AFP, on a mission to deceive

5/15/2014

By JASON PROBST

By JASON PROBST

Americans for Prosperity might need to rename itself in a way that truly reflects its identity and purpose, which increasingly appears to be a purposeful effort to mislead the people of Kansas on nearly every important issue.

Perhaps something like Amnesia For Purpose, Altering For Politics or Always False Points might fit the bill for this well-heeled and politically influential group that tirelessly aims to mislead the people of Kansas.

Recently, AFP-Kansas' leader denied the group's involvement in a statewide mailing that urged seniors to press lawmakers for repeal of the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 — a standard most utilities already have met.

The flier — featuring a despondent senior trying to figure out how to make ends meet — was distributed by the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, formed in late April and founded by Virginia Crossland-Macha, sister of Kansas Chamber of Commerce board chairman Ivan Crossland.

When initially asked about whether AFP assisted the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, AFP director Jeff Glendening offered a definitive "no."

"Jeff Glendening, AFP's current state director, said the two organizations did not coordinate on the postcards and that the only connection was that they're both opposed to the RPS," the Wichita Eagle reported on May 7.

A day later, however, the Topeka attorney listed as the contact person for the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance offered a different story.

"I was engaged by Americans for Prosperity to form an LLC and that's the extent of my involvement," W. Robert Alderson told the Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday.

Faced with Alderson's revelation, Glendening's memory became a little clearer.

"I've known Virginia for years and she contacted me about forming a group of some sort," Glendening told the Capital-Journal. "On a personal level, not as AFP, I simply connected the two."

Alderson also felt the need to clarify his earlier statement to the Capital-Journal.

"As you might suspect, Jeff Glendening called me and I made a really dumb mistake," Alderson said. "Jeff had contacted me (about forming the LLC). He was contacting me on behalf of Virginia Crossland-Macha. ... Because Jeff had called me, I just automatically assumed it was AFP. It was not."

It might be convenient to separate Jeff Glendening the person from Jeff Glendening the AFP director who sends lawmakers emails about how to vote and submits his off-kilter thoughts for publication in the state's newspapers — but they are inextricably one and the same, and to say otherwise is disingenuous.

As the parties in question tell it, they had no connection, collusion or coordination — it just so happens that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, AFP-Kansas and this new Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance all felt so strongly about the evils of a renewable energy standard they relied on the same untruthful message. Everything else was simply coincidental.

Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, plainly and rightly called the groups' denial what it is: bogus.

"That's just further evidence of the kind of dark money campaigning that goes on in Kansas politics these days," Hineman said. "Well-funded special interest groups try to hide behind sham organizations in order to try to influence the electorate."

Kansans should automatically dismiss as untrue anything published, produced or associated with Americans for Prosperity, beginning with the organization's name.

Because if AFP truly cared about the prosperity of Kansans, it wouldn't be kicking and screaming about the growth of wind energy. And neither the group, nor its director, would assist a fly-by-night operation with the purpose to spread fear and worry to the state's seniors.

Jason Probst is a member ot The Hutchinson News editorial board.

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