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Capital-Journal continues campaign against Kobach E-mail
Opinion
Saturday, 15 July 2017 08:25


A SECOND OPINION, The Topeka Capital-Journal



When Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced that he was running for governor, he promised to put "Kansans first" and said he would "drain the swamp" in Topeka. While that's just the sort of vague and hollow rhetoric you'd expect from a gubernatorial candidate who's trying to exploit the populist anger that propelled Donald Trump to the White House, Kobach also made a more serious and explicit accusation: "Topeka has a culture of corruption."

This "problem" clearly means a lot to Kobach — of the three main "issues" listed on his campaign website, "Culture of Corruption" is perched at the very top. And his announcement speech revolved around the same three subjects in the same order: "I just want to talk about three things — three problems that illustrate how bad it is in Topeka: corruption, taxation and illegal immigration." But on his website and in his speech, Kobach only had two complaints — the need for term limits and the fact that some lawmakers become lobbyists after their terms expire — neither of which belongs under the "corruption" heading.

Merriam-Webster defines "corruption" as "dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)." The Oxford English Dictionary provides a similar definition: "Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery." It's helpful to have these definitions in mind because the semantics really matter here. While Kobach regards the "revolving door" between government and lobbying organizations as an unsavory or outmoded practice in need of reform, he would have to prove that the practice has been abused in some way to substantiate his "corruption" argument.

Like every state, Kansas has laws that govern who can be a lobbyist, the types of lobbying that are permitted, etc. Is Kobach saying any of these laws have been violated? The Secretary of State's office "maintains and distributes the official directory of registered lobbyists" operating in Kansas, and it's consistently updated. Is Kobach telling us there are lobbyists on that list who have done something dishonest, illegal or fraudulent? If so, why hasn't he identified anything specific? Kobach may not like it when former lawmakers exchange their "legislative badges for lobbyist badges," but calling them "corrupt" for doing so is disingenuous and slanderous.

The same logic applies to Kobach's argument for term limits. He may think it's absurd that Sen. Anthony Hensley has been in office "since Gerald Ford was President," but should a politician really be smeared as "corrupt" for winning a series of open and fair elections? Does Kobach think Sen. Pat Roberts is corrupt for serving in the senate for two decades? Does he think Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is corrupt for serving since Ronald Reagan was president? How about Sens. John McCain or Orrin Hatch? In Kobach's universe, the entire country is drowning in a swamp of corruption.

Kobach may have his own bizarre definition of corruption, but our lawmakers know what the word actually means. This is why a group of legislative leaders are asking Kobach for his evidence that a "culture of corruption" has engulfed the Statehouse. As Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, puts it: "I get nervous when someone with prosecutorial authority accuses somebody of violating the law without a specific charge." So do we — particularly when he's in a strong position to become the most powerful elected official in the state.

 

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