Today’s meeting of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission included two civil fine hearings, as well as a number of civil fine assessments, and decisions about recent missing “Paid for by” attributions.
The big story was the $2500 fine levied on the ProKanDo PAC, the the $500 fine on a Sheriff candidate.
Civil Fine Hearing 1. Williams vs. Philpott
Lonnie Philpott failed to include a “Paid for by” attribution on a flyer in his write-in bid for Smith County Sheriff, and failed to respond to inquiries from the Ethics Commission about this matter. Philpott failed to appear at the hearing. The Commission fined Philpott $500 with one “no” vote by John Solbach.
Civil Fine Hearing 2. Williams vs. ProKanDo PAC
Representatives from ProKanDo: Julie Burkhart, Linda Joslin, Andrea Hamel
Teleconferencing attorneys: Elizabeth Getman, Neil Reiff (Sandler, Reiff & Young, Washington, DC)
Presiding Officer, Sabrina Standifer, Chairwoman, Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, gavels the start of “Williams vs ProKanDo” hearing
Attorney Judy Moler represented the Commission and explained the notice of civil fine.
Carol Williams, Executive Director of Kansas Governmental Ethics, explains problems with ProKanDo reports
Two allegations were discussed by Judy Moler:
1. ProKanDo PAC failed to report occupation of contributors giving more than $150: 42 contributors on July 2006 report, 60 contributors on Oct 2006 report, and 11 contributors on its Jan 2007 report.
2. ProKanDo PAC failed to report the contributions made through the Hudson Bay Company of Illinois (located in Minnesota) on its July 2006, Oc 2006, and its Jan 2007 reports.
The printed notice of civil fine determination indicated fines could not exceed $5000 for the first offense, and $10,000 for the second violation.
Carol Williams gave additional details based on results of an audit of ProKanDo from the 2006 cycle. Williams explained that for candidates the “rule of thumb” is to send a letter if more than five occupations are missing from contributors. ProKanDo’s response to the audit had not provided the necessary occupation information.
Williams: “On allegation 2, the response was satisfactory … the telemarketing firm [Hudson Bay] had actually done the soliciting for the contributions. They [ProKanDo] amended their reports and reflected that there were 236 additional contributors who were not shown on the original reports. But, they have amended those reports and they’re now on file.” Williams said that ProKanDo had been cooperative during the investigation.
Julie Burkhart, ProKanDo Chair, takes oath before her testimony
[behind Burkhart are former ProKanDo treasurer, Linda Joslin (left), and current treasurer, Andrea Hamel (right)]
All three ProKanDo representatives made responses:
Julie Burkhart presented the Commission with another amended report for 2006. Burkhart gave the Commission a sample letter sent out by current treasurer Andrea Hamel attempting to get occupation information from their contributors and said there was a follow-up telephone call. Many contributors had not replied in the 30 days given by the Commission for a response. The 2nd amended report shows additional occupations obtained since that first 30 day response period.
Burkhart described methods used by ProKanDo and Hudson Bay to obtain occupation information in compliance with Kansas law. Burkhart described “error rates” before and after their efforts to obtain additional information.
Burkhart suggested their error rates might be comparable to other reports that were typically much shorter since they have over 6500 contributors. Burkhart suggested some sort of error rate percentage should be considered.
Burkhart said the statute was not clear what to do with a contribution over $150 when the occupation of the contributor could not be determined. They had not returned any contributions for failure to determine the occupation.
Andrea Hamel described her procedure to obtain additional occupation information. Hamel said some contributors simply refused to give the information.
A court reporter records what is said during the hearing
Linda Joslin described how hard it was to get out-of-state contributors to comply with Kansas law. “The occupation line seems to be the hardest thing to get them to answer.” Joslin reported she was given instructions to report the lump sums from Hudson Bay as the contributors, but couldn’t recall exactly who had given her those instructions from an undocumented March 2006 conversation with the Ethics Commission. Burkhart and Joslin reported some confusion after their finance director left in August 2006. Joslin concluded “we were trying to do everything we were supposed to do.”
After a closed session of about 20 minutes, the commission voted unanimously on a motion by Commissioner Tim Emert to fine ProKanDo $2500 for failure to report occupations in allegation 1.
It’s unclear on allegation 2 why there was no penalty proposed for failure to initially report the 236 contributors giving through Hudson Bay. There seems to be little motivation for PACs to get information correct the first time since reports can be modified even years later without any penalty.
