The ability to follow state election laws would seem to be a key qualification for any candidate for Kansas secretary of state.
Can a repeat offender of state laws governing the solicitation of political contributions possibly be the right person to serve as the state's top election official?
That's the question Kansas Republicans will need to ask themselves in the upcoming primary contest between Sen. Kay O'Connor of Olathe and current Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh.
Last Thursday, O'Connor was fined for a second time within a year for soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session. The Government Ethics Commission ordered O'Connor to pay a $3,000 fine last August for a letter she sent lobbyists during the session. She still contends that letter wasn't a violation because it was sent in an effort to gauge interest in her candidacy. The Ethics Commission disagreed.
Amazingly, O'Connor then proceeded to send another fundraising letter to 15 or 20 lobbyists on April 20, about a month before the 2006 legislative session ended. The Ethics Commission decided a $5,000 fine would be appropriate for the second offense.
O'Connor's response was to declare the fine excessive and dismiss the commission by saying, "It's just so political."
On the contrary, the Ethics Commission is simply doing its job. Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Republican Atty. Gen. Phill Kline both have paid fines in the past three months for offenses similar to O'Connor's. The senator, however, has the distinction of being the only official to be fined twice for the same offense.
Should someone who can't even follow the law in her own campaign be trusted to oversee all of the elections in Kansas? There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the answer is "no."