's a screenshot:

They're also not registered as a corporation in Kansas with the Kansas Secretary of State's Office. 

Please compare, for example, the way the Topeka Capital-Journal describes this outfit to the way the journalists at the Cap-J describe the Kansas Policy Institute -- a think tank with a very similar description, albeit one that has filed forms with the IRS and the Secretary of State's Office.

So just who is this outfit, and for the love of all things holy, why is the media just taking them at their word?

As one savvy person recently suggested to me that, "the Kansas Center for Economic Growth doesn't actually exist and is perhaps a shell organization with a fancy-sounding name that exists to criticize the Brownback administration on economic matters."

I'd add only one thing, and it's something that so-called fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal don't seem to grasp: Morals are directly tied to dollars and cents. There's a reason most fiscal conservatives align with social conservatives. Finances and morals are inextricably tied together. I don't believe that the KCEG's sole political focus is financial. That's the story they're selling -- poorly, albeit with ample assistance from the media -- and that outfit is a beast likely to grow more (social left-leaning) heads. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oh, Look, Squirrel!

Liberals today are in an uproar because Gov. Sam Brownback announced that Kansas would withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program.

I'm largely indifferent to this announcement, but I have had about enough of the liberal twits suggesting that Brownback's announcement is a slight of hand designed to divert attention from Kansas' budget situation.

These are the people who spend 90 percent of every single day demanding that men in dresses be given access to women's locker rooms. If that's not a diversion from more pressing topics, I don't know what is. 

Stick a sock in it, libs. Seriously.