Archive for Monday, November 21, 2005

Bloggers inundating Kansas politics

November 21, 2005


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."

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."

'Completely independent'

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, 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."

Cigler agreed.

"They're speaking to the choir," Cigler said. "They're not changing anybody's mind about anything."


neopolss 12 years, 7 months ago

Writing a blog just makes them feel like they are important. "I have 10,000 hits, that's like 10,000 fans!"

dirkleisure 12 years, 7 months ago

Hmmm, I wonder if any other sites about the Third District may have inspired firedennismoore?

Is firedennismoore really the "Grandaddy" and "inspiration?"

What poor reporting, Mr. Mathis. I'm certain political blogs are not a post-2004 election creation. Perhaps a new blog is in order -

Just FYI - Taffwatch, Kriswatch,, MooreWatch and its spawn, MooreWatchWatch...

Seriously - firedennismoore is a Grandaddy? More like an 1 year old grandchild. Sloth is a dealy sin, you know...

badger 12 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, but wendt, it might be different if the phone company had another phone company insisting that the call to Aunt Blabbie counted as technically theirs because Aunt Blabbie lives in Missouri (where telephone coverage is billed proportionately) and they are the primary long distance provider for her, and insisting that a certain percentage of your phone bill should be paid to them, based on the distance from your house to the edge of Kansas vs. the distance from Aunt Blabbie's in St. Louis to the boundary of Missouri, while your phone company insisted that the call was covered under the rules of Kansas, which state that the initiator's phone company should receive all payment for the call.

Blogs are handy, and they've been around for quite awhile. I have a few that I've been reading for several years, mostly about writing or speculative fiction. The political blogs all seem to eventually go down in a frothing rage of self-aggrandizing drama, though, so I tend to stay away.

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

This article seems to confuse blogs that are the equivalent with self-published newspapers with blogs created at the behest of political campaigns and, via subterfuge, mimic such forums. They are not the same, particularly with regard to regulation. The first are no more regulable than the LJW; the second is unregulated because government has expressly exempted internet communication for now for policy reasons.

Whether these blogs are reliable is of little concern. Those with a high error rate in accuracy and prediction will be worth less to "consumers." Those that fail to engage contrary debate (and seem to act as if they were being paid "by the word" by external interests) will end up as echo chambers that bore the average reader.

badger 12 years, 7 months ago

Generally, I find an author I like, and more often than not that author has a blog on his website talking about his experiences with the writing and publication process. I have followed Neil Gaiman, Stephen Brust, and George RR Martin at various times, though Martin's site is sporadically updated. I also follow my brother's blog, though he's only been published twice in short story form (I just like the stuff he says). I wish I could find a Connie Willis blog, because she's one of my favorites, but to no avail. Wil Wheaton also has a great website (either or; it's in my favorites so I never have to type it...).

If I'm discussing politics, it's more likely in a forum. I'm one of the admins for a fairly active one, with a moderate to liberal bias (because they all have bias; some of them just a lot more than others). I have occasionally been involved in the forums for webcomics I liked, but I have (sadly) found that a lot of times, artists can be very snippy people who railroad conversation and run over those who disagree with them (one forum I posted to for a while got really old when the author of the comic persisted in editing entries of those who disagreed with them so that they either supported his point or made no sense. I agreed with him politically, but found that remarkably childish).

I wasn't actually trying to get into LATAs, I was trying to say that if the phone company had infighting and two or three opposing groups all fighting over the cookies for every call, like the political system does for every electoral vote, they'd be a lot less efficient, like the political system is.

manuka 12 years, 7 months ago

"independent blogs can be "dangerous" by planting false stories that might catch on in mainstream media outlets."

This wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem if those same media outlets would get off their collective arses and actually research a story for once, instead of just spouting whatever they read on a blog or from a political party's press release.

I've got no problem with bias, as it helps me understand where the author is coming from. It's when there's obvious bias and the author claims he's strictly unbiased that I take issue.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.