Starting in early 2006 the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission published online “all” campaign finance reports for Kansas Political Action Committees (PACs) and political candidates — these reports are now free for the public to view.

These new online reports are welcome sunshine on political money since before that campaign finance reports had to be purchased from the Kansas Secretary of State for an outrageous $0.50/page. But now in 2008 not all PAC reports are online and free to view and many don’t know other reports exist.

For several years the Meadowlark has tried to figure out how big the “Kansas political pie” is. The original strategy was to find a list of all the players, and then look for three numbers for every reporting period: money raised, money spent, money in the bank. This may sound simple, yet it’s still almost impossible to compute how much money is spent on Kansas politics, especially for PACs.

A review of many candidate campaign finance reports often shows PACs that are not in the current list of Kansas PACs that is online. How can a PAC contribute to a Kansas political candidate and not be on the list of Kansas PACs?

Oddly, out-of-state PACs have different reporting requirements than in-state PACs, which allows them to “hide” their participation in Kansas politics. Out-of-state PACs can file a report like other Kansas PACs, but instead many opt to file “Verified Statements,” which in theory show money raised in Kansas and spent in Kansas.

Out-of-state PACs filing verified statements are NOT included in the “Top 20″ PAC list (see “Top 20″ lists for 2006 or 2007) published by the Ethics Commission regardless of the amount of money spent on Kansas politics. [These "Top 20" PAC lists have other problems and do not reflect a PAC's political strength in Kansas, yet the Ethics Commission shows no interest in making these reports more complete or more useful. The Meadowlark published Political Money Rankings of 228 Kansas PACs in March 2008, but these rankings did not include "Verified Statements" by out-of-state PACs.]

The “Verified Statements” can be viewed at the Secretary of State’s office — the picture aboves shows the 5-inch tall stack of paper for the reports filed for 2007. This stack of paper includes 67 folders, in alphabetical order, for various out-of-state PACs active in Kansas politics. There is no list of these 67 PACs online, nor any summary report of each out-of-state PAC’s participation in Kansas politics. Copies of these “Verified Statements” can be purchased from the Secretary of State for an outrageous $0.50/page.

Some out-of-state PACs file “Verified Statements” at times reports are filed by other Kansas PACs. Other out-of-state PACs file a “Verified Statement” every time they mail a contribution to a Kansas candidate. Information that summarizes an out-of-state PAC’s participation in Kansas politics is sadly missing.

Each “Verified Statement” shows “the aggregate amount of all contributions made to this fund to be used in Kansas within the preceding twelve months“. Often this line shows $0, since the group doesn’t specifically raise money for use in Kansas.

Unexpectedly, the first “Verified Statement” alphabetically for 2007, shows the largest amount on “the aggregate amount” line described above. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, AFSCME-PEOPLE, reported $35,000 that was used in Kansas in the year before the June 11, 2007 report date:

AGSCME-PEOPLE Verified Statement

Instead of filing a single summary report for 2007, like Kansas PACs were required to file in Jan 2008, AFSCME-PEOPLE filed reports as payments were made, including:

  • June 11, 2007 report for $2000 to “Kathleen Sebelius Com” on June 8, 2007.
  • Dec 10, 2007 report for $5000 to “Senate Democrats Cmt” on Dec 10, 2007.
  • Dec 13, 2007 report for $5000 to “KS Dem Sen Cam Cmt” on Dec 13, 2007.

Other out-of-state PACs reporting a non-zero value for “aggregate amount of all contributions made to this fund to be used in Kansas within the preceding twelve months” included:

  • Ash Grove Cement Political Action Committee, $4600
    [oddly this "out of state PAC" only gives Overland Park addresses]
  • Carpenters Local No. 945, $1000
  • Eli Lilly and Company Political Action Committee, $5000
  • EMBARQ Corporation Employee’s Political Action Committee, $10,014
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company Political Action Committee, $18,400
  • KCP&L Power PAC — Kansas, $18,950
  • Kansas Republican Victory Fund: Federal PAC, $100
    [Why would a federal PAC have any reporting requirements to the state?]
  • NRA Political Victory Fund, $4819
  • United Transportation Political Action Committee (UTU PAC), $23,695
  • USBancorp Political Participation Program, $5600

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 53 apparently is filling out these forms incorrectly. This IBEW web page shows officers for this group as:

  • President: Stephen L. White
  • Bus. Mgr – Fin. Sec.: Robert E. Stuart

White and Stuart have filed a number of WRONG “Verified Statements” claiming they are the Chair and Treasurer of various Kansas groups, instead of indicating they are the chair and treasurer of an IBEW PAC. Shown below, White and Stuart claim they are the chair and treasurer of the “Rardin for Kansas Committee”:

IBEW Contribution to Gene Rardin

Gene Rardin (D-Overland Park) correctly reported this $250 contribution in his Jan 2008 report as being from the IBEW Local #53 Voluntary Political Fund, 1100 Admiral Blvd, KCMO 64101. The IBEW information is totally missing above on the incorrect “Verified Statement” they filed.

White and Stuart from the IBEW also claim they are the chair and treasurer of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Tallgrass Committee. These groups are run by the Kansas Democratic Party.

The Ethics Commission should require the IBEW to file correct Verified Statements, but as mentioned in a recent Meadowlark article, the Ethics Commission has not required Kansas PACs to fix errors and omissions in their reports. Sadly, the Ethics Commission does not indicate they have any interest in putting “Verified Statements” online to make a more complete picture of the Kansas political pie.

What else is missing in online reporting of political money in Kansas?

  • Candidates who had campaign accounts in 2005, but who are no longer running for office, still file reports, but these reports are not online. There is no sunshine on how a candidate spends down these old campaign funds, and there has been little scrutiny on what a candidate does with these old campaign accounts. [In 2004 the Kansas press failed to ask questions about whether Shane Jones could ethically give money to his own 501(c)3 non-profit when he closed his senatorial campaign account.]
  • Local committees involved in school district bond issues or other local initiatives file reports at the end of the year, often months after the elections. These committees have no reporting requirements to the Ethics Commission and only file reports with their county clerks or election offices. In Johnson County, the current and previous election commissioners have declined to publish online such a list of local committees, and have no interest in reporting these three numbers for each group for each reporting period: money raised, money spent, money in the bank.
  • Kansas non-profits that spend money on issue advocacy can change the result of political elections yet have no reporting requirements in Kansas, and it’s still unclear what requirements are imposed on these non-profit groups by the IRS. In 2006, the Progress Kansas non-profit was involved in perhaps half a dozen State Rep races, including the one State Rep Gene Rardin won by only two votes. Also in 2006, the non-profit, Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, sent as many as six “Snoop Dog” post cards, which likely influenced the outcome in the Attorney General race.

Sadly, there appears to be little legislative interest in campaign finance reform to help Kansas voters know more about the political money in elections, especially from out-of-state PACs.


Related:


Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.