Defeated Kansas Senator: "Koch Industries is Just a Terrible, Terrible Citizen"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 8 2012 3:21 PM

Defeated Kansas Senator: "Koch Industries is Just a Terrible, Terrible Citizen"

Kansas State. Sen Tim Owens was one of the moderate Republicans who went down in flames in yesterday's primaries -- a 20-point landslide defeat. I talked with Owens today to get his take on the shellacking.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Slate: When did you realize that you would lose the election?

Advertisement

Owens: At around 9 o'clock last night. We thought it would be close, and I'd heard people mention that it was close. I've been doing this for a long time, though, and... well, it came out the way it did.

Slate: Well, how would you describe what happened to you?

Owens: It's something of a classical battle that's going on in the Republican Party these days between the ultra conservative wing and the moderates. My assessment is that there's a very passionate, ultra-conservative part of the party that got their people out to vote, and there's a fairly apathetic middle of the road moderate group that doesn't seem as passionate, to me, about anything. And that's too bad, because in the new Senate there won't be much attention paid to social services, to education, and some of the other things that at least some of us believe are tantamount to quality of life.

Slate: And you were targeted, at least in part, because you opposed the tax plan. Why did you oppose it?

Owens: I've seen projections that say we'd be at a $2.7 billion in five years if we cut taxes too deeply. We have a constiutional mandate in Kansas that we have to balance the budget. if we're $2.7 billion in the hole, we either have to go back and raise taxes, which the new senators won't do, or we have to cut the programs. What do you cut in Kansas, where 67% of the budget is K-12 or higher ed? You're talking about higher ed taking a huge hit, and I suppose you're expecting private or parochical school to fill the gap. But Kansas right now is sixth in the nation for quality of public education. The theory, as I understand it, will be that businesses will bring enough new jobs to Kansas to make up the difference in funding. But if part of his tax plan is to eliminate income tax, it's not gonna make a lot of difference, is it? Do they raise the property tax instead? The whole theory is haywire.

Slate: Did the governor allay any of these concerns with you?

Owens: I chair the judicial committee, so when we talked, it was usually about that. And he probably wrote me off based on that.

Slate: Why?

Owens: I think that early on in the next session, the governor will revisit the idea of selecting appelate court judges. What he wants to do is have the governor pick and choose judges, the way that it works in Washington, and send them to the Senate, which -- if it's made up of the people who won yesterday -- will deliver a virtual rubber stamp of his selection. We will have judges selected on a basis of their social leanings instead of their merits.

Slate: But I'm curious, did the Kansas Chamber or any of the groups that opposed you try to work on you before spending money in the election?

Owens: They wrote me off early on. They went after the eight moderates they saw as impediments. And the challengers were backed very strongly by the Americans for Prosperity. I don't know if you've heard of them, but they basically have an anti-tax philosophy. They were started by Koch Industries and the Koch brothers, that's where the money comes from against us. The local Chambers are wholly owned by Koch Industries and AFP.

Slate: But Koch Industries is a Kansas-based company that ostensibly provides jobs in Kansas, pays taxes in Kansas.

Owens: Sure, but they are absolutely opposed to taxes. If it were up to them they'd want us to do away with all taxes and leave them alone. They may be a Kansas business, they may be the biggest company run by a single family, but they need to be asking the question "What can we do for Kansas?" and not "What can Kansas do for us?" Koch Industries is just a terrible, terrible citizen as far as I'm concerned. I think Koch Industries has done a major disservice to the state of Kansas.

Slate: What's the disservice, specifically?

Owens: I'd say that maybe 80 percent of country are middle of roaders. They're not always fired up enough to go and look at what impact government has on them. The people who play close attention, it seems, are so passionate against everything. And so the middle of the roaders don't want to be anywhere close to that. Until we turn back to the middle and get balance, we're in trouble. That will bleed over into opinions people have of Kansas. It will bleed over into opinions people have of us internationally.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
War Stories
Sept. 23 2014 4:04 PM The Right Target Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.