Olathe lawmaker angry over not picking up Kansas Chamber’s endorsement

06/16/2014 4:53 PM

06/17/2014 7:37 AM

Two years ago, Olathe state Rep. Scott Schwab’s record was good enough to earn the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement.

This year, not so much.

Schwab, a Republican, appears to have lost the support of the conservative-leaning chamber this year, allegedly because of a dispute over green energy standards in the state.

A Schwab email now making the rounds details a run-in he had with two lobbyists from Koch Industries, which supports repealing the state’s renewable energy requirements for utilities.

In his email, Schwab blamed losing the chamber’s endorsement on a confrontation he had with Koch lobbyists at a social event. He accused the chamber in his email of using its political action committee as a “tool of personal revenge.”

The chamber said Schwab’s charge is without merit. Koch Industries could not be reached for comment today.

Schwab did not return phone calls Monday.

The confrontation involved something called the renewables portfolio standard, or RPS. He and other lawmakers considered changing or repealing the RPS.

Schwab apparently become circumspect about a repeal because it might be viewed as anti-business.

He wondered why the repeal seemed to have more support from think tanks than actual Kansas businesses. “Where are the Kansas businesses that want us to pass this bill?” Schwab asked.

At one point, Schwab said in his email, he was told that Koch Industries supported repeal but wouldn’t testify because it would stir up bad publicity.

Later, Schwab’s email claims, Koch lobbyists confronted him at a reception held in Topeka by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. The organization developed model legislation for repealing the renewable energy mandate.

One lobbyist shoved a business card into Schwab’s ribs to make a point, the email said. The other said Schwab was “horrible” because he didn’t support repealing the mandate — a point the legislator said was inaccurate.

Schwab said the argument became so animated that a third Koch lobbyist had to intervene with his wife.

Chamber President Mike O’Neal said Schwab received a campaign contribution from the organization’s political action committee in December.

“We are sorry and disappointed that he feels he should receive more funds,” O’Neal said in an email.

“Given the support he received in December, his reference to an admittedly non-chamber related matter that supposedly occurred last year is without merit.”

Schwab represents District 49 in Olathe. He faces Republican opposition from John Wilson, who unsuccessfully ran against the incumbent as a Libertarian in 2012. Democrat Darnell Hunt also has filed for the seat.

The chamber did not endorse anyone in the primary.

To reach Brad Cooper call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com

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