Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius faces a state ethics commission investigation into whether her re-election campaign illegally solicited contributions from lobbyists, making her the fourth public official to face such an inquiry within a year.
Spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said Friday that Sebelius' campaign committee has discussed an e-mail sent out earlier this month with the staff of the Governmental Ethics Commission. She said the commission's staff informed the campaign committee that the matter would be discussed at the commission's next meeting, 11 a.m. Thursday.
Carol Williams, the commission's executive director, would not confirm that Sebelius' campaign was under investigation. The commission has a long-standing policy of not discussing whether it even has started an inquiry.
News of an ethics commission investigation first surfaced Friday morning, when The Topeka Capital-Journal published a story. The newspaper said three lobbyists, whom it said wanted to remain anonymous because they feared repercussions, gave a reporter a copy of the e-mail.
Kansas law makes it illegal for a legislator, statewide official or candidate for those offices to solicit contributions from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session. The prohibition applies until the Legislature has its final adjournment ceremony in late May or early June.
Corcoran said Friday that the e-mail from the Sebelius campaign committee dealt with "an update on schools," with legislators still debating funding issues. According to the Capital-Journal, the e-mail included a link to the governor's campaign Web site, where contributions could be made.
"Despite their best efforts this list may have inadvertently included the e-mail addresses of ineligible individuals," Corcoran told The Associated Press.
In March, the commission fined Atty. Gen. Phill Kline $1,500 because a consulting firm working for his campaign violated a Kansas law that restricts the soliciting of campaign funds from lobbyists. Kline's office reported the apparent violation.
Last year, Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, paid a $3,000 fine but acknowledged no intent to raise money with a letter that some lobbyists received. O'Connor is running for secretary of state this year.
Rep. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, was fined $1 last year after acknowledging a fundraising letter was sent early by his wife while he was bear hunting. Merrick also reported the problem to the commission and cooperated with its investigation.
Some states, such as Missouri, have no prohibitions on soliciting contributions from lobbyists. In Kansas, the first restrictions on legislators and legislative candidates were enacted in 1990, and the idea came from lawmakers.
"The law is just to keep money out of the legislative session," Williams said.
Williams said Kansas was among the first states to enact such restrictions, though now about 20 have them.