What’s the matter with Kansas? A cautionary tale for Arizona

wizard_of_ozGovernor Sam Brownback’s “Kansas experiment” in faith based supply-side ‘trickle down” GOP economics has been an unmitigated disaster.

The ideological extremists who have adopted this failed economic theory as a religious tenant cannot accept the factual fallacy of their “religious” faith. So now they are turning to darker, more sinister means to enforce their “religious” faith on infidels and non-believers.

Carl Sandburg wrote that “The fog comes on little cat feet.” It is an oft-used analogy to describe creeping fascism, slowly and quietly coming “on little cat feet,” now in the state of Kansas. Steve Benen writes, ‘What’s the matter with Kansas?’ gains new urgency:

If the spectacular failures of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) economic experiment, and the ensuing budget crisis, were the only stories dominating the state, it would be more than enough to put the Sunflower State on national front pages.

But recent developments in Kansas go much, much further. Consider this New York Times report from the weekend:

The fight between Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and the state’s judicial branch has escalated, with the governor last week signing into law a bill that could strip state courts of their funding.

The measure, at the end of a lengthy bill that allocated money for the judiciary this year, stipulates that if a state court strikes down a 2014 law that removed some powers from the State Supreme Court, the judiciary will lose its funding.

Think about that for a minute. Elected state officials in the Republican-led capital want state courts to endorse a policy on the makeup and budget of Kansas courts. But before the judges decide, those same officials have said the courts’ funding hangs in the balance.

The American democratic concept of three co-equal branches of government, the separation of powers, and the independence of the judiciary from political interference are all directly threatened in Kansas by ideological extremists.

And just when it seemed conditions in Kansas couldn’t become more politically absurd, Brownback found yet another way to push the envelope. TPM reported late last week on the Republican governor’s plan to expand Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s (R) authority “to prosecute voter fraud cases.”

If Brownback does sign the legislation, which has already passed both chambers of the state legislature, Kobach would be given the power to prosecute voter fraud cases even when, according to critics, local prosecutors had opted against moving forward with those cases.

Kobach is a prominent figure in conservative “voter fraud” circles, loudly declaring that voter fraud is rampant and pushing new laws that have the effect of restricting access to voting, especially among voters who tend to favor Democrats. Voting experts, on the other hand, point to studies that show voter fraud is relatively rare with negligible impact on election outcomes.

“I very much worry about Kobach getting additional prosecutorial authority, as he seems to be someone who is willing to make false or exaggerated claims of voter fraud to fit his political narrative,” election law expert Rich Hasen told TPM in an email.

Under the existing system, if the Kansas Secretary of State’s office finds evidence of voter fraud – or more accurately, evidence that the Secretary of State thinks might be voter fraud – it’s supposed to be turned over to local prosecutors for an investigation and possible criminal charges.

Brownback and GOP state lawmakers want to streamline the process – if the Kansas Secretary of State’s office uncovers possible voter fraud, the governor will have effectively deputized Kobach into a law-enforcement role, allowing him to pursue charges whenever he feels like it.

—-

UPDATE: The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, Brownback signs bill giving Kobach prosecution power:

Gov. Sam Brownback gave Secretary of State Kris Kobach prosecution power Monday by signing legislation allowing the state’s chief elections officer to pursue allegations of voter fraud in court.

Kobach, a Republican, said three attorneys in his office will be tasked with pursuing cases, and that he will personally be involved, as well.

The new law will continue to allow county attorneys to go after election fraud but will add the secretary of state’s office to the list.

—-

Given Kobach’s track record, this is truly ridiculous news. The Republican Secretary of State, you may recall, engaged in outrageous antics during last fall’s U.S. Senate race in Kansas, which only added to his reputation as a pioneer in voter-suppression tactics.

More recently, Kobach publicly chastised U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, complaining to the media that the Secretary of State’s office had referred examples of voter fraud to the Kansas-based federal prosecutor, but Grissom has refused to prosecute. Worse, Kobach said the U.S. Attorney didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when Grissom said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas.

Kobach was later proven to have lied shamelessly about the whole thing. Brownback now intends to reward Kobach’s dishonesty with prosecutorial power, addressing crimes that don’t exist.

Kansas has long been a red state, but it had a tradition of pragmatic, mainstream Republicans who were committed to responsible governance. Those Republicans were targeted, eliminated, and replaced with the radical GOP officials running the show now.

It’ll probably be a long while before the state recovers.

If you believe It Can’t Happen Here in Arizona, think again. The Center for Arizona Policy has frequently sponsored legislation seeking to undermine the independence of the judiciary, and to ease the way to stacking the courts with like-minded judges. Some of these bills have died in the legislature, and those that became law were struck down by the Arizona courts. Kansas’ use of the courts’ budget as a cudgel may serve as a template for future attempts by CAP to undermine the independence of the judiciary in Arizona.

Arizona’s previous Secretary of State, Bill “Birther” Bennett, worked closely with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Arizona and Kansas jointly filed a legal challenge to the federal voter registration form, a case which is now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kris W. Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, et al., Petitioners v. United States Election Assistance Commission, et al., Docket for 14-1164  (DISTRIBUTED for Conference of June 25, 2015). And the secretaries of state of both Arizona and Kansas set up unprecedented “dual” election systems in 2014, denying the right of citizens who used the federal voter registration form to vote in state and local elections.

It can happen here. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” — often attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

5 responses to “What’s the matter with Kansas? A cautionary tale for Arizona

  1. If the Governor and the Legislature are trying to control the Courts through the witholding of funding if the Courts don’t rule a certain way, that is clearly wrong. If it does happen, it will likely be ruled unconstitutional because the action clearly is an effort to usurp the powers of the Judiciary.

  2. This is coercion plain and simple, and it is illegal. The Kansas courts should call in the Justice department.

  3. captain*arizona

    let them defund the courts and see what happens! Good government wimps will be aghast! They will say as they always do. Oh lets give in to the republicans we can’t have disorder that might discredit good government wimp liberalism and the hard left push us aside which will be easy as wimp liberals are always on their knees! Anybosy here about the woman in georgia arrested for murder for taking an abortion pill?

  4. Ominous news from Kansas and I agree that it certainly can happen here.

  5. “When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the bible”

    That said, if the courts don’t play ball, just how is Kobach supposed to persecute non-whites, I mean ‘fraudulent voters’ with no courts??