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Noonletter, Oct. 19, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Congressional pharming

Kaiser Health News looked at how much drugmakers are spending to buy influence on Capitol Hill and found Big Pharma has tossed $12 million into various campaigns this cycle, including more than $100,000 to 34 different lawmakers.

Kansas politicians don’t rank terribly high on the list. But they have pulled in some dough from the folks who make the pills that can save your life or steal your nest egg:

Sen. Pat Roberts, $48,500 in the current cycle, $485,600 since 2007.

Sen. Jerry Moran, $15,000 this cycle, $181,500 since ’07.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, $70,000, $165,500.

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes (just went to the House last year), $0.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (who’s not seeking re-election), $98,500 since 2007.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall (also new to the House), $7,000 this year, nothing before then.

You can look at the database here.

A politician exaggerating? Nah.

The two men running to replace U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in her eastern Kansas congressional district met in a televised debate Thursday night. Much of the friction came from reporting (chiefly from The Kansas City Star) about whether Republican Steve Watkins has lied about his business accomplishments and his aid efforts in the aftermath of a Nepalese earthquake.

His Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, seized on those issues in their head-to-head.

“Kansans can’t trust you to be honest about your past,” the former lawmaker said, “how can we trust you with our futures?”

Jim McLean reports that the question put Watkins, a political newcomer who narrowly won a crowded primary for the Republican nomination, on defense.

“Every single one of those allegations,” Watkins said, “is at very best a half-truth.”

Polling suggests the race is very close.

Trump’s No. 2 says Kobach’s No. 1

“Thanks to President Trump and Vice President Pence,” Kris Kobach told a Wichita crowd, “America is great again.”

Pretty much what you’d expect from the self-described “full-throttle conservative” at an event where Mike Pence was helping him raise money, and enthusiasm, for his run to be governor.

Pence told the crowd he got to know the Republican candidate during the 2016 presidential campaign. Stephan Bisaha reports that Pence said he “was for Kris Kobach before it was cool.”

In turn, and so on. Kobach declared Pence the greatest governor in Indiana’s history. (Quick, name another Indiana governor without checking Google. Right? Well, it turns out Union soldiers thought pretty highly of Oliver P. Morton.)

Same issue, same party, two approaches

Kobach has made his career as an immigration hardliner. He’s pressed the issue in his race with Democrat Laura Kelly and independent Greg Orman. It’s cost him the usually automatic-for-Republicans endorsement of the Kansas Farm Bureau (representing an industry that relies heavily on immigrant labor). Kobach will sink or swim on how that plays.

Brian Grimmett has contrasted that build-a-wall approach to the way Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder has approached immigration much more tentatively while defending his seat in his Kansas City-area district.

Yoder has waffled at times and also rejected the Trump administration’s harshest tactics and rhetoric.

Pricey cup of Joe

Sharice Davids, the Democrat running against Yoder, has an impressive resume that somehow includes mixed martial arts, an Ivy League degree and a White House Fellowship.

The Kansas City Starreports she also has a failed coffee business in her past, and that the company she set up left investors chasing down almost $20,000 from the company — money that, despite a court order, hasn’t been repaid.

Not guilty

The first criminal trial in the fatal waterslide incident that killed the 10-year-old son of a state lawmaker ended with a pair of acquittals on Thursday.

Schlitterbahn employees David Hughes and John Zalsman were cleared of the charges of obstruction of justice. At issue was whether the two maintenance workers lied to investigators about the presence of a brake mat on the 17-story Verrückt waterslide, billed as the world's tallest.

Celisa Calacal reports the verdict followed two days of testimony. The case was spurred by the death of Caleb Schwab on the slide in 2016.

Still to come is a trial on more serious charges — second-degree murder — of the two designers of the slide. The park faces involuntary manslaughter charges.

Prosecutors contend the design of the ride was sloppy and rushed, hurried partly to accommodate a cable television show documenting the construction and opening of the waterslide.

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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