Archive for Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ethics Commission investigating Kline mailing

February 21, 2006


— The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is investigating a fundraising solicitation by Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, it was confirmed Monday.

Kline spokesman Whitney Watson said Kline's office found out that questions arose over the solicitation letters, and immediately reported itself to the Ethics Commission.

"As soon as we found out, we self-reported to the Ethics Commission and are cooperating with them," Watson said.

The question is over solicitations for contributions related to a Kline fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 28 in Wichita featuring former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft.

Apparently some of the solicitations were mailed to lobbyists. State officeholders are prohibited from asking lobbyists, businesses, political action committees, political parties and unions for campaign contributions from Jan. 1 until the legislative session officially ends, which is usually in late May.

Watson said the solicitation letters were sent by David Kensinger, a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., now a political consultant in Topeka.

"We hired honest people with integrity. They made an honest mistake," Watson said.

"It was an honest oops," Kensinger said.

Watson and Kensinger said the firm sent out letters based on addresses from several databases. Several lobbyists contacted Kline's office noting that they shouldn't have received solicitations for campaign contributions, they both said.

"As soon as we found out, we instructed the vendors to purge the list," Watson said.

The matter was first reported in Hawver's Capitol Report, a political newsletter published by journalists Martin and Vickie Hawver.

Carol Williams, executive director of the Ethics Commission, declined to comment on the matter.

Ethics investigations are handled privately. If the Ethics Commission decides a violation took place, it will hold a public hearing on the allegation.

Last year, the Ethics Commission fined two legislators for soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session.

In August, Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, was fined $3,000 when she sent letters in April to about 150 people, including 17 lobbyists, concerning her potential campaign for secretary of state. O'Connor denied any wrongdoing.

A month earlier, House Speaker Pro Tem Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, was fined $1 for a similar offense. But Merrick reported the problem to the Ethics Commission saying the invitations for a June fundraiser were inadvertently mailed early while he was on a hunting trip.


b_asinbeer 12 years, 2 months ago

Kline and Ethics? How did those two words end up being used in the same sentence? I was gonna say it's a misprint, but then I saw that violations may have occurred...then things all of a sudden became much clearer.

Rhoen 12 years, 2 months ago

It's quicker and easier to say "I'm sorry" than "May I" ...

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like a pretty straightforward investigation. Was it intentional, and thus a deliberate breach of ethics, or accidental, and thus sloppy procedure?

If you're an advocate of personal responsibility and accountability, you're going to see that Kline's office had the burden of making sure that the mailing lists didn't contain names that might constitute ethical violations. They may have been deliberately unethical, or they may have just been sloppy and negligent, but they were ultimately responsible for following the rules, just as any of us is. It's not like (especially with a recent ruling on the matter) AG Kline didn't know he was supposed to avoid sending things to lobbyists. Someone in his organization should have verified that the lists had been purged.

About the only way, really, for AG Kline's organization (and ultimately him) to save face is if they asked the distributor to verify that there weren't any lobbyists on the lists, and the company providing the lists gave inaccurate information on that count.

Otherwise, it's essentially his responsibility and he blew that.

Jamesaust 12 years, 2 months ago

ehh...sounds like a minor lapse by some staff member.

Its not like Kline had much of an ethical reputation to maintain.

staff04 12 years, 2 months ago

I knew Dave Kensinger when he was Brownback's CoS. Nice guy, but after talking with him for a few moments, you'll walk away feeling as if something dirty just happened to you.

I'd not be terribly surprised if this gets ignored, but I also wouldn't be terribly surprised if this is just the tip of a melting Phill Kline iceberg...

staff04 12 years, 2 months ago

What the hell was that for? I think someone at the LJW must have an agenda...holygraileale, as much as she likes to think she is edgy, didn't say anything even remotely offensive. Maybe Phill has their ear?

staff04 12 years, 2 months ago

This is just getting silly. So we know this: a) someone has an itchy trigger finger today b) the LJW does not appreciate comments critical of their journalism...

Bruce Bertsch 12 years, 2 months ago

Anyone else notice that it was the typically smarmy lobbyists who caught the violation and informed Kline's staff? Lobbyists with ehtics, who'd a thunk it?

Beavis 12 years, 2 months ago

Most lobbyists at the state level in Kansas aren't smarmy or unethical. Most of them have other jobs, and lobby on the side. Little in the way of Abramoff-style perks are involved...KU basketball tickets are big-time.

They're essentially just PR people, hired advocates. Sometimes (often), it's even for something they personally believe in...that's the case for the vast majority of the part-timers. Some of the pros are the same way, lobbying for several related issue groups.

Does David Kensinger know better? Yes, I'm sure he knows the rule, but he probably just didn't properly vett the mailing list against a list of lobbyists. It isn't worth any money they would raise to deliberately invite people they know to be lobbyists.

Rumor has it that Kensinger is, in fact, Kline's campaign manager. Perhaps he'll be a "consultant" rather than an employee throughout to maintain a level of plausible deniability.

Beavis 12 years, 2 months ago

Ashcroft owes Kline a favor... they (White House, AG) wouldn't put Kline's name up for U.S. Attorney for Kansas once Kline's Justice Dept. background check came back to them.

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

Got any actual proof for that, or is it just hearsay unsubstantiated anonymous Internet 'knowledge'?

I don't particularly like Kline, but spreading vague rumours about him that can't be proven weakens anyone who really does have valid reason to speak against him.

Rhoen 12 years, 2 months ago

On the other hand ...

I couldn't help but notice (with a little suprise) that a quote in the LJW reporting Phil Kline's response to the Professor Mirecki "thing" was pretty balanced and reasonable.

And his office DID follow through thoroughly on a fairly minor query about an Internet provider that I filed with them early in his term.

So, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, Beavis.

I retract my statement regarding hearsay and unsubstantiated knowledge. I missed that story when it happened, and at first read it sounded like the sort of thing that would come off the blog of some guy living in his mom's basement.

I apologize for my harsh words and flippant response.

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