Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Missouri Democrat Jason Kander beds down with "pro lifers" and "anti stem-cell research" crowd in effort to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in U.S. Senate

Is a Missouri Democrat trying to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate by jumping in bed with social conservatives? Is Democrat Jason Kander attempting to attract rural votes, especially from farmers, by playing to their right-wing predilections on social issues? The fine print in Raise Your Hands For Kids (RYH4K), a nonprofit that Kander controls and which purports to boost child health in Missouri by raising taxes on cigarettes, indicates the answer is yes.

That suggests those who claim to be concerned about "life" and "child health" have  formed an uneasy alliance with Big Tobacco, which probably causes more death and poor health than any other industry in America.

The Kander Memo, a heavily sourced, 127-page document released by a group of anonymous Missouri citizens, suggests that RYH4K is a glorified political slush fund for Kander -- with $5 million coming from individual donors ($2 million) and R.J. Reynolds ($3 million), which is likely to benefit from enhanced market share and sharply increased taxes on its discount competitors. (The Kander Memo is embedded at the end of this post.)

RYH4K's willingness to cater to right-wing groups adds another level of intrigue to the battle over Amendment 3, which will be on the November 8 ballot. An article at The Kansas City Pitch shines major light on that subject. Dated August 23, 2016, and titled "Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country. Why does a tobacco company want to raise it?" the piece suggests the Show-Me State can produce some strange bedfellows.

Reporter David Martin begins by interviewing Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California–San Francisco, who admits Amendment 3 has him flummoxed:

In 1994, the Brown and Williamson tobacco company sued the California Board of Regents in an effort to keep Glantz from making public the sensitive company documents he had received from a whistleblower. The university prevailed, and Glantz and his colleagues wrote an influential Journal of the American Medical Association paper based on the documents, which showed that the tobacco industry knew nicotine was addictive and that smoking caused cancer.

Yet even he marvels at the ballot initiative that Missouri voters will consider this fall to raise the tax on major cigarette brands by 60 cents a pack.

Glantz has seen just about everything the tobacco industry can throw at him, but he's never seen anything like RYH4K and Amendment 3:

The most unusual aspect of the proposal is that it’s being financed largely by a cigarette manufacturer. RAI Services Company has given more than $2.6 million to Raise Your Hand for Kids, the campaign committee leading the push for the new tax. “RAI” stands for Reynolds American Inc., the parent of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Newport, Camel and Pall Mall.

“I’ve never seen an instance where a cigarette company went to the ballot with a tax before,” Glantz tells The Pitch.

The tactic caught people off-guard. In February, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial board described the tobacco tax initiative as a “sound proposal” and made no mention of R.J. Reynolds’ involvement. Two months later, the paper rescinded its endorsement. But in a sign of how strange this story is, the paper made its about-face for reasons other than the cigarette company’s influence.

The Post-Dispatch, it turns out, was baffled by fine print in the RYH4K proposal. Kansas City Pitch explains:

The size and speed of the tax increases are not the only objections to the Raise Your Hand for Kids initiative. The amendment contains several sentences restricting the money from being spent on abortion services, though public funding for abortions is already prohibited in Missouri. The amendment also states that the money can’t be used for embryonic stem-cell research.

The insertion of the stem-cell language dismayed groups promoting scientific research in Missouri. “We were shocked,” says Dena Ladd, the executive director of the Missouri Cures Education Foundation, which worked to pass the 2006 amendment to the state constitution that protects any stem-cell research and therapy in Missouri that is legal under federal law.

Missouri Cures and other scientific groups worry that the proposed amendment could chip away at the protections they’ve secured. Ladd tells The Pitch that her group met with the organizers of Raise Your Hand for Kids and asked them to remove the language about stem cells. They refused.

In March, Missouri Cures announced its opposition the Raise Your Hand for Kids initiative, calling it “North Carolina–based Big Tobacco’s proposed amendment to change Missouri’s Constitution.” Missouri Cures faulted the campaign for allowing “anti-research activists,” which is to say anti-abortion rights groups, to insert the language about stem cells.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch backed away from RYH4K when it became aware of the language regarding abortion rights and stem-cell research. It remains unclear how the language got in there, but it appears that right-wing groups pushed for it, and Kander was unwilling to stand up to them.

That should leave Missouri voters, especially Democrats, with this question: "Does Jason Kander stand for much of anything, other than getting elected?"


Anonymous said...

A lot of pro-lifers also support Big Tobacco. Just ask Bill Pryor.

Anonymous said...

The lawsuit over the bogus rape case could be Kander's downfall. I'm guessing that woman will sing like a mockingbird.

Anonymous said...

We all know radical anti-abortion groups can be a little unhinged – that’s nothing new. But a leading anti-abortion group, Kansas for Life, has taken things to a whole other level of insanity by sending out a questionnaire to state lawmakers asking them whether or not they opposed the possibility of human-animal hybrids. No, I’m not joking.

Anonymous said...

Adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells are two different things. Nobody has ethical objections to adult stem cell research. And all of the breakthroughs in Parkinson's disease have been achieved using adult stem cells. There is also no longer any need to use embryonic stem cells:

Anonymous said...

The world is a hostile place, Roger. Is there any greater proof of that then the rise and fall of someone like Donald J. Trump? We would not have needed someone like him to run as President if it were not for the abuses of power and privilege that are now routine among our elites. He was one of them and has sucked at the teat of power, abusing women and drugs and using his wealth to get what he wants. Now he fights for us. That is why voters here and in Alabama turned out in record numbers and make him the next President.