The Kansas Meadowlark

Dec 23, 2005
(Updated Jan. 5, 2006)


Sun Shines on Kansas Politics:  
Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission Opens 
Kansas Political Contribution Records on the Internet


 

For years state political contribution records in Kansas often did not see the light of day.  Records were not online and the records were hard to find.  Determining how large the "political pie" was in Kansas was impossible unless one had a lot of time and money to sort through the reports that were hidden from the public by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission and the Kansas Secretary of State. In past years a "master list" of all the Kansas political players, candidates, political action committees (PACs), and political parties did not exist (for free). Finding all the political money spent by those on this non-existent  list was nearly an impossible task.  How does such a lack of openness about political money help keep our government fair and honest for all?

For years if one could figure out where to go in the Secretary of State's office in Topeka one could buy a political contribution report for $0.25/page.  Ouch!  Then over a year ago the Kansas Secretary of State raised their fee to $0.50/page.  OUCH!  Even the list of PACs cost $0.50/page just to see who the political players were.  Any sort of exploratory research became prohibitively expensive to the average citizen, who was trying to make sure government was fair, honest and responsible to the public.

This "darkness" over political money in Kansas was recognized nationally in 2003 when the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of Law gave Kansas an "F" in campaign finance disclosure.  Sadly, several prominent newspapers, including the Kansas City Star and the Topeka Capital Journal, contributed to this sad story by not reporting this problem, nor opining about the need for reform in Kansas campaign finance disclosure.  Several Kansas newspapers have been responsible in calling for reform, including:

Last year the Ethics Office started posting a list of the names of  Kansas PACs on their web page.  That was a start, but a complete list of the PACs, along with information about their chairs, treasurers, and contact information still cost $0.50/page from the Kansas Secretary of State.  In August 2004 the Kansas Meadowlark  published online the 29 page document of the complete PAC list purchased from the Kansas Secretary of State for $14.50.

In the last year the Kansas Governmental Ethics Office put the list of the top 20 PACs from 2004 online.  This was not an improvement since a similar "top 20"  list had been put online in the past.  The online list provided no information about dozens and dozens of other Kansas PACs.

BUT, a change was seen earlier this year when the Ethics Commission published the contributions reports by both sides in the April 2005 constitutional ballot question.  This was the beginning of a significant change and opening of political contribution records in Kansas.  These were the first contribution records published online for free access by all citizens of Kansas. The sun finally started shining on political contribution information in Kansas.

I am unaware of any official announcement, but recent changes on web pages of the Ethics Commission will let the sun shine on the political players in the 2006 election cycle.  Clicking on any of the links on this page first shows a message about a Kansas law dealing with this information.  Bottom line, the political information can only be used for political purposes, and CANNOT be used for any commercial purpose:

Warning

K.S.A. 25-4154(d)) states: "No person shall copy any name of a contributor from any report or statement filed under the campaign finance act and use such name for any commercial purpose, and no person shall use any name for a commercial purpose with knowledge that such name was obtained solely by copying information relating to contributions contained in any report or statement filed under the campaign finance act."

Please note: an intentional violation of any provision of K.S.A. 25-4154 and amendments thereto is a class A misdemeanor (K.S.A. 25-4171).

Also, the Commission, in addition to any other penalty prescribed under the campaign finance act, may assess a civil fine, after proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, against any person for a violation of the campaign finance act in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for the first violation, $10,000 for the second violation and $15,000 for the third violation and for each subsequent violation (K.S.A.25-4181).

This warning message is annoying, but a small price to obtain online, free access to significant information.  

Look at the Political Action Committees and Party Committees pages:

Receipts
&
Expenditures
200601
1/1/05-12/31/05

Receipts
&
Expenditures
200607
1/1/06-7/20/06

Receipts
&
Expenditures
200610
7/21/06-10/26/06

Receipts
&
Expenditures
200701
10/27/06-12/31/06

These are the column headings  where links will be put to contribution reports.  Hopefully, the first column of links will be filled in next month shortly after the 1/1/2005 - 12/31/2005 reports are filed with the Ethics Commission on Jan 10. 

The Political Action Committees page already provides information not previously publicly available online for free.  The "Statement of Organization" column gives a S/O  link to information about each PAC, the chair, treasurer and contact information.  

