Kinder files lawsuit accusing Carnahan of bias in ballot wording

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Tuesday July 10, 2012, is flanked by staff members holding signs with ballot language written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, left, and Kinder's interpretation of the ballot language, right, for a November proposal that would bar the governor from using his executive powers to set up a health insurance exchange. Kinder has filed a lawsuit against Carnahan and Attorney General Chris Koster today in Jefferson City, Mo., and is holding press conferences across the state to promote the lawsuit. (AP Photo/Columbia Daily Tribune, Don Shrubshell)

Download a copy of the lawsuit

Saying it doesn't even pass the "laugh test," Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to ballot language crafted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, calling her wording biased with a nefarious aim at influencing the outcome of the Nov. 6 Missouri election.

The Cape Girardeau Republican was in his hometown Tuesday morning to discuss the lawsuit he filed later in the day in Cole County Circuit Court. Kinder's stop at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport was the first of five in Missouri that included Springfield, Joplin, Jefferson City and St. Louis.

At issue, Kinder said during his 20-minute remarks, is Carnahan's ballot summary that voters will see Nov. 6 as they decide whether a key provision of President Barack Obama's health care reform is implemented in Missouri. Specifically, voters will be asked to decide whether the governor should be allowed to set up health care exchanges without the consent of legislators or voters. An exchange is an online market that would allow consumers to compare health plans. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires each state to create such an exchange by 2014 or have one operated by the federal government.

But Kinder said what voters will see and what the ballot language actually suggests are two starkly different things.

The ballot measure now reads: "Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?"

Kinder displayed indignation at the language, which he derided as the Democratic Carnahan's attempt to confuse and mislead voters.

"Instead of coming up with fair and impartial language, the secretary of state has loaded the dice, has written ballot language that is clearly, unmistakably and blatantly biased and is certain to skew the outcome of the election," Kinder said.

Following Kinder's comments, Carnahan's office issued a similar response to one made last week, when her release of the language first drew the ire of Kinder and several other GOP officials and candidates. Carnahan spokesman Ryan Hobart maintained Tuesday that the language is a "fair and sufficient summary" of the ballot measure.

After Associated Press photos of Kinder's stop in Springfield were posted online, Hobart issued a second release that ridiculed a poster that Kinder displayed during his various news conferences, including the one in Cape Girardeau. The poster offered Kinder's definition of what the ballot issue would really do and read: "Prohibits unelected bureaucrats or the governor from implementing certain Obamacare provisions unless specifically authorized by the legislature or a vote of the people."

Hobart's emailed release provided a link to Kinder's photo with the poster in the background.

Said Hobart: "We understand it's election season and some people will do anything to get in the news, but it's hard to take Lt. Gov. Kinder seriously when this is what he calls fair ballot language. It's our obligation to make sure voters have a fair, accurate summary of what they're voting on and our summary provides that."

Hobart also said Carnahan is confident her ballot language will hold up in court.

But Kinder noted that since what has become known as Obamacare was enacted into law in 2010, Missourians have made it clear they do not support it. That same year, Missourians passed Proposition C in opposition to the law's mandate with 71 percent of the vote. Despite the opposition, Kinder said, Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster refused to stand up to the president and their other fellow Democrats in Washington.

Kinder filed a constitutional challenge to the health care law two years ago, which is now awaiting a ruling in the 8th District, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Now I find myself again in the position of defending Missouri voters against Missouri elected officials who appear to be playing political games, acting to represent their party and their ideological interests rather than the people of Missouri," Kinder said. "I believe this is what Missourians are very tired of."

The Missouri Legislature, which has solid Republican majorities in both chambers, put the issue on the ballot out of concern Gov. Nixon's administration could set up a health care exchange without legislative approval. Kinder said he was optimistic the courts would move swiftly and he hoped the matter would be resolved in a few weeks.

Other top GOP lawmakers were solidly behind the lawsuit as well, Kinder said, specifically pointing to House Speaker Steve Tilley of Perryville, Mo., Majority Floor Leader and Speaker Designate Tim Jones of Eureka, Mo., Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer of Dexter, Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles, Mo. All are listed as plaintiffs on the lawsuit in their official state capacities.

Kinder said fundraising efforts are underway to ensure this lawsuit is privately funded, as was his previous lawsuit.

Other Republican candidates were traveling across the state Tuesday to take Carnahan to task for the ballot language. Secretary of State candidate Shane Schoeller and attorney general candidate Ed Martin held news conferences in Jefferson City, Fenton and Springfield. Schoeller, of Willard, Mo., has asked Tilley to create a committee to review Missouri election law to ensure accountability and transparency in the ballot writing process.

"The Carnahan title is so blatantly unfair that even the liberals are having trouble coming up with an alibi for Carnahan," Schoeller said.

But Hobart said moving the duty of writing the ballot language out of the secretary of state's office is not the answer. The main issues that come up would not be solved by having another office or commission write ballot language, Hobart said.

"People would still file lawsuits and legal challenges because that's become such a big part of the process over the years," Hobart said.

Sen. Brad Lager, Kinder's chief GOP primary opponent for lieutenant governor in next month's Aug. 7 primary, sent a letter Tuesday to Tilley asking him to reconsider his decision not to call a special session to have Missouri opt out of the Affordable Care Act. Lager, of Savannah, Mo., called the health care law a "massive expansion of social welfare spending." Last week, Tilley released a statement that a special session held during an election year would "invite grandstanding and filibustering." Without Tilley on board, the possibility of a special session is effectively killed.

Kinder maintained Tuesday the surest way to stop this portion of the Affordable Care Act rests with the courts now and voters in November. He said top Republican lawmakers are standing behind him because "this language is not merely misleading. It is outrageous, it is laughable and it must be overturned."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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