The Myth of the Moderate Moore


Regional/ Kansas City:


By Jack Cashill

April 2007
Courtesy of

Holden, executive director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City, is an unusual duck.

He is one of the very few “Republicans for Dennis Moore,” who is an actual walking, talking, quacking Republican.

He is one unhappy duck as well.

Before we get to the source of Holden’s chagrin—and the institutional chagrin of his 230 fellow hoteliers—allow me to spend a moment on the phenomenon known as “Republicans for Moore.”

Every two years, a great swarm of Johnson County “Republicans” publicly declares support for Third District Kansas Congressman, Dennis Moore, a Democrat and a much-storied “moderate.”

Curious about party switching, and convinced that money is the surest measure of the political heart, I decided to review the federal campaign donations of the most prominent of these Republicans—the five “co-chairs” and the fourteen “subcommittee” members headlining the 2004 “Republicans for Moore” ad.

I will spare names, but of the nineteen only two had given more money to Republicans than Democrats over the last twenty years. One of those two either had Alzheimer’s or, more likely, hedged his bets since he donated to Moore’s 2004 opponent, Kris Kobach, but not to Moore.

The final tally among the mischievous nineteen reads Republicans $2,250, Democrats $32,500. In other words these prominent Republicans had given fully 94% of their federal donations to Democrats over the years.

Tom Holden is no such poseur. He backed Moore because he believed Moore genuinely backed local business.

In the first eight years of Moore’s tenure in the house, what Moore thought or did was of little consequence as his party was in the minority. That changed with the November 2006 election.

And so Holden wrote Moore in February to warn him of a brazen, business-unfriendly piece of legislation, the almost comically titled, “Employee Free Choice Act”, H.R. 800.

“As a hotelier and as an American that cherishes my right to vote,” wrote an impassioned Holden to his congressman. “I am writing to strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 800. This bill eliminates the right of each worker to a private ballot when they decide whether or not to elect a union.”

Why, you ask, would anyone oppose the right of American workers to choose their representation in a federally supervised secret ballot election?  Says Holden, “Labor unions kept losing elections.”   

When I first read this, I presumed that Holden was overstating the case. Employees have enjoyed the right to a private ballot since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. Who would challenge that?

Apparently, House Democrats would, including proud co-sponsor of H.R. 800, Dennis Moore. According to Moore, workers have no need for secure elections. H.R. 800 allows for union certification when a majority of employees in a given shop “have signed written union authorization forms.”

That’s just the problem, Holden argued in a letter to Moore. “Under H.R. 800 the American worker must now declare openly if he will accept the Union in front of co-workers and Union representatives.”

Despite the pleas of Holden and his colleagues, House Democrats held only one subcommittee hearing on the bill and rushed it to the House floor where it passed a mere twenty days after the bill’s introduction.

Holden and colleagues were genuinely surprised that the moderate Mr. Moore blew them off so casually. It especially shocked them that Moore worried about abuse only from business people, the ones who allegedly “harass or fire workers who attempt to form unions.”

At the same time, according to Holden, Moore “chose to ignore documented abuses by Union organizers against businesses I represent, and worse, the American worker.”

To be fair, Moore may not have known about the specific abuses in the hotel industry, but the former DA had to know a good deal about labor abuse and intimidation just from living in Kansas City.

We have a bit of a history. In the same year that the National Labor Relations Act was passed, a certain Roy Lee Williams began his career here as a truck driver.

The ambitious Williams worked his way up the union ladder. A north ward entrepreneur by the name of Nick Civella helped grease the skids. With Civella’s blessing, Williams became head of the KC’s Teamsters in 1952.

According to the FBI, when Williams resisted buying a Civella-approved outpatient-care package for his members, two of Civella’s benefits consultants pitched Williams with an offer he could not refuse. Williams flew to see his boss in Detroit—Mr. Moore, does the name “Jimmy Hoffa” ring a bell?—and asked how he should respond.

“Buy the plan,” Hoffa told him, “and raise dues to cover it.” Williams did as told. When a rank and filer raised too much ruckus about increasing dues, Williams, a quick learner, had him shot.

In 1957, Williams chaired the credentialing committee that enabled the Hoffa-Mafia wing of the Teamsters to seize full control of the union. Hoffa rewarded Williams by making him a trustee of that great Mafia gold mine, the Central States Pension Fund, a 25-state deep bonanza that his mob pals mined like 49ers.

A few years after Mr. Hoffa retired to the end zone of Giants Stadium, the union’s mob friends rewarded Williams for his cooperative spirit by naming him president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). That was the same year, in fact, that Moore began his second term as Johnson County District Attorney. He had to have been aware of local boy made good, Roy Williams.

In recognition of Williams’ loyal service to the union, in fact, the FBI soon enough arranged an early retirement package for him, including a planned 55-year stay at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

Today, at the IBT, young Jimmy Hoffa is proving to be a chip off the old cement block. Although the 20 attorneys and investigators assigned to clean up the Teamsters resigned recently in mass pro-test, young Hoffa hung on to the presidency by outspending his reform-minded election opponent ten to one.

Over at the AFL-CIO meanwhile, out-of-the-closet socialist John Sweeney (no relation to Joe) is busily building a bridge to the nineteenth century.

To be sure, not all locals approve the direction the national unions are taking, but they are not the ones who have gotten to the ear or the purse of their presumed allies in Congress, like the ever so moderate Mr. Moore.

With power, though, comes light. Tom Holden and his colleagues have seen who Mr. Moore’s real bedfellows are, and they feel betrayed.

Indeed, if Moore continues this unseemly affair, even Johnson County’s fake Republicans may soon be voting Republican.

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