Links in this "S/O" column would have been helpful while researching two recent KS Meadowlark articles.  For example, a recent KS Meadowlark article, Political Profile of Members of "Kansas Traditional Republican Majority, mentioned KTRM's PAC.  The KTRM PAC Statement of Organization confirms their chair is Andy Wollen and treasurer is Ryan Wright. 

Another KS Meadowlark article, More Missouri Mischief in Kansas Politics? Or devious Kansans at work?, mentioned the Kansans for a Moderate Majority PAC.  KMM PAC's Statement of Organization confirmed the original observation that this PAC's chair and treasurer have Missouri addresses.  Oddly, this PAC's chair lists a Kansas "913" area code phone number for his Ward Parkway, KCMO address.  In addition, the Statement of Organization gives a clue about what this PAC is about:  "Electing Moderates to the Kansas State Board of Education."

Other Ethics Commission 2006 election cycle pages give information about candidates and is broken into four categories:

Only the State-wide office page has any information now and only for incumbent candidates.  I've always wanted just three numbers for each candidate for each reporting period.  The State-wide office page now allows me to complete this chart for the statewide offices:

Information from Jan 10, 2005 Reports

Office / Candidadate Money Raised Money Spent Cash in the Bank
Governor / Sebelius $219,176 $242,144 $150,215
Attorney General / Kline $199,241 $73,469 $220,397
Secretary of State / Thornburgh $23,845 $13,929 $26,028
State Treasurer / Jenkins $30,595 $13,207 $22,992
Insurance Commissioner / Praeger $8,655 $5,434 $19,700

Kansas no longer deserves an "F" from the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of Law for campaign finance disclosure.  Assuming the Ethics Commission puts contributions online promptly after filing deadlines, perhaps Kansas deserves at least a "B" in campaign finance disclosure now.  A more user-friendly, easier-to-navigate web site is needed before an "A" grade is appropriate.


Jan 1, 2006 E-mail to Carol Williams, Executive Director, Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission:

What about the “past” candidates who still have a sizable amount of money in their accounts as of their Jan 2005 filing?  Shouldn’t these folks be included, possibly on a separate “unterminated” or “terminated” account page?  I have only looked at a few from Johnson County , but it seems there’s a sizable amount of money in several “past” but active accounts, for example:  

  • Former State Rep 21, Dean Newton, reported $91,702 “cash on hand” in his Jan 10, 2005 report (Jan 2006 would be the first time he could file a “termination report”.)
  • Former State Rep 24, Robert Tomlinson, reported $20,187 “cash on hand” in his Jan 10, 2005 report.
  • Former State Rep 25, Al Lane , reported $11,610.79 “cash on hand” in his Jan 10, 2005 report.
  • Former State Rep 28, Doug Patterson , reported $21,342 “cash on hand” in his Jan 10, 2005 report.

 There must be more “active” State Senate accounts for candidates that did not terminate their accounts after elections in 2004, for example:  http://www.accesskansas.org/ethics/CFAScanned/SLinks.htm

  • State Senate 10 Candidate Lisa Benlon reported $4317 “cash on hand” in her Jan 10, 2005 report.
  • State Senate 10 Candidate Pete Roman reported  $2006 “cash on hand” in his Jan 10, 2005 report.

 Can you tell me how you will handle all these unterminated accounts in your online pages?

Jan 3, 2006 E-mail from Carol Williams, Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

Our goal is to have the candidate reports on our web site as soon as we receive the paper copies from the Secretary of State's office and get them scanned.  We hope to have reports for all incumbents and candidates for 2006 for public viewing by 5:00 pm on January 11th.   We will not be scanning the reports of prior candidates or office holders who have not yet terminated.  Our focus and efforts will be on those individuals involved in the 2006 elections.


Jan 5, 2006 Update

PRESS RELEASE by Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission

On January 10, 2006, all candidates and officeholders for state and local office, political action committees and party committees will be filing a Receipts and Expenditures Report covering all financial activities occurring in 2005.

For the first time, the Governmental Ethics Commission will provide scanned copies of the January 10, 2006 Receipts and Expenditures Reports filed by all statewide, legislative and state school board officers and candidates for public viewing on its web site, www.kansas.gov/ethics.  The direct link to the reports is www.kansas.gov/ethics/FiledRptsFrmsHm.htm.  Some scanned political action committee reports, as well as the state party committees and recognized party committee reports, will also be posted on the Commission's web site.

Reports are being scanned and made available on our web site shortly after they are received by the Ethics Commission.  The Commission's goal is to have all of these reports available for viewing on its web site by January 12, 2006.


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