Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Nine years ago on March 16, 2000 Gov. Kathleen Sebelius filed the initial Statement of Organization for her Bluestem Fund PAC. The initial purpose of the PAC given was simply the “General interest in ensuring a high quality Kansas Legislature.” Later by 2004 a new Statement of Organization said the purpose was a “Leadership PAC.”

Gov. Sebelius’ PAC raised and spent almost $1 million on Kansas politics over the years, mostly with out-of-state money, but she also had a sizable campaign war chest of her own, and had influence over how funds from the Kansas Democratic Party were spent.

Gov. Sebelius’ political money and influence have affected all branches of Kansas government, and her unusual Bluestem PAC has given her unusual advantages in Kansas.

Previous Meadowlark articles (See “Related” below) gave details about how Sebelius has put her mark on the Kansas Supreme Court, and the nominating commission responsible for selecting new Supreme Court justices.  Sebelius’ mark on the Kansas Supreme Court could last a decade or two after she is out of office.

With a Republican majority in both houses of the legislature, Gov. Sebelius used her Bluestem Fund PAC to attempt to buy legislative seats to advance her left-leaning political agenda.

Since Kansas statute does not allow a candidate to accept a contribution directly from another candidate’s committee, Sebelius established her Bluestem PAC so candidates would receive payments from her PAC instead of directly from her campaign to comply with the law.

The Kansas press does not seem to care much about this special arrangement.  In 2007 when a similar “Leadership PAC” was established by aides to Republican House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, there were concerns that it not pass the “smell test” when Merrick wasn’t even the chair of that PAC.  Yet, when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is the chair of her leadership PAC, and spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to help other candidates, somehow that PAC is immune from any “smell test.”

While the Bluestem Fund PAC had existed for a number of years, the amount of money raised and spent in the last election cycle was huge compared to previous election cycles, as shown in Table 1 below.


Table 1. Summary of Bluestem Fund PAC Money Raised and Spent Since Inception
[click on  date link to view actual report]

Report

Raised

Spent

Balance

July 24, 2000

$11,800

$3561

$8238

Oct 30, 2000

$20,925

$28,302

$861

Jan 10, 2001

$1000

$855

$1006

Jan 10, 2002

$8250

$7971

$1285

July 29, 2002

$10,010

$7422

$3872

Oct 28, 2002

$0

$3762

$109

Jan 10, 2003

$0

$0

$109

Jan 10, 2004

$0

$20

$89

July 26, 2004

$0

$20

$69

Oct 25, 2004

$0

$0

$69

Jan 10, 2005

$0

$0

$69

Jan 10, 2006

$31,000

$240

$30,829

July 24, 2006

$0

$2348

$28,481

Oct 30, 2006

$63,000

$27,082

$64,399

Jan 10, 2007

$155,000

$137,958

$81,441

Jan 10, 2008

$5000

$51,757

$34,683

July 28, 2008

$246,450

$73,862

$207,271

Oct 27, 2008

$415,000

$485,996

$136,274

Jan 10, 2009

$2000

$81,864

$56,409

TOTAL

$969,435

$913,020

Notes:


Controversial contributors. Two early contributors to the Bluestem Fund PAC have been a bit controversial:

Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita abortion doctor,  last contributed to Kathleen Sebelius through her Bluestem PAC. In total, Tiller gave Sebelius’ PAC $23,000.

In the PAC’s second reporting period of Oct 30, 2000, Dr. Tiller gave almost 50% of the $20,925 contributions when he wrote a check for $5000 on 9/1/2000 and another $5000 less than a week later on 9/7/2000.

In the Jan 10, 2002 report, Tiller’s clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, donated 100% of the $8000 raised in that reporting period.  [Another $250 reported raised was also refunded.]

In July 29, 2002 report, Tiller’s clinic donated $5000 on 3/19/2002, which was nearly 50% of all contributions during that reporting period.

Later in 2002, Tiller setup his ProKanDo PAC and used that for his political influence, which indirectly helped Gov. Sebelius and Kansas Democrats.

On May 29, 2008 the Topeka Capital-Journal published pictures of Dr. Tiller’s visiting the Cedar Crest as Gov. Sebelius’ guest.  Exactly what auction item was purchased in which year by Dr. Tiller for this visit has never been definitively established.  The contribution of $1000 from the Bluestem Fund PAC to the Greater Kansas City Women’s Caucus (possibly their c4 organization and not their PAC) the week before on May 22, 2008 is a bit curious.  See the Bluestem July 28, 2008 report.

In the Oct 2008 report, Bluestem Fund PAC paid $1800 for mailings to Zoller Lutz Weinbarger LLC, which is a “campaign shop” setup at the same address as Dr. Tiller’s ProKanDo PAC.  The full extent of ZLW’s participation in Kansas 2008 campaigns has not been determined.

