Kansas Chamber of Commerce slaps folksy name on political action committee

Perhaps mindful of its reputation as a tool of the ultra-right Koch brothers, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce is using a political action committee with a name meant to evoke flags, soda fountains and hardware stores with creaky floors.

Voters who live in Kansas Senate District 11 recently received a mailer from MAIN Street Kansas criticizing John Skubal, an Overland Park city councilman who is challenging conservative state Sen. Jeff Melcher in the Republican primary. Campaign finance records indicate that MAIN Street Kansas received $61,500 — its only contributions in 2016 — from the Kansas Chamber’s PAC in mid-July.

Politicians and their operatives frequently use phrases like “Main Street” and “common sense” to justify their positions. Still, the name of the Kansas Chamber’s PAC bears a strong similarity to the MainStream Coalition, which has promoted un-Koch-like moderation in Kansas politics since 1993. 

Officials at the Mission-based MainStream Coalition believe the chamber was hoping to confuse voters when it picked the name MAIN Street Kansas.

“Already we have had members and supporters contacting us, incredulous about what they believe they have seen in our name,” Danny Novo, the MainStream Coalition’s communications coordinator, says in an email. Novo says the Kansas chamber and its partners tried something similar several years ago, when they created the short-lived Mainstream Coalition of Kansas City, Kansas.

“As always, we recommend that voters get informed on the issues and the candidates, get active with candidates who support their values, and work to elect moderate candidates,” Novo continues. “I guess we should add that we hope they will take the claims on political postcards with a healthy dose of skepticism, and look to trusted sources for information to separate the facts from the half-truths and lies.”

A chamber spokeswoman did not respond to an email on Tuesday.

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