Views from Kansas: Chamber PAC’s poor choices

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

This week begins a monthlong blitz of television ads, radio spots, postcards and digital posts designed to sway your vote, and many of those ads will be funded by the Kansas Chamber PAC.

According to the most recent publicly available filing reports, Koch Industries is its largest contributor with a recent donation of $125,000.

When you turn on your radio or receive postcards paid for by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC, consider this story.

During a discussion in the House Appropriations Committee about controlling feral swine, then Rep. Virgil Peck from Montgomery County quipped, “It looks like to me that if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem.”

It was a vile comment unbecoming of an elected official, but Peck dismissed it, saying, “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person.”

The incident occurred in 2011, but it is relevant today because Peck is seeking election to become a state senator and is an endorsed candidate of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC.

Yes, the Kansas Chamber saw fit to endorse a man who thought shooting immigrants from a helicopter was an appropriate policy solution. Why is an organization that touts itself as “the leading statewide, member-driven organization that serves as the most credible legislative voice for the Kansas business community at the statehouse” endorsing someone who proclaimed shooting people from a helicopter could solve a problem?

It’s not a case of the Chamber choosing Peck because he is the more common-sense Republican. He’s not. Peck supported the Sam Brownback tax plan, rejected Medicaid expansion and, again, thought immigrants should be shot from a helicopter.

Dan Goddard, who didn’t get the Chamber endorsement, voted to repeal the Brownback tax plan, enabling the state to get back on solid financial footing. Goddard also voted for Medicaid expansion, an issue critical to the southeast Kansas economy where low-income families are being jailed for medical debt.

The Brownback tax plan was a disastrous experiment that nearly bankrupted the state. Our health care system has been strained by Republican leaders’ inaction on Medicaid expansion.

Despite barriers enacted by the leaders at the top, several Republican senators elected in 2016 — Ed Berger, John Doll, Bruce Givens, Goddard, Randall Hardy, John Skubal and Mary Jo Taylor — voted to expand Medicaid and repealed the tax experiment. They are the types of common-sense leaders voters want in the Kansas Senate. But they didn’t get the Kansas Chamber’s endorsement.

As you consider your vote in the upcoming primary, ask yourself a couple of things: Do you support Medicaid expansion and do you believe the state acted in good faith to end the Brownback tax experiment? Then find out which candidates are on the ballot who support this kind of good governance.

Based on their endorsements, it’s not the candidate the Kansas Chamber is spending thousands of dollars to elect.

— Originally published in the Topeka Capital-Journal

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