David Wittig.  In the PAC’s third reporting period the only contributor was $1000 from David Wittig.  Wittig or his wife also gave $5500 directly to Kathleen Sebelius for her insurance commissioner or gubernatorial campaigns.

Wittig and a Topeka banker were convicted of “looting” the Western Resources utility for unjustly compensating himself.  After serving some jail time, his conviction was later overturned, and he was scheduled to be retried a third time.

Wittig gave a lot of money to both Democratic and Republican candidates, so Wittig was mostly interested in access to all elected officials.

Gov. Sebelius bemoaned the ‘difficult situation’ of her friend (Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec 9, 2003):

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Monday said it was tragic to see 40 federal charges leveled against two former Kansas utility executives — including her friend and campaign supporter David Wittig.  …

Sebelius previously has acknowledged that she considers Wittig and his wife, Beth, to be friends. The indictments were handed down nine days after Sebelius re-appointed Beth Wittig to the Kansas Film Services Commission, a board that helps promote movie projects in Kansas and find locations for film companies.


Major Bluestem Fund PAC Contributors:

  • Labor unions (e.g., Teamsters, SEIU, IBEW, Laborers Locals, Carpenters’ District Council, CWA-COPE, DRIVE Committee, American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME, Int’l Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Int’l Association of Fire Fighters)
  • PACs (KNEA, Trial Lawyers, Kansas Hospital Association, Kansas Dental PAC, Kansans for Lifesaving Cures, Life Sciences Fund of the Greater KC Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Rend-A-Car PAC)
  • Associations (Heavy Constructors Association, Democratic Governors’ Association)
  • Lobbyists
  • Corporations
  • Attorneys
  • A few individuals

Major Bluestem Fund PAC Expenditures:

  • Kansas Democratic Party
  • Kansas Coordinated Campaign (aka Kansas Democratic Party)
  • Congressional District Party Committees
    • Legislative Victory Fund
    • Legislative Victory Fund #1
    • Legislative Victory Fund #2
    • Tallgrass Committee
  • County Democratic Parties (Crawford, Douglas, Ellis, Labette, Johnson, Reno, Riley, Sedgwick, Shawnee)
  • Kansas House Democratic candidates
  • Kansas Senate Democratic candidates
  • Kansans for a Democratic House
  • Senate Democrats Committee
  • Kathleen Sebelius for Governor (her own campaign)
  • Paul Morrison for Attorney General
  • Epic Entertainment (Kansas City, MO)
  • Fry Allen Advertising (Topeka)
  • Graholm for Governor (Michigan)
  • Friends of Martin O’Malley (Maryland)
  • Anthony Brown for Lt. Gov (Maryland)
  • Maryland State Democrats
  • Jay Nixon for Governor (Missouri)
  • Bev Perdue Committee (North Carolina)
  • People for Chris Gregoire (State of Washington)
  • Montana Democratic Party
  • Next Big Thing (Virginia)
  • Cooper & Secrest Associates (Virginia)
  • Dixon Davis Media Group (Washington, DC)
  • Gerstein Agne (Washington, DC)
  • Global Strategy Group (Washington, DC)
  • Hamilton Campaigns (Washington, DC)
  • Mammen Group, Inc (Washington, DC)
  • MSHC Partners (Washington, DC)
  • Zeta 3 (Washington, DC)

Two weeks ago on March 2 President Obama announced the appointment of Gov. Sebelius to be Health and Human Services Secretary.  Two days later on March 4 Gov. Sebelius removed her name as the chair of this PAC, and Jeremy Anderson became the new chair according to the newly filed Statement of Organization.

PAC chair Jeremy Anderson was Sebelius’ deputy chief of staff until Jan 23, when he left her office to be a vice president for Parris Communications in Kansas City.

Parris Communications donated $1000 to Sebelius’ Bluestem Fund PAC on  May 10, 2008, and owner, Roshann Parris spent a decade on the staff of former First Lady Hillary Clinton, so Anderson will be well connected both in his new job and as Bluestem PAC chair. Parris and her firm also donated $4250 to Gov. Sebelius’ gubernatorial campaigns.

Anderson was active in the operation of the Bluestem PAC, and received a number of re-reimbursements from the PAC over the years.  He was also paid $10,000 by the Democratic Governors’ Association when Gov. Sebelius headed that organization (see 2/28/2007 DGA IRS 8872).

But, if Gov. Sebelius is appointed to HHS Secretary, it’s unclear what will happen with the Bluestem Fund PAC, and its ability to raise political funds from out of state and make a political difference in Kansas.


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