Before and between the hearings, the Commission conducted its normal business, including:
Highlights of Report by Executive Director, Carol Williams:
- 46 candidates were cited for failure to file (many were candidates who lost in August and didn’t understand they were required to file in October).
- The Ethics Commission staff was able to scan and get all contribution reports online the same day received, including last-minute reports on Saturday and Sunday.
- There were 324 more contributions shown because of new “last minute”-reporting law. In past these late contributions would not have been known until January 2009. There was almost $800,000 in last minute contributions reported.
- Gov. Sebelius is asking a 1% reduction in next year’s budget, and took back the $25K the Commission saved and would have carried over into the next fiscal year
- “… we need to think about raising fees – not this year or next year… We’re fine through 2011.”
- A review of the 2008 Annual Report of the Ethics Commission
- Only 16 opinion requests in 2008 (normally 25 to 35 requests are received)
- 24 comprehensive audits were made on candidates and campaigns
- 9225 people were required to file conflict of interest reports. Still waiting for 120 conflict of interest reports from various university people.
- 587 lobbyists represent 1455 organizations
- 19 inquiries and 11 full investigations were conducted
- 10 complaints: 5 from campaign finance and 5 from ethics violations. All were dismissed for insufficient evidence.
- $7340 in civil penalties were assessed in 2008
Civil Penalty Assessments for late filing:
- Earl Ligget, candidate for County Commission, $30 for 3 days late
- John Mars, candidate for County Commission, $80 for 8 days late
- David Norton, candidate for County Commission, $80 for 8 days late
- Steve Langerot, Chair of D Wild Ones PAC, $130 for 13 days late
- Jacob Swisher, Chair of KS Sportsman’s Alliance, $40 for 4 days late
- Sandra Vrbas, Chair of Franklin County Republican Party, $40 for 4 days late
- Douglas McNett, Chair of Pawnee County Republican Party, $40 for 4 days late
- Bob Goodwin, Lobbyist for KS Assn of Rural Educators, $80 for 8 days late
- Thomas Witt, Lobbyist for KS Equality Coalition, $300 for not filing (57 days late)
- Russell Beamer, late statement of substantial interests, $90 for 9 days late
- Mike Denton, late statement of substantial interests, $300 for 48 days late
- Judith Shaw, late statement of substantial interests, $100 for 10 days late
- Mike Steven, late statement of substantial interests, $300 for 38 days late
- Steven Stites, late statement of substantial interests, $90 for 9 days late
Commission decisions about omitted “Paid for” attribution statements:
- Frank E. Kohl, Leavenworth County Attorney, to receive letter (“here’s what’s wrong, don’t do it again.”) for letter he sent to voters without attribution. Vote was unanimous.
- Jeff Locke, Candidate for State Rep, to setup for civil fine hearing [candidates must always have "Paid for" attribution regardless of amount spent by campaign. Campaign material did not have "I ..." and it's not clear who is sending the material]. One “no” vote by Commissioner John Riemer.
- John Skubal, Candidate for State Rep, to receive letter for failure to put attribution statement on web site. Vote was unanimous.
- Dick Miller, Candidate for State Rep, to receive letter for failure to put attribution on palm card. Candidate self-reported problem. Vote was unanimous.
- Virgil Peck, Candidate for State Rep, to receive letter for failure to put attribution in newspaper ad. Candidate self-reported problem. Vote was unanimous.
- Jo Ann Pottorff, Candidate for State Rep, to receive letter for failure to put attribution in newspaper ad. Candidate self-reported problem. One “no” vote by Chair Standifer.
- Rick Guinn, Candidate for Johnson County DA, to receive a letter. Vote was unanimous.
The Commission also discussed an advisory opinion request from Dave Cromwell from the Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services.
- Ethics panel fines Kansas pro-choice PAC, Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov 19, 2008.
- Details of ethics charges against ProKanDo PAC, Kansas Meadowlark, Oct 23, 2008.
- Kansas Ethics Commission ignores missing $25,000 payment by PAC?, Kansas Meadowlark, July 2, 2008.
- How the names of political contributors of over $52,000 were hidden on the ProKanDo PAC Reports, Kansas Meadowlark, Aug 20, 2007.
- Kansas Governmental Ethics Office Goes Easy on Violations by Tiller’s PACs?, Kansas Meadowlark, March 10, 2005.