Archive for Monday, May 12, 2014

Kansas: Koch brothers’ lobbyist linked to green energy foe

May 12, 2014

— A lobbyist says he did a personal favor to aid the formation of a new group opposing a Kansas green-energy requirement for utilities, fueling criticism that a recent postcard campaign against the rule on behalf of seniors was actually orchestrated by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers' main political organization and the powerful Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

State Director Jeff Glendening said Wednesday that Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax, small-government group backed by Charles and David Koch, had nothing to do with postcards sent out opposing the standards. But on Thursday, Glendening told The Wichita Eagle he forgot to mention that he helped link attorney W. Robert Alderson with Virginia Crossland-Macha, the founder of the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance which sent the postcards.

Glendening said he was not acting in his official capacity as AFP's state leader.

"There's no formal connection between AFP and this group. There really isn't, other than yes, we agreed on the RPS (energy standards) issue. I don't know what other issues they're going to take up," Glendening said. "I've known Virginia for years and she simply asked about forming a group and I connected the two and that was it."

There's been no allegation that the group's formation violated lobbying or campaign finance rules, but questions have been raised about its origin and who was behind the postcard campaign.

A western Kansas legislator who supports the renewable standard accused the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance of using scare tactics to influence older residents. Rep. Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, also questioned the new group's independence.

"If it's truly a grassroots organization of senior citizens, where's the money coming from?" Hineman said. "It's not a cheap deal to produce all of those postcards and mail them throughout the state. That's a substantial undertaking."

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and AFP deny collaborating with the postcards, though they share the same policy view as Crossland-Macha's organization.

The alliance sent mailers to residents in several House members' districts last week supporting repeal of the state's standards, which require utility companies to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. AFP and other groups tried unsuccessfully to convince legislators to repeal the standards before the 2014 session ended early on May 3.

Wind energy proponents say the RPS has helped produce jobs and investment in Kansas and that state studies show the requirement has had a minimal impact on electric rates.

Groups including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, AFP and American Legislative Exchange Council, are pushing for repeal, saying the RPS produces an unfair advantage for wind energy companies and increases electric rates.

Renewable energy mandates have caused prices of energy to increase by .21 of a penny per killowatt-hour, according to 2014 Kansas Corporation Commission report, meaning the average Kansas household paid about $1.90 more a month because of the renewable portfolio standards.

Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance said in the postcards that keeping the renewable standards would drive up electric rates for older residents. The address on the cards is that of Crossland-Macha, a conservative GOP activist from Iola. She is the sister of Ivan Crossland, the chairman of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Alan Cobb, former state director of AFP in Kansas, is the lobbyist for Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance. Cobb and Crossland-Macha denied AFP had any ties to the legislative postcards.

Glendening said he was asked what the process was for organizing a group and suggested Alderson to help.

"It was a personal thing. It was not an AFP thing. She approached me, 'How do you this?'" Glendening said.

Attorney Alderson said that AFP wasn't behind the new group, but said he did help the group navigate the filings to become a registered entity.

"I drew up the papers and my office serves as the registered agent," Alderson said.

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