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Noonletter, Oct. 18, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Bucks from jocks

The University of Kansas is wrestling, as Stephen Koranda puts it, with a $20 million budget cut and whether its well-heeled athletic department might offer a way to make ends meet.

KU’s money shortage follows years of cuts by the Kansas Legislature to higher education.

Now the president of the KU Faculty Senate, Kirk McClure, is pushing the idea that the athletics department and its perennially powerful basketball team chip in toward campus expenses rather than pull $1.5 million from the university.

“A $100 million corporation would make a 3 percent contribution, the same burden that would be requested of the faculty and the staff,” he said at a Wednesday meeting on KU’s budget woes. “I suggest that would play into very simple fairness.”

He’s also suggesting tapping into KU’s endowment.

Provost Carl Lejuez said taking more money from the endowment now is something “I won’t do.”

The provost was less quick to reject the idea of drawing money from the school’s sports programs, but he said they offer indirect benefits such as students brought to KU by athletic scholarships.

The discussion came at the same time as an ongoing trial involving what prosecutors say were illegal payments from someone working for Adidas to the families of KU recruits. The alleged payments were aimed at steering the recruits to attend KU.

Help wanted, work required

Kris Kobach said on Wednesday that the state needs to demand more from people who count on the government for medical insurance, food stamps and cash assistance. He thinks the race for governor — he’s the Republican nominee — hasn’t focused enough on welfare.

He wants to put 30-hour work requirements on able-bodied welfare recipients, increase the 20-hour work requirement for cash welfare and food stamps to 30 hours, and add drug testing and citizenship verification through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for recipients of state assistance.

Kobach’s Democratic opponent, Laura Kelly, responded by saying that position shows how much the Republican is like former Gov. Sam Brownback (who left Kansas for a job in the Trump administration with among the worst poll numbers of any governor in the country). Brownback had imposed 20-hour work requirements for people who get food stamps and cash benefits.

“The Brownback Hope(less) Act ruined families, increased instances of child abuse and maltreatment, and drove up the number of children in foster care to more than 7,500,” the Kelly campaign said in a statement. “Clearly, Kris Kobach wants to make that crisis worse.”

Reporter Madeline Fox reports that a study by the University of Kansas has linked those requirements to the state’s large uptick in the number of foster children.

The restrictions also prompted a battle of the studies — the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability praised Brownback’s move with a study titled “Work Requirements Are Working For Kansas Families” that has been cited by the Brownback and Colyer administrations to support the continuation of work requirements and lifetime welfare caps. The left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities hit back with a point-by-point rebuttal of FGA’s data, saying work requirements and other restrictions pushed poor Kansans further into poverty.

Party, schmarty

Mike Hayden, a Republican who was governor of Kansas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is the latest prominent Republican to snub Kobach and endorse Democrat Kelly for governor.

On Thursday, the Kelly campaign issued a news release touting the endorsement and quoting Hayden saying independent candidate Greg Orman “cannot win. … This is not the year.”

Hayden criticized Brownback’s aggressive tax-cutting policies and tied Kobach to the Brownback approach.

“After eight years of crisis, we cannot elect someone who wants to repeat the disasters of the past,” Hayden said in the canned statement. “Kris Kobach has promised to do just that — risking the future of our great state.”

After his time as governor, Hayden served in the administrations of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, a one-time Republican who became a Democrat.

Gov. Jeff Colyer, who lost in the Republican primary, has endorsed Kobach. Brownback has yet to issue an endorsement.

Republican former Gov. Bill Graves has also endorsed Kelly.

Speaking of Republicans

Kansas is one 34 states where the governor’s office and both chambers (or the only chamber, Nebraska’s unicameral) are controlled by the same party.

Ballotpedia counts Kansas as one of 25 states with the greatest potential for that trifecta to disappear this year.

By the group’s calculations, the Republicans’ hold on the governor’s office is “somewhat vulnerable.” And it notes that a change of 23 (18 percent) of the 125 seats in the state House would flip that body — a much less likely scenario. 

Political forecasting site FiveThirtyEight.com sees only a three-in-eight chance that Kelly will win the governor’s race and bust up the Republican trifecta in Kansas.

Everybody vote

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas helps people with discrimination complaints and a host of other issues. Anyone who reaches out to the office gets pointed toward voter registration.

Madeline Fox reports the group also helps people with permanent disabilities sign up to get all their future ballots by mail.

People with disabilities might have trouble getting to or maneuvering in a polling place. Some disabilities could hamper memory. So a paper ballot that arrives weeks before an election could let them research and fill it out at their own pace.

Earlybird sets the terms

We’ve got some evidence that there’s strong interest in this year’s mid-term elections. Not as many people are mailing in early ballots as in the last election year, when President Donald Trump ran away with the Kansas vote. But numbers are stronger than four years ago (the most recent non-presidential election), and roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

You can cut the cord, but can you dodge the ad?

It’s 2018, so you’ve told the cable company to pound sand and figured out how a little broadband goes a long way in filling your TV screen.

But people still want your vote. Samuel King of KCUR tells us that campaigns are butting into video streams to assault folks with their ads.

He notes that TV is still king of political media, eating up nearly $9 billion in campaign ad dollars this election cycle. And streaming services such as Hulu and YouTube allow pretty precise targeting of ads in ways that can combine both zip codes and voting behavior. (Google Fiber, a tiny player in the cable TV biz, allows ultra-precise targeting even within a single household.)

Freshly bad TV

Here are your latest commercial spots, which will show up in both your cable and streaming feeds.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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