The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has worked to dominate policymaking in the Statehouse.
After the Kansas Chamber and its allies used a campaign of lies in 2012 to sideline thoughtful Republican lawmakers, a far-right faction was free to rubber-stamp legislation coveted by Gov. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Chamber and others of their ilk.
Mike O’Neal, a former Kansas House speaker now serving as Kansas Chamber president, openly boasted about his organization’s role in Topeka.
During an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) summit in 2015, O’Neal said he “embraced” the notion of the Kansas Chamber wielding the same clout as the Kansas House and Kansas Senate chambers.
His ultraconservative legislative puppets were indeed directing passage of ideology-driven initiatives crafted by ALEC, which pushes small-government concepts designed to improve major corporations’ bottom lines. In Kansas, that meant such poor policies as the deep income-tax cuts that wrecked the state budget, unfair block-grant funding for K-12 public schools and a property-tax lid for local governments that was obvious overreach.
Frustrated Kansans responded by rejecting numerous Kansas Chamber-favored candidates in the August GOP primary.
But rather than acknowledge a need for change, O’Neal followed the governor in blaming others.
He recently claimed:
• The 2012 income-tax cuts were an economic growth strategy, and not a scheme to shrink government. Yet no meaningful job growth materialized.
• Kansas has good infrastructure with high marks for quality. True, but that’s no reason to divert more than $1 billion from maintenance and improvements, as his ultraconservative side has done.
• The media won’t tout gains such as low unemployment. Not true. Unemployment, for example, has been well covered, but already was low when Brownback took office.
• Kansas’ lackluster economic performance is due to sluggish recovery from a national recession. Wrong, and nearby and peer states faring better is proof.
Consider it all business as usual from a Kansas Chamber that in 2012 proved it would use blatant lies and half-truths to gain an edge.
Kansas voters weary of as much dismissed many Kansas Chamber-endorsed incumbents in August, and more should take a hit in the Nov. 8 general election — along with the Kansas Chamber’s waning political influence.