Republicans Accused Of Being On Obama Team

10462922_876308982398988_1888662864008318016_nBy John Celock

A social media photo put together by a Republican political consultant is accusing a group of moderate Republicans in Kansas of being the “Obama Values Supporting Team.”

The picture, which has been posted to Facebook by some in Kansas politics Friday, accuses ten moderate Republicans of being tied to President Barack Obama based on support they received from the Kansas Values Institute, which is chaired by an Obama associate. Republican consultant Jared Suhn told The Celock Report that he put the picture together to highlight the involvement of Democrats in Tuesday’s GOP primary in the state.

“To be engaged at this level in a host of races is extremely abnormal,” Suhn said of the involvement of Democrats in the GOP primaries. “Kansas voters should know who is involved.”

The Kansas Values Institute is chaired by Dan Watkins, a former senior advisor to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and has been critical of Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and conservative Republicans on various issues. Watkins was considered by Obama to be the state’s U.S. attorney in 2009. Former state Senate Vice President John Vratil (R-Leawood), a leading moderate Republican who has endorsed Brownback’s Democratic challenger Paul Davis, is a board member for the group. The Values Institute’s third board member, former state Rep. Jill Quigley (R-Olathe) is listed as a steering committee member for Republicans for Values, the name of the group of moderate Republicans who recently endorsed Davis for governor.

The Kansas Values Institute did not return messages for comment left by The Celock Report at their Topeka and Wichita numbers. The group’s website lists stories critical of Brownback.

Suhn said that he designed the photo on his own, noting that the support the Kansas Values Institute has given to moderate Republicans needed to be known, particularly given the involvement of Democrats in state legislative primaries across the state. He said the photo did not need a paid by disclaimer since it was on social media and he was doing it in a personal capacity.

The director of the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, which regulates campaign finance in the state, was unavailable for comment on Friday regarding the rules related to social media.

The flyer specifically names Reps. Barbara Bollier, Stephanie Clayton, Blaine Finch, Russ Jennings and Ron Worley, along with legislative candidates Randy Banwart, Barbara Bunting, Jameia Haines, Fred Patton and Stacey Schlimmer for being tied to Obama based on support given to them by the Kansas Values Institute.

Bollier, a leading moderate Republican lawmaker who is facing off in a primary against conservative Neil Melton, told The Celock Report that she is not responsible for who backs her in an election. She said that she has not met Watkins and was not aware of his background.

“I don’t know this person. I am not intimately involved with this organization. They didn’t consult me about backing me, they just do. I am not in charge of the world,” Bollier said. “All kinds of different people back me. I have not investigated every single one of the people and groups that back me. They choose to back me.”

Bollier, who has butted heads with Brownback and conservatives on a variety of issues including tax cuts, education and abortion, dismissed Suhn’s flyer as “desperate people doing desperate things.” She also noted that she does not have ties to Obama and has not met him.

Bunting, who is trying to oust Rep. Marc Rhodes (R-Newton) told The Celock Report the while she knows that Kansas Values Institute has sent out materials on candidates, she does not know anything about the material until she receives it in her mailbox. She stressed she is running a positive campaign and not a negative one.

“I am a Republican and I have always been a Republican,” Bunting said. “The accusation out there that I am not a Republican, just because someone says that, it doesn’t mean I am not a Republican.”

Bunting also took pains to distance herself from Obama.

“I am originally from Chicago and moved to Kansas 35 years ago,” she said. “I have not met President Obama and I have not met his staff and anyone employed by him. I don’t where any of this is coming from.”

This year’s primary is a continuation of the moderate versus conservative civil war that has dominated Kansas politics in recent years. Conservatives dominated moderates in the 2012 state Senate races. Moderates are seeking to fight back with the group of over 100 that has endorsed Davis. Several who endorsed Davis had lost their seats in 2012 to conservatives.

One of the Republicans listed by Davis, former U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers (R-Kan.), later announced that she did not back the Democrat and then endorsed Brownback for reelection.

State Rep. Josh Powell (R-Topeka), a conservative Republican being challenged by Patton, told The Celock Report that he had seen the picture and was unaware of who issued it.

“My opponent is aligning himself more and more with these liberal groups,” Powell said when asked for a comment about the picture. “He did a mail piece yesterday attacking me for my vote for the health care compact, which would take Kansas out of Obamacare. I don’t know if that’s a full-fledged endorsement of Obamacare. But that’s aligning yourself with Democrats and Obamacare.”

Patton did not return a call for comment. Patton has received a $100 donation from state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka), who also donated to the Democratic candidate in the district, Chris Huntsman. Kelly has indicated that she wanted to support a moderate.

Bollier did joke though that while she is not close to Obama, the son of a Kansas native, the two did share one thing in common.

“President Obama has eaten at Oklahoma Joes and I’ve eaten at Oklahoma Joes, so therefore we’re on the same team, we both like Oklahoma Joes barbecue,” she said, referencing the famed Kansas City, Ks. restaurant that the president ordered takeout from on Thursday.