The Kansas Senate Race Ethics Disgrace: Who Can You Trust?

Nobody, apparently.

Welcome to Kansas.

Welcome to Kansas.

The Kansas U.S. Senate race demonstrates why so many Americans tune out politics, spit on both parties, and simply assume that there is no way to avoid being governed by knaves, cheaters and fools.

If you haven’t been following this dispiriting  embarrassment, I commend and envy you. The election is considered a crucial one that could decide control of the Senate, where the Democrats currently have a majority that looks shaky at best. The Kansas Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts, appeared beatable in the GOP primary, and he was in a tough three-way race in the election. Trailing in the polls, the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, pulled out of the race, leaving Roberts to run against an independent, Greg Orman, who has belonged at various times to both parties,  who wants to leave his real loyalties secret for now and who looks like he might beat Roberts. The Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, claimed that under the law, Taylor couldn’t withdraw with the letter he wrote for that purpose, and had to stay on the ballot. This week, Kobach’s position was rejected by the Kansas Supreme Court.

This account just skims the surface of the real sludge in this bi-partisan cesspool. Consider:

  • Kansas law only permits candidates to drop out of a race and be taken off of the ballot like Taylor if they die or or (honestly) declare that they are unable to complete the duties of office. Nobody believes that Taylor is dead, or that he can’t serve if elected. He either was lying in his letter, or just flouting the law.
  • The Democrats, insiders say, “nudged” Taylor into quitting. Hmmmm…how do you nudge someone into declaring that he’s incapable of serving when he isn’t?
  • Why would the Democrats do this, if they hadn’t made a deal with the so-called “independent,” Orman? Few believe that this wasn’t some kind of quid pro quo: Orman promised to caucus with the Democrats if he’s the deciding Senator in an evenly split chamber after the dust clears in November, in return for Taylor dropping out. Or so it seems.
  • Kobach, the secretary of state who is now fighting to force the Democrats to place someone on the ballot in place of Taylor, claims that he isn’t being motivated by partisanship. Even if that’s true, and nobody believes it, he is on Roberts’ campaign committee. It is a bright-line conflict of interest for him to be making decisions so directly influencing the election, and creates an appearance of impropriety that is better described as a real stink-o-rama.
  • Not that he wasn’t right to reject Taylor’s letter of withdrawal, but Kansas’s Democrat dominated Supreme Court  disagreed in a triumph of cynical partisan pragmatism. It declared that all Taylor had to do was write that he was withdrawing “pursuant” to the Kansas statute that requires him to be unable to serve if elected, and seemed completely uninterested in whether he actually met the terms and intent of the law, which he clearly does not.

[ UPDATE: A point of order from Ethics Bob Stone caused me to change “all Democrat” to “Democrat dominated” and to reflect on the fact that the partisan leanings of the court don’t matter. The decision is unconscionably narrow–technically correct, but allowing a candidate to lie in a notarized document and not only escape legal consequences, but also be cedited with meeting the “intent” of a statute when he has done everything but that. The Court says that Taylor sufficiently stated by referencing the law that he was dead or unable to serve, and doesn’t care that everyone in the state, presumably including the judges, know that he is in fact able to serve, but just can’t win, which is not a criteria for withdrawing under the terms and intent of the statute!]

  • Now Kopach claims the the law requires the Democrats to replace Taylor on the ballot. That seems likely to fail too, and also looks politically motivated. Yes, the Republicans are fighting to have a Democrat in the race, and the Democrats are fighting not to have a nominee. Isn’t democracy wonderful?
  •  Some Democrats are even echoing the dishonest and absurd accusation by the New Republic that the Republicans are engaged in vote suppression by trying to force Democrats to run a candidate. Consider that for a moment. The Democrats engineer a deal to force those who do not want to vote Republican to have fewer options on the ballot, and GOP opposition to this tactic is voter suppression?

The true voter suppression is the open corruption, disregard for openness and honesty, and pervasive sliminess of both parties and all participants in this mess. Who would want to be part of such an election? Or such a system?


Facts: New York Times, New Republic, Washington Post

8 thoughts on “The Kansas Senate Race Ethics Disgrace: Who Can You Trust?

      • Just did. I misread it. It is “dominated” by Democrats, but not 100% Democrat. I’m trying to find the decision itself to see the vote. The opinion doesn’t list the members…in fact, it makes it look like only one judge was involved, which can’t be right.
        It’s an infuriating opinion, when you consider that the news sources all agree that Taylor is not disabled in any way, and thus could not possibly have been truly declaring that he met the terms of the statute. The decision hinged on the impossibly narrow question of whether “pursuant to” in Taylor’s letter of withdrawal met the statutory intent by declaring that Taylor was unable to discharge the duties of the office he had been running for, yet “pursuant”, and the to” was obviously chosen to avoid an outright lie. The decision is that that the words meet the requirement of the statute even though what is communicated BY the words falsely assert that the statute is being complied with.

        Actually, the party affiliations of the judges are irrelevant. Its just a bizarre decision, technically correct but based on fiction, and allowing a candidate to make a mockery of the law, the election, and the English language.

            • Pretty busy, but you’d be proud of your student: I’m volunteering ($1-a-year) for the LA City mayor’s office, where part of my job is conducting ethics seminars for supervisor and manager training. In my spare time I’m teaching business ethics at the U. of Redlands Business School. No blogging, but I read Ethics Alarms religiously, or rather, devotedly.

  1. Our dear Jack, do you really want to spend so much time on this when it’s readily apparent that political ethics is an oxymoron about multi-morons?

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