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Kansas Chamber of Commerce Rep Reveals True Intention of Paycheck Deception is to “Get Rid of Public Sector Unions”

When Pennsylvania legislators made a push to toughen voter registration laws last year opponents got their main talking points directly from one of its supporters, Rep. Mike Turzai, who infamously said that “voter ID would allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania.” With the true nature of the bill exposed it never came to fruition. Now, in Kansas, where a push to end public employee unions’ ability to collect automatic paycheck deductions for political activities is meeting union opposition, a similar event may have gifted labor with the straw to break the bill’s back.

The chief lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Eric Stafford, blurted out the law’s true intent on Wednesday afternoon during a meeting with Democratic committee members.

“I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions,” Stafford told committee members, according to a tweet from Scott Rothschild, a reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World.

Among the witnesses to the comment were Topeka Councilman and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 304 staffer Chad Manspeaker, who told The Huffington Post that,

…the hearing “was getting pretty contentious” in exchanges between Stafford and Democrats, and that he believed that Stafford was trying to “talk over” the Democrats asking him questions when he made his statement.
“He blurted it out,” Manspeaker said. “There was a gasp in the room.”

Along with ending automatic paycheck deductions (Anti-worker actors call it Paycheck Protection, worker-supportive people call it Paycheck Deception) the new bill would also expand the definition of “political activities” effectively banning unions from campaigning for or against public referendums.

Kansas’ status as a “Right-to-Work” state means that union members are already going out of their way to participate in the political process with their unions. In Kansas, union dues and deductions for political activities are already separate. Therefore, much like the PA Voter ID debacle, this is a law that is attempting to solve a problem that does not exist. Paul Lira, business manager of IBEW Local 304, said in testimony to the commerce committee,

“House Bill 2023 appears to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no deception in how we use members’ dues or political contributions. Our treasurer’s report and our political activity are reported at all of our meetings.”

In the 2012 elections the Kansas Chamber of Commerce acted as the unofficial fundraising body of the state’s conservative candidates. With a more conservative state house and conservative Gov. Sam Brownback following the election these politicians are looking to return the favor and take out the Chamber of Commerce’s key opposition. Surprisingly, with this gaffe it appears the Chamber itself may stand in the way.


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