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Kansas lawmaker claims Koch Industries retaliation

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Kansas legislator is accusing Koch Industries of trying to punish him politically for questioning how the Wichita-based company lobbied last year against the state's renewable energy standards for utilities.

Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, said in a recent email to supporters that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce isn't endorsing him in the GOP primary Aug. 5 because of a confrontation he had last year with lobbyists for Koch Industries over a proposal to repeal the renewable energy requirements. A 2009 law mandates that wind and other renewable resources account for 20 percent of each utility's peak capacity for generating electricity by 2020.

Kansas Chamber CEO Mike O'Neal told the Lawrence Journal-World and Topeka Capital-Journal in stories published online Monday that Schwab's allegation is "without merit." Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia declined comment when contacted by The Wichita Eagle.

Both the chamber and Koch Industries oppose the renewable-energy mandate. Critics argue that the requirement has increased electric rates for consumers and market forces should settle how much utilities rely on wind and other renewable resources. Supporters of the mandate argue that it helps the environment and has sparked the development of a thriving wind-energy industry in Kansas.

Schwab voted this year to preserve the renewable energy mandate, but he acknowledged in his email that he'd been willing last year to consider its repeal. He said in his email, sent last week, that he'd been troubled by the lack of public support for the repeal from Kansas businesses.

Schwab said he told a Koch Industries lobbyist that the company should testify publicly for the mandate's repeal, rather than continuing to work behind the scenes. Then, Schwab said, he later had a confrontation with two Koch lobbyists at a conference in Topeka over the issue. Koch Industries is active in the chamber and one of the lobbyists mentioned by Schwab in his email serves on the chamber's board of directors.

"The implications of such decision making are too numerous to name here," Schwab wrote in his email about the chamber's refusal to endorse him. "However, the largest is the integrity of the organization."

But O'Neal noted in an email that the Kansas Chamber contributed to Schwab's campaign fund as late as December, well after the alleged confrontation occurred. Campaign finance data available online shows the chamber's political action committee made a $250 donation to Schwab on Dec. 23.

The chamber did not endorse Schwab's primary opponent, J.H. Wilson of Olathe. O'Neal did not elaborate on why Schwab did not receive the chamber's formal backing.

"We are sorry and disappointed that he feels he should receive more funds than he has already received," O'Neal wrote in his email.



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