To the editor:
I returned home from vacation a few days ago. The day I left Kansas, the main street of my town – Ottawa – was riddled with “vote yes” and “vote no” signs splayed in people’s yards. When I returned by mid-August, the “yes” and “no” signs were gone, replaced by Derek Schmidt and Laura Kelly signs. One sign read: “Derek Schmidt, Conservative for Governor.” I thought: this is mistaken; Derek Schmidt is NOT a Conservative.
Back in 2018, I had my first run-in with Schmidt’s office. I received an email from an investigator, Shawna Meyer, in the Office of Attorney General, Derek Schmidt. Ms. Meyer wrote: “Please review and respond to the enclosed complaint ...” The substance of the message suggested that I was acting as an attorney for protestors in water-flooding injection well cases before the Kansas Corporation Commission. I had done no such thing, so Schmidt’s message was surprising to say the least.
I was asked for all documents related to our protests, names of individuals, and a description of all actions I had taken. I, along with neighbors in our farm community, had filed a number of protests with KCC, which regulates oil and gas production wells in our state. We were having some success, and clearly upsetting some very powerful people.
In July 2018, I wrote to Ms. Meyer in the AG’s office with confusion, not seeing a “complaint” attached to her message. I wanted to see the alleged “complaint” against me that the Attorney General’s office was making so I could respond accordingly. I was never sent a copy of the complaint. In fact, I subsequently learned that a complaint had never been filed. Not only that – another person with some success in protesting sloppy work at the KCC had received a similar letter from the AG’s office – Cindy Hoedel – and, alas, no complaint had been filed against her, either.
Then, a cascade of events: the state’s largest newspapers picked up the story, the attorney at the KCC who made informal contact with the AG’s office immediately left his job, the ACLU filed a suit against the KCC on behalf of Hoedel and me naming the Deputy General Counsel of the KCC who contacted Schmidt’s office and the commissioners as defendants, and a federal district judge concluded the KCC is exempt from prosecution by virtue of qualified immunity.
Cindy and I had unwittingly uncovered the cronyism and arrogance of Schmidt’s office – an office which did not follow its own protocols, seemed to have colluded with an attorney at the KCC to stop protests to protect water, and cost taxpayers a bundle to defend the messes made by the fake “complaint” never filed with the AG’s office.
Ironically, I see Trump’s picture and endorsement on Schmidt’s website, claiming he’s a “common sense conservative.” Well, if there’s a deep state in Kansas, then Schmidt’s office owns it, as proven throughout my interactions with his office. With power-grabbing constitutional amendments on both the primary and general ballots – both of which Schmidt supported – and his “investigation” of Hoedel and me, Schmidt has a track record for wanting the state government to have more influence, not less. He wants the government to tell us what to do, he doesn’t support individual rights and liberties. Turns out that Laura Kelly is the champion of individual rights, not the “conservative” Schmidt.