A July 23 campaign finance report from American Energy Action Kansas shows the Kansas wind industry spent more than $180,000 supporting 21 candidates for the Kansas House and Senate. That’s an enormous amount of money spent in less than three weeks since the group’s filing.
Wind farms are fairly controversial in some parts of Kansas. Hutchinson-area residents blocked the installation of the NextEra Energy’s proposed Pretty Prairie Wind Farm, prompting the company to sue the county. A judge ruled against the company initially and the suit is ongoing.
Some communities have been pushing legislators for regulations to protect homeowners from unwanted wind farms, which may explain why the wind industry is helping some legislators get elected.
Tom Cox and Mary Jo Taylor, running for Senate offices, were the largest beneficiaries at $17,250 each. Taylor is the incumbent in her district and Cox is a House member trying to unseat Senator Mike Thompson.
Senators Bruce Givens, Dan Goddard, and Ed Berger are running for re-election and each had $12,250 spent on their behalf. Brenda Dietrich, a current House member, also benefitted to the tune of $12,250 toward her attempt to unseat Senator Eric Rucker.
$9,500 each was spent for the benefit of John Skubal and Randall Hardy in their re-election efforts, and $8,500 was spent on Rob Olson’s re-election attempt.
The wind lobby spent $6,350 each on nine House members running for re-election and a candidate running for Dietrich’s vacated seat.
The nine incumbents are Mark Samsel, Kent Thompson, Jim Karleskint, Blaine Finch, Diana Dierks, J.C. Moore, Nick Hohheisel, Boyd Orr, and Martin Long.
Two Democrats also benefitted in their re-election effort; Stan Frownfelter at $4,350 and Pam Curtis at $2,850.
As noted by the Sunflower State Journal, the amount spent in total and on each candidate are extraordinary for Kansas. SSJ says, “the Kansas chamber’s political action committee, arguably one of the most politically potent organizations, reported spending about $153,000 so far this year.” And most of the Chamber PAC’s individual donations are $1,000 or less.
Kansas Freedom Index
Two other things that stand out about the wind industry investment is that all but two beneficiaries are Republicans, and most of them would be considered moderate Republicans.
The Sentinel’s owner, Kansas Policy Institute, tracks legislators votes in the Kansas Freedom Index. The Freedom Index is intended to provide educational information to the public about broad economic and education issues that are important to the citizens of Kansas. It is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research and is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.
Scores range from 100% – always voting in favor of protecting constitutional rights, student-focused education, and limited, efficient government – to zero percent, with 50% being neutral.
Nick Hoheisel has the highest lifetime score among the wind industry beneficiaries, at 92%. Martin Long is the next highest at 79%, followed by Rob Olson at 75%. Eight legislators have lifetime scores between 50% and 59%, and six others are between 40% and 49%. Three of them are in the 30 range – John Skubal at 35%, Pam Curtis at 34%, and Stan Frownfelter at 33%.