Archive for Saturday, July 10, 2004

Lobbyist group forms state chapter

Americans for Prosperity already has reputation with some Kansas lawmakers

July 10, 2004


— A national group that made a big but not always welcomed splash by fighting legislative proposals to raise taxes may undertake similar efforts during this year's elections.

Americans for Prosperity announced Friday that it has formed a Kansas chapter and already has recruited about 3,000 members. The group said it would promote lower taxes, limited government and individual liberties.

In April, the Washington-based group jumped into the debate over education funding in Kansas with a postcard and radio advertising campaign against higher taxes. The group spent almost $112,000, breaking the annual record for lobbyist spending in the state.

Alan Cobb, the group's new state director, said the group would concentrate on building its membership, forming strong local chapters and raising money.

And while the group has no plans to endorse candidates or make contributions, Cobb said it might try to influence voters' opinions about taxes and government spending.

"We're certainly going to consider some voter education, which is essentially what we did in April," Cobb said during a news conference. "We're actually just getting our feet underneath us, and we have a whole lot of priorities, including building a membership base."

During the session, some legislators were frustrated and angry with the group, arguing that it misrepresented statistics and made misleading comparisons in its efforts to persuade Kansans that their tax burden already was too high.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who sought tax increases to benefit schools, welcomed the group to the political debate but derided it for producing "phony mailers" using incorrect information in April.

Cobb said the group stood by the information in its mailings and called criticism "a knee-jerk reaction" from officials who felt pressure from their constituents.

The group's effort in April was unusual because of its cost. The previous record for annual lobbyist spending was $82,839, set in 1981 by the Independent Producers Group, which fought efforts to impose a severance tax on oil and natural gas production.

Because of the Americans for Prosperity campaign, lobbyist spending through April, at $508,191, already is 4.4 percent ahead of lobbyist spending for all of 2003, which was $487,006.

The No. 2 group in lobbyist spending through April was the Kansas-National Education Assn., which spent nearly $49,000, most of it on newspaper ads designed to build support for higher education funding.

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