Phill Kline’s loss in Kansas, Cornered by Kathryn earlier, is a little more complicated than the coverage in McClatchy’s failing local papers suggests. According to the Kansas City Star, Kline’s defeat came despite “independent groups from outside Kansas” that may have “spent more than $100,00 to keep Kline’s candidacy alive.” Kline also suffered from a serious misstep when he went negative against a fairly reputable opponent.
But what the Star doesn’t mention is that much, much more than $100,000 was funneled into Kansas from a Missouri zillionaire named Jim Stowers, a financial guru who wants to enlarge his biomedical business to include lots of embryonic stem cell research. His usual political ally in funding Kansas’ liberal causes is George Tiller, the late-term abortion king of Wichita. In the last three years, Stowers alone has poured millions of dollars into Kansas politics, including very large donations to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ Bluestem PAC.
In this election, Stowers’s money came into Kansas through the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce (perhaps the only local chamber of commerce in America to have its own “life sciences” fund), and through donations to a nearly memberless, but richly financed group calling itself “Kansans for a Traditional Republican Majority,” run by Rep. Jerry Moran’s former press secretary.
KTRM spent thousands of dollars promoting the claim that Kline (and former Rep. Jim Ryun, who also lost to a liberal Republican) were in cahoots with the KKK. The charge was absurd, of course, and Kris Kobach, the state GOP chairman, to his credit, even called the campaign “inexcusable.” Nonetheless, KTRM also circulated anti-conservative pieces claiming that conservatives like Kline and former state Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook wanted to lock up parents for trying to give their children medical attention and wishing death on cancer patients. Amazingly, Pilcher Cook won her primary, a nomination battle against a liberal Republican for a state senate seat.
KRTM’s anti-Kline campaign wasn’t the only well-financed, anti-conservative effort in Kansas this time around (Sebelius personally targeted a pro-life Democratic state senator for defeat), but it was perhaps the most cynical. Among those who donated money to KTRM’s hate-mail scheme: the state senate leadership’s PAC, run by liberal Republicans who invariably pair with Sebelius to defeat conservative legislation, and who donated $45,000 specifically to help defeat conservative Republican nominees by using negative campaign mailers.
Turnout was very light and the coverage by the Kansas press was what you might call “tangential.” The Wichita Eagle, for example, did urge voters to discount “negative campaigning” in the primary. But they didn’t mean the KTRM stuff or the crazy senate leadership PAC or the incendiary KKK charges, which went unmentioned in the paper. They meant “the nasty turn taken by John McCain’s campaign — aimed at painting Democrat Barack Obama as a celebrity airhead with a God complex.” Neither were running yesterday, but hey.
If you want more on this nonsense, I wrote a little about this interesting primary for a state political news site, Kansas Liberty.