Friday, August 1, 2008

Worried John Vratil Changes Rules; Reveals Short Memory

State Senator John Vratil and his puppets in the Senate "Republican" Leadership must be worried. The most recently published Receipts and Expenditures Report from KTRM revealed that the Senate "Republican" Leadership PAC had donated $45,000 to the group, whose primary mission is to take out conservative Republicans.

One would think in a state in which Democrats are continuing to look to make gains, as evidenced by the filing of a Democrat in almost every single Johnson County legislative seat, that the supposedly neutral Senate Republican Leadership would want to save their money for the general election, to help fend off the serious Democratic challengers in competitive Senate seats. But, instead, the Senate leadership dumps money into KTRM to fight in Republican primaries. Why?

Well, according to the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz Blog, John Vratil claims the rules have changed:

“I think things have changed,” said one moderate Senate leader, state Sen. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican.

He accused conservatives of lining up primary challenges for several moderate leaders.

“Does that change the rules of the game?” Vratil asked.

Apparently so.

Now that's rich. Perhaps Senate Vice President John Vratil is so distraught over worries that he and his moderate pals will lose control over leadership posts (and thus their power) that his short-term memory is suffering. One must only think back to 2004 when in the last Senate election, then-Republican now-Democrat Lisa Benlon ran against incumbent Senator Nick Jordan in the primary, Rob Boyer ran against incumbent Senator Kay O'Connor in the primary, and moderate challengers ran against incumbent Senators Tim Huelskamp and Susan Wagle. Did the Senate Republican Leadership PAC ride to the rescue then?

Vratil's statement also ignores a second reality. Even if one accepts Vratil's suggestion that Republican incumbents shouldn't have challengers, and that justifies the Senate Republican Leadership PAC spending money to protect moderate incumbents (such as their $1000 donations to Ruth Teichman and Pete Brungardt), how does this justify them contributing $45,000 to KTRM, who is spending thousands upon thousands on two open seats currently held by Senator Nick Jordan (running for Congress) and Senator Barbara Allen (retiring), not to mention the direct donations by the Senate Leadership PAC itself of $1000 to Sue Gamble and Tim Owens, who are the "moderates" running in the respective open seats. If there are races where supposedly neutral Republican organizations should stay out of, it is open primaries where there is no Republican incumbent.

Seems to us that it is John Vratil and Steve Morris who are changing the rules, not conservatives.

Of course, what all of this is ignores is political reality. If you are an incumbent Republican with a voting record that Democrats would be proud of on both economic and social issues, you are inviting a primary challenge. That's what politics is all about. Perhaps if Umbarger, Teichman, and Brungardt (the Republican incumbents drawing the strongest conservative challengers) actually voted conservative on something, they wouldn't have this problem.

This is exactly why Kaw & Border was founded -- to expose the true agenda behind individuals and groups in area politics. John Vratil and Steve Morris are misusing their Senate Republican Leadership PAC (note it doesn't say "Moderate" anywhere in the title) not because of some mythical anger at incumbents being challenged, as that has been going on for years, but because they are worried that they are on the verge of losing control of Senate leadership and the power and influence that comes with.

The political reality is that conservatives are only 3-4 seats away from having the votes to win leadership. The strong candidacies of Steve Fitzgerald in District 5 and Steve Abrams in District 32 (running against Democrats Mark Gilstrap and Greta Goodwin, respectively, both of whom barely survived in 2004) have put that number potentially even closer.

Of course, neither Vratil nor Morris has a short memory. The reality is Vratil and Morris can count -- and they know that if Fitzgerald and Abrams win, and conservatives hold their ground in other seats, that conservatives are a seat or two, max, away from winning control. This is simply personal political preservation -- President Morris and Vice President Vratil don't want to revert back to Senator Morris and Senator Vratil. They are dumping thousands into races in supportive of candidate they know will vote for them for leadership, retaining their positions in the Senate.

Let us be clear: Kaw & Border has no problem with Morris and Vratil wanting to hold onto leadership nor wanting moderates to win more seats that conservatives -- they are moderates themselves. But rather than claiming bogus reasons such as that the "rules have changed", or misusing their PAC, perhaps President Morris and Vice President Vratil should form a new PAC -- and entitle it the "Preserve Our Power and Leadership PAC".

At least that would be honest. But in state where so many Democrats run as Republicans to hide their true ideology, who would expect that?