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Recent Kansas editorials

July 9, 2019

The Kansas City Star, July 8

‘Disorganized and amateur’: Even Republicans say Kobach Senate bid could spell disaster

If history is any guide, Kansas’ U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Pat Roberts since 1997, and by Republicans for a century, should be the GOP’s to lose in 2020.

And were Kris Kobach the Republican nominee, the party would have a fighting chance to do just that: lose.

The former Kansas Secretary of State and failed 2018 gubernatorial candidate — who is so polarizing that even the Kobach-kindred Trump administration has recently been careful to put daylight between him and the president — blew into the Senate race with his kickoff announcement Monday. Like any cyclone, Kobach changed the atmosphere instantly in GOP circles, from that of anticipation to one of dread.

“The last statewide campaign that Kris ran for governor could be described as disorganized and amateur at best,” warned conservative Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park. “We simply can’t afford to give the Democrats another gift like we did with Laura Kelly in that governor’s race.”

“Just last year, Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat,” added a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Now he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate majority at risk. We know Kansans won’t let that happen ...”

Yet, is it so certain they won’t? Remember, even with a growing reputation for leaving a trail of damage, Kobach last year narrowly defeated incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary before losing to Kelly, a Democrat, in November. Moreover, there’s a risk that many good conservative Kansans will earnestly but futilely cling to Kobach as the border savior he clearly is not.

Indeed, with what’s been described as a Music Man-style hustle, Kobach has crossed the land over the years selling city officials on his elixir for local immigration enforcement, only to leave them with overturned ordinances and court costs reaching into the millions, not to mention his hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees. Taxpayers in Valley Park, Missouri; Farmers Branch, Texas; Hazleton, Pennsylvania; and Fremont, Nebraska, all were sucked into the Kobach whirlwind.

He hasn’t left out his home state, either. Last year, the Kansas voter citizenship law he championed was struck down by a federal judge who also felt it necessary to find Kobach in contempt for his foot-dragging on voter rights and ordered him to take remedial classes to fix his courtroom behavior.

He has, by trusted accounts, left the Secretary of State’s office in disarray. Yet, when being considered for the new post of Trump administration “Immigration Czar” earlier this year, Kobach reportedly issued a list of such extravagant demands — for a West Wing office, 24/7 government jet, eminence over other Cabinet officers on immigration, unfettered access to the Oval Office, a path to Homeland Security secretary — that it was undoubtedly leaked to the media to shame him.

Kobach also has been dogged by reports of having ties to white supremacist groups — accusations that he’s denied. The allegations were flagged by Republican National Committee researchers working for the Trump transition team, and recently released Trump vetting documents listed possible connections to white supremacists as a Kobach vulnerability.

How many red flags must flap wildly in the Kansas wind before GOP voters see this storm coming?

It’s gut-check time for Kansas Republicans. They will be not only nominating a candidate for a Senate seat they’ve occupied since 1919, but will also be choosing a standard-bearer for the party.

Does Kris Kobach really represent the standard the Kansas GOP wants to set?

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July 7, The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansans should reflect on Dole’s example

Kansans have plenty of cause to be proud of Bob Dole, the Republican stalwart who made his mark as an extraordinary public servant.

The Russell native spent most of his life in government service of some kind. Faced with significant adversity, he still became a difference-maker as a state and federal legislator, which earned him the respect and admiration of many Kansans and other Americans.

Dole has been honored in numerous ways for his career accomplishments and recently collected yet another tribute from friends in Kansas.

During its annual meeting recently in Topeka, the Kansas Bar Association singled out Dole as recipient of its Courageous Attorney Award — an honor given to a lawyer who has displayed exceptional courage in the face of adversity.

Dole’s legal career included time early on as Russell County attorney. He now serves as special counsel for a law firm in Washington, D.C.

Still, he’s best known for his accomplishments as a lawmaker.

Dole entered politics after a long recovery from wounds suffered in World War II. Lingering scars and physical challenges didn’t slow his impressive career.

