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Kander portrays himself as business-friendly as he takes aim at Obama, Brownback

Jason Kander
Missouri secretary of state website

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, has adopted one of the GOP’s favorite words – “overreach” – as he attacks President Barack Obama’s habit of using executive orders and rule changes to implement his policies.

Kander’s  prime pitch Thursday to the St. Louis Regional Chamber was that the White House was too dependent, in his view, on using executive orders and rule changes to circumvent the Republicans who control Congress.

“The administration obviously feels that they can’t get things done in Congress, so they’re trying to do more on their own,” he said. “And the issue that I see with that is that it creates unpredictability.”

“A rule is much easier to overturn than a law,” Kander explained. “So now businesses across the country have to take a guess on whether the next president is going to stick with the major changes that the administration has made using the new rules. And we all know that unpredictability is bad for business.”

Kander took aim at several such actions, such as “EPA rules in process that are stopping energy companies from moving forward on new plants or even updating their current ones.”

He also faulted EPA plans “regulating ditches on private farm land.”

Kander even targeted the administration’s efforts to use executive action to implement immigration changes that have yet to pass Congress.  Kander said he agreed with some of the proposed immigration changes, but he objected to using the executive-order route when it appeared Congress is deadlocked on the matter.

Kander noted that Obama’s executive order has touched off a legal fight, which he says hurts everyone, including business.

Faults Kansas’ money troubles

However, the president wasn’t Kander’s only target.  A Kansas City native, Kander said he’s payed close attention to the financial unrest in neighboring Kansas.

Kander contended that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision a few years back to “experiment in his state’’ by slashing income taxes has created “quite a mess,’’ resulting in this year’s unpopular push by the governor to increase sales taxes.

Brownback is seeking to replace some of the lost revenue that has forced huge cuts in state programs, including aid to public schools.

Aside from the money problems, Kander said, “the unpredictability he’s brought to his own state has been even worse.”

The resulting climate, said Kander, has been “toxic for business.”

“It’s difficult for Kansas businesses to plan when they don’t know what their tax burden will be from year to year,” he contended.

Kander’s aim in attacking Brownback and Obama appeared to be to cast himself as a middle-of-the-road pragmatist as he prepares for a likely challenge of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Blunt is arguably Missouri’s most powerful Republican. And over the years, he's often been portrayed as pragmatic.

So far, Blunt has chosen to say little publicly about Kander, saying recently that it's far too early to discuss potential Democratic opponents.

Instead, Blunt has focused on raising money for his expected 2016 bid for re-election. At the moment, Blunt has amassed a sizable financial edge over Kander.

Kander ties Blunt to Hastert

In an interview after his address, Kander exuded confidence that he’ll assemble the campaign cash that he needs.  Kander already has attracted support from national Democratic groups, which already have been launching regular attacks against Blunt.

Their latest jabs have focused on the $11,000 in campaign donations that Blunt received several years ago from former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. 

Hastert, a Republican from Illinois (and now a prominent Washington lobbyist), faces federal charges for lying about money he paid to an alleged victim of sexual abuse when Hastert was a high-school wrestling coach.

Blunt has declined to return Hastert’s money, saying such an action would force his campaign to check the background of all of his other donors, which it doesn’t have time to do.

Calls for “returning the money’’ are common attacks in political campaigns. But Kander sought to cast the Hastert matter in a different light.

“If someone I had served with had been indicted for what Speaker Hastert has been indicted for, I would return the money,” Kander said. “I don’t think it’s a difficult test.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.