Topeka Complaints about negative mailings and phone calls to voters abounded as the bitter attorney general's race between Republican incumbent Phill Kline and Democratic challenger Paul Morrison entered its final days.
Kline was upset about mailings by a