He served in the Kansas Legislature and both chambers of Congress, and was elected Senate majority leader in 1984. Going on to be the GOP nominee for president in 1996, Dole lost to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton. Fittingly, and in proving his reputation as a true statesman, Dole later served alongside Clinton as co-chairman of the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund to raise over $120 million for educational needs of 9-11 victims’ families.

It was nothing new for Dole, who was accustomed to working with Democrats to achieve progress. He knew to reach across the aisle to get things done, which resulted in important deals on Social Security and the Americans with Disabilities Act, among others.

In the face of adversity — whether related to his time in war or fierce negotiations over policymaking that came later — Dole never wavered from that belief. He knew bipartisan solutions were not only possible but should be the goal for policymakers of every political persuasion.

With a seat in the U.S. Senate soon to be vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts, every Kansan interested — and any other political hopeful — should reflect on Dole’s accomplishments and take stock in the fine example he set throughout his career.

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Lawrence Journal-World, July 7

Understanding the true costs and benefits of a community regulation on plastic and paper bags is a lot like walking around with a sack on your head — there are lots of things that are difficult to see.

City commissioners should keep that in mind as they consider a recommendation by the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board to create a 16-cent per bag fee for shoppers who use plastic sacks or paper bags at local retail establishments.

It doesn’t take much research to learn that such fee programs and outright bans can have unintended consequences. For example, some communities think they are fighting climate change with such bag bans. But then they risk becoming disappointed as studies are beginning to find that the reusable cotton bags many people use to replace their plastic and paper bags are actually worse from a climate change standpoint. (Growing and harvesting cotton can put a strain on the environment, it seems.) Thicker plastic bags may be better, but if we all do that, how much more oil will we need to extract from the earth?)

Commissioners, thus, should focus on creating a bag program based on what is clear. Perhaps the clearest conclusion on this topic is that plastic sacks are a particularly messy piece of trash. They aren’t compatible with the city’s single stream recycling program. They are tough to contain at the landfill, and they are particularly harmful to marine life when the bags frequently get into a body of water.

Focus on making that problem better.

What’s less clear is why paper sacks should get wrapped into this debate. The evidence isn’t there that they are creating the same problems as plastic bags. When asked by the Journal-World why paper sacks would be part of the program, a sustainability board member said they were a poor use of resources and there was a limit on their recyclability. The list of products that meet those criteria is long. The explanation seems flimsy.

Again, with a little research, it seems that the case for reducing paper bag usage goes to climate change. The energy to produce and transport a bag can put a strain on the environment. But this is a much cloudier conclusion than the findings on plastic sacks. There are lots of factors that alter the conclusion on paper sacks. What type of forest practices are used in producing the paper? What are the energy-saving methods employed at the production facility? How are the sacks shipped? And many more.

Unlike the plastic sack initiative — which does have a chance to make Lawrence a cleaner place — it is difficult to see the direct benefit of reducing paper bag usage.

The city also should be wary of what it asks businesses to pay. There will be a cost for businesses to collect this fee on behalf of the city. Accounting services aren’t free.

And then there is the issue of the money. For one, some math-checking seems in order on the 16-cent fee. Let’s really examine the assumptions behind it before adopting it. But also, what specifically will the city do with this money?

It could be a lot of money. If indeed 30 million plastic and paper bags are used in the city each year — which has been one estimate from the board — if the fee reduces usage by 90%, the city still would collect $480,000 a year. If usage is reduced by a more modest rate of 50%, the fee program would generate $2.4 million a year.

All we know right now is the fees would be used to run the program, buy some reusable bags to give away and fund some programs for low-income people. The public should demand a lot more specifics than that prior to any fee program becoming a reality.

Don’t let this become like the affordable housing sales tax that was approved without any real spending plan. Some people called that blind-faith approval being compassionate. Maybe it was, but if we keep operating on blind faith, we someday all will be chumps.

And we may not even have the paper bags to wear to hide our embarrassment.

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