Team Roberts is angry at the NYT for publishing this, claiming that he’s visited all 72 counties in the state recently and insisting that it’s a “distortion” to say that he doesn’t have his own home there. Is it? He stays at the home of a couple of friends/donors when he makes the trip back to Kansas and pays them a few hundred bucks a month for the privilege. Note the timeline, too, on when he established his voting address there. Close enough to a “home of his own” for government work?
This feels like a re-run of Dick Lugar’s last campaign: Midwestern Republican who’s spent decades in Washington decides that turning 80 is still too soon to cede power. Lugar didn’t reside in his home state either except in the most pro forma way, in order to qualify for the ballot. Roberts has already learned a lesson from that, tacking towards the right over the past year a la Orrin Hatch to pander to tea partiers in hopes that there won’t be a groundswell against him as there was against Lugar. The question for Kansas GOP voters is whether, knowing now that Lugar’s seat ended up in Democratic hands after he was successfully primaried, they’re willing to cut Roberts a break on his ossified-incumbent excesses.
The 77-year-old senator went to Congress in 1981 and became a fixture: a member of the elite Alfalfa Club and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which made him a regular on the Sunday talk shows. His wife became a real estate broker Alexandria, Va., the suburb where the couple live, boasting of her “extensive knowledge” of the area…
In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors — C. Duane and Phyllis Ross — and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots…
Mr. Roberts’s aides candidly acknowledge that the moves are an effort to ensure that he will not suffer the same fate as Mr. Lugar, who was criticized for staying in hotels when he returned home and listed on his voter registration an Indianapolis address at which he did not reside. Mr. Roberts moved his address from a rental property he owned in Dodge City but had long since leased to tenants, and got a new driver’s license giving the golf course home as his address.
“We’re not going to get Lugar’d,” a Roberts advisor vowed to the Times. In a way, this is the perfect complement to the last post about Obama appointing rich ignoramuses to ambassadorships: If we’re going to dispense with the pretense of nominating qualified people so that ambitious millionaires can enjoy a sinecure abroad for a few years, why not dispense with the pretense that members of the Senate should maintain some close connection to the states they purport to represent? Do away with statewide elections and hold national elections instead. The Senate will be comprised of the top 100 vote-getters, each of whom will be randomly assigned to a state until every state has two. After all, 90 percent of “representing” a state is simply securing federal pork for local projects, a job that can be done just as well without living there. (Right, Pat?) I’m sure Senator Mike Bloomberg, say, would do fine in the chamber twisting arms to get more taxpayer money for Topeka. If Noah Mamet can represent the United States in Argentina despite never having visited and possibly not even knowing how to speak Spanish, why can’t a guy from Florida “represent” Oregon or vice versa? Let’s drop the pretenses already.
A modest proposal in lieu your exit question: To reform government, let’s give Congress a choice between term limits and ankle monitors. Either they’re capped at three terms in either chamber or they can run as much as they like but need to prove that they’re physically present in their home state for at least half the year. If you want to stop politicians from going native in D.C., it’s time for tough love.