Stephan seeks investigation into Kline fund-raising

Former AG requested that the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission look into Kline's fund-raising at churches

? Former Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan on Wednesday called for an investigation into the fund-raising of current Atty. Gen. Phill Kline.

Stephan requested that the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission look into Kline’s fund-raising at churches, and $41,552 in unitemized contributions he reported on his campaign finance statement filed this week.

“It is very difficult to pin anything down, and that’s why I have asked for this investigation,” Stephan said in an interview with the Journal-World.

Stephan served as attorney general from 1979 to 1995. He later became a special assistant to Kline until he resigned several weeks ago, later saying it was because of Kline’s fund-raising tactics. Both men are Republicans.

In a letter Wednesday, Stephan urged the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission to launch a probe into several aspects of Kline’s fund-raising.

“An investigation is necessary to ensure that the integrity of our campaign finance laws is not being violated,” Stephan said.

Carol Williams, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said she couldn’t comment on the matter.

Kline’s campaign couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Under Kansas law, candidates on their campaign finance reports can lump together contributions of $50 or less into unitemized amounts.

In Kline’s finance record filed Monday, he reported raising $613,777 between July 21 and Oct. 26. Of that amount, $41,552 was listed as unitemized contributions of $50 or less.

That was far more in unitemized contributions than any of the other statewide candidates listed.

For example, Kline’s Democratic challenger Paul Morrison raised twice as much as Kline $1.25 million and listed only $50 in unitemized contributions.

“The people of Kansas deserve to know who’s funding Phill Kline’s campaign,” said Morrison spokesman Mark Simpson.

Stephan said he also wants the Ethics Commission to look into Kline’s practice of speaking at churches and raising campaign funds.

He said he is concerned about churches making donations to SWT Communications, which is owned by Kline’s wife Deborah, and then an SWT donation to Kline’s campaign.

In addition, he said he is confused as to why SWT Communications was paid $3,600 by the Kline campaign for storage of campaign material in a storage unit on the Klines’ property.

Kline has denied anything was improper about his fund-raising at churches and contributions made to SWT.

Kline was under fire earlier in the campaign when a memo he wrote surfaced in which he told his staff that after he spoke at a church, they needed to line up contributors.

Also on Tuesday, the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a July appearance by Kline at a Topeka church and the church’s subsequent $1,339 donation to SWT Communications. Another group, the Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, made a similar request last month.