The rumor was posted to an anti-U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore blog at 8:44 a.m. on Tuesday.
Tim Shallenburger, the Kansas GOP chairman, would resign his post within a week, the Web site proclaimed. The anonymous author didn't say how he (or she) had uncovered this information.
No matter. Within hours the information spread to other Kansas blogs across the political spectrum, most of them also anonymously written, including the "Fire Phill Kline" site, for example, as well as the conservative Kansas governor's race blog and the more liberal "Thoughts from Kansas."
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Shallenburger was telling reporters he was keeping his job. And state political observers were left to ponder the power and reach of the growing number of online blogs focused on Kansas politics.
"I tell you what," said Derrick Sontag, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, "it could greatly change the landscape and campaigning in general."
Here are some blogs focused on Kansas politics:
- Red Letter Day
- Thoughts from Kansas
- The Anti-Sam Brownback Blog
- Red State Rabble
- Run With Ryun
- Fire Phill Kline!
- Got Values?
- Fire Dennis Moore
- Fire Kansas Democrats
- Kansas Governors Race 2006
- 2006 Campaign Blog
- Kansas Republican Politics
- Burger's Politics and Business
- The Kansas Progress
Have a Kansas political blog not mentioned here? Send the link to email@example.com
For now, experts say, such blogs don't have much reach beyond hard-core political activists and journalists in Kansas. But they're unfettered by the rules and regulations that govern other forms of political communication, and could help shape the agenda for state campaigns in 2006 and beyond.
"It's a great way of democratizing the media," said Kansas University political science student Nate Thames, who runs a blog devoted to criticism of Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback. "I think the more voices, the better."
Media reports state that a Republican campaign strategist in Arkansas last spring urged supporters to create blogs that would counter perceived liberal bias by the media there. But Kansas party officials say they have no similar plans here.
"Those blogs are completely independent of us," said Mike Gaughan, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.
"We haven't put that in our strategy," Shallenburger said of the Kansas GOP.
For now, though, state and federal officials have declined to regulate political blogs the same way they do brochures or postcards from campaigns.
"There's nothing in the campaign finance laws that address that issue," said Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. "That's one of these uncharted territories."
Sontag, the Republican director, said the independent blogs can be "dangerous" by planting false stories that might catch on in mainstream media outlets.
"Eventually, there's got to be a way to get everybody their blogging fix," he said, "but to do it in a more responsible manner."
Allan Cigler, a KU political science professor who closely followed online commentary in Moore's campaign in 2004, urged blog readers to be cautious.
"My impression was, in most cases, it's somebody associated with the campaigns themselves who anonymously set them up," Cigler said. "You have to take what you find with a grain of salt."
The political "blogosphere" in Kansas is young and, for the most part, thinly populated. Two of the more established - "Thoughts From Kansas" by Kansas University graduate student Joshua Rosenau and "Red State Rabble" by science teacher Pat Hayes - sprang up in the past 18 months and closely tracked the evolution controversy at the Kansas State Board of Education.
Rosenau said he gets 500 hits a day on his blog, which has attracted attention from readers in Washington, D.C., and on Slate.com, a national Web magazine.
"My niche covering Kansas politics is largely a result of market analysis," Rosenau said via e-mail. "The national scene has its established sites, but Kansas really didn't. I didn't know what was going on, and I figured other people might not either."
Among the anonymous blogs more narrowly focused on Kansas politics, "Fire Dennis Moore" might be the granddaddy and inspiration for the crop of similar blogs that have popped up since the beginning of October.
Its online archives indicate the site started in the days after Moore, the Democratic U.S. congressman who represents the state's 3rd District, defeated conservative Republican Kris Kobach to retain the seat.
Since then, the site has run a list of "top 10" reasons to vote against Moore and exhorted conservative and moderate Republicans to unite against the Democrat in 2006. The unidentified authors of the blog did not respond to a Journal-World e-mail requesting comment.
"We've enjoyed bashing Dennis Moore for over a year," the authors wrote in a Thursday posting announcing a new site advocating the firing of all Kansas Democrats. "We've almost reached 10,000 hits, and we're proud of our work."
Moore's representatives, however, say they're mostly unconcerned.
"You always worry that somebody might put inaccurate information out there," said Christie Appelhanz, Moore's spokeswoman. "But the average person on the street is not reading political blogs on a daily basis."
"They're speaking to the choir," Cigler said. "They're not changing anybody's mind about anything."