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Archive for Friday, July 28, 2000

Funding reports fuel accusations in Wichita race

July 28, 2000

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— A businesswoman put $32,500 of her own money into her Republican primary campaign against Rep. Susan Wagle for a Wichita-area seat in the state Senate.

But Wagle also had a source of money that lessened her need to raise money for her campaign against Roberta Feist, the chief executive of Feist Publications. Wagle carried over more than $54,000 from a separate House campaign account, campaign finance records show.

The winner of their Tuesday primary in the 30th District will face Rep. Henry Helgerson, D-Wichita, in the November general election. The seat is held by retiring Sen. Barbara Lawrence, R-Wichita.

The Wagle-Feist race has received attention statewide because Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall and Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, both moderate Republicans, endorsed Feist.

Wagle received an endorsement from conservative U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback. As chairwoman of the House Taxation Committee, Wagle led a legislative investigation into Stovall's hiring of her former law firm to represent Kansas in lawsuits against large tobacco companies.

Stovall's former firm stands to receive $27 million in fees, and legislators enacted a new law this year to rein in state agencies' legal contracts. The attorney general has said her decision was proper.

Neither Stovall nor Thornburgh contributed to Feist's campaign. The only business or political action contribution for her was a $250 donation from the Kansas Bankers Assn.

Feist raised less than $4,400 from outside contributors.

Wagle relied more heavily on PACs and large corporations that normally give money to incumbent legislators, such as the Kansas Medical Society and Western Resources, the state's largest electric company.

Wagle raised $8,800 from those two sources, accounting for 55 percent of the nearly $16,000 she raised from Jan. 1 through July 20.

Feist's campaign manager, Scott Schneider, wasn't surprised by the numbers.

"She takes care of many people's special interests up in Topeka and receives campaign funds," Schneider said.

Wagle dismissed the talk that PACs and large corporations dominate her fund raising, noting that she raised nearly $3,500 from donations of $50 or less.

The figures in Wagle's latest report don't include the money she transferred from her House campaign account.

A separate report said the House account began the year with more than $55,000, raised nothing and spent less than $1,000 before Wagle transferred money to her Senate account in June.

Schneider said Feist contributed her own money in challenging Wagle because Feist's campaign has to "make up for lost time."

Wagle suggested that Feist put even more of her own money into the campaign in recent days.

"The impression here in this community is that we have a candidate here who is trying to buy a race," Wagle said.

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