Americans for Prosperity mailer part of smear campaign, says Kansas GOP legislator seeking re-election

07/18/2014 6:48 PM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

It’s primary season. And that means Kansans can expect to receive political postcards warning them of their lawmakers’ misdeeds, paid for by various interest groups.

Some Overland Park residents have received a postcard that features a picture of a sad-looking child and the message that reads, “Stephanie Sawyer Clayton Voted AGAINST OUR KID’S FUTURE.”

The mailer from Americans for Prosperity is referencing HB 2506, a controversial school finance bill, which included provisions that eliminated protections for public school teachers and granted tax breaks to corporations for donating to private school scholarship funds.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, a self-described moderate, voted against the bill. Clayton accused AFP, a conservative advocacy group with ties to the Koch family, of perpetrating a smear campaign against her.

She supported an earlier bill that had bipartisan backing and lacked the controversial reforms. The bill had 91 votes in the House but was scuttled after the Senate demanded passage of the conservative policy-laden bill.

The final bill, which barely passed the House with 63 votes, was not even printed before lawmakers voted on it, Clayton said. She said she would not vote for a bill that had not been vetted.

“My vote against that bill was a vote against a corrupt process that the people do not want. That’s not how they want us doing business,” Clayton said.

“If I’m going to be attacked for standing up, then let them do it, because this is the right thing to stand up for,” Clayton said.

Jeff Glendening, AFP’s Kansas Director, denied that the postcards were part of a campaign against Clayton in support of her opponent. Clayton faces a primary challenge from conservative Jennifer Flood on Aug. 5.

“It’s issue-related. It’s just saying that Stephanie Clayton voted against that. It’s not a vote for or against anyone. We don’t do that. We don’t say vote for or vote against Clayton,” Glendening said. “I don’t even think her opponent’s name is listed on that.”

Glendening has repeatedly said that lawmakers who voted against the bill voted in the interest of the teachers union rather than in the interest of kids.

“We think her constituents should know whether or not she supported education,” Glendening said. “In all seriousness AFP is not about pushing a particular candidate, a particular party. It’s about our issues. We have our agenda and it’s on the issues.”

Clayton did not buy Glendening’s logic.

“Well, who exactly are they supporting then?” she said. “Because if they’re going to be spending the money to attack me for not supporting a corrupt process, if it’s worth it to them to spend the money, then obviously they’re supporting someone.”

Glendening said AFP sends out mailers all year and that the timing, so close to primary votes, was irrelevant. He also said similar postcards were going out in other districts.

Some Twitter users mocked the mailer, saying the message is grammatically incorrect. The message should actually say “kids’ future” unless it was only one child’s future at stake.

Clayton is confident that her record on education will withstand the attack.

“The people that I represent know me. They know that I’m a mom that has children in the public schools. People know me and they’re going to see through this,” Clayton said.

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