The Corner

What’s the Matter with Kansas Politics? Moore Questions about Moran.

In recent days, Paul Moore, the former campaign manager of Kansas Republican congressman Jerry Moran, has endorsed Moran’s opponent, Moran’s colleague Todd Tiahrt.

In his Tiahrt endorsement letter, Moore, a former assistant U.S. attorney, explains that after working for Congressman Moran for a brief period, he concluded that Moran “was not instinctively conservative and that his willingness to actually lead against the tide of government intrusiveness into our lives and businesses was practically nonexistent.”

He continues: “To my surprise, Jerry Moran winced at the frequent use of the words ‘conservative’ or ‘pro-life’ to portray himself out of fear he might offend moderate or pro-choice voters. He ultimately relented to the political realities and has thoroughly advertised himself as ‘pro-life’ and ‘conservative’ to describe who he needed to become to get elected.

The letter went on: “Our country desperately needs men and women of backbone who don’t have to consult political weather vanes to know what they stand for. Neither candidate is perfect, but Todd Tiahrt will instinctively stand up for the country’s founding principles – without regard for the political winds. Jerry Moran would be reliable – so long as the winds are blowing in a conservative direction, as they are now.”

Moore was quickly dismissed by the Moran campaign, including Congressman Moran himself on Tuesday night, as a “disgruntled” former employee. On Wednesday night, Moran continued to defend himself, saying that being pro-life is an “innate” matter of “faith” to him.

Moore answers the congressman’s charge with an e-mail from Jerry Moran he has released to National Review Online. The e-mail to campaign aides was written on March 12th with the subject line “Current thinking” in which Moran communicates:

What about significantly reducing the use of the word “conservative?”

I continue to hear complaints.

Rather focus on an anti Washington/reform campaign. Something moderates and conservatives can agree on.

Scott Howell, Congressman Moran’s longtime media consultant, responded to the e-mail by arguing that it’s far from a fair context in which to view Moran. He tells NRO: “Look at Jerry’s voting record. That should be clear enough. Jerry has an A rating with the NRA and a near perfect or perfect rating with right to life groups.”

Moore’s release of the e-mail to NRO comes in the wake of the National Right to Life PAC’s endorsement of Tiahrt. The Kansans for Life Political Action Committee has also endorsed him.

The argument that Tiahrt supporters make is that while both congressmen have pro-life voting records, there is no question that Todd and Vicki Tiahrt are devoted pro-life activists, mainstays at pro-life events (Mrs. Tiahrt has served on an education board of Kansans for Life). The same cannot be easily said of Moran, and Moore’s accusations do raise questions about what kind of leader he would be on such issues in the Senate.

In explaining the endorsement, Kansas for Life PAC board member David Gittrich tells me, “We researched this race extensively and were looking for signs that would indicate that one of the candidates had the pro-life cause in their heart. We looked at pro-life activity over the years, their voting records, and any awards or recognition received by either candidate from organizations outside of Kansas.” He adds that “Todd Tiahrt has a 100% pro-life voting record and a couple of his efforts were so significant that the other side called them ‘Tiahrt Amendments’ in a derogatory way.”

Moore says that based on his short time working for Congressman Moran, he expects Moran would either be a moderate Republican or not a leader on the life issues, which Moore considers just as bad at this moment in history. Earlier this week, Moore told me: “There are times when a Nancy Landon Kassebaum might be the ideal – or acceptable – candidate. There are times that require something quite different. That’s certainly the choice in this race and why I feel deeply about it.”

To the “moderate” accusation, Moran’s Howell responds: “Jerry has always been a conservative. And he has shown courage standing up to tremendous pressure when Republicans were spending money like drunken sailors. He’s cast some hard votes. That is real conservative leadership. Just ask Jim DeMint about Jerry.”

DeMint has indeed endorsed Moran. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, has endorsed Tiahrt.

The moderate accusation was further answered by the Moran campaign in the form of a Spanish-language PDF from Tiahrt’s 2002 campaign, which touts Tiahrt’s support for drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. A Tiahrt aide claims the mailer was in parts “inaccurate,” done by over-eager volunteers at the time and notes that Tiahrt has Tom Tancredo’s endorsement (Tancredo actually switched his endorsement to Tiahrt earlier this month, citing Moran’s voting record).

There’s a lot of “he said, he said” here — and a lot of “he endorses, she endorsed” — but this may all help the voter’s discernment process. I don’t envy Kansans trying to sift through it all. Certainly there can be little doubt that there will be more to come in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary.

But here’s what I do know in the midst of the eleventh-hour campaign noise: In a post-Santorum Senate, the body can use as many courageous voices in defense of innocent human life as it can get. They’re losing one, with Sam Brownback’s leaving. That seat would remain filled with Tiahrt. (In fact, Tiahrt stood apart from even Brownback in opposing former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius’s nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services, because of her ties to late-term-abortion provider George Tiller, who was later murdered.) That’s not to say Jerry Moran is not pro-life — Paul Moore stresses that he can’t and won’t make that claim. But he’s seen both candidates and knows which one’s the leader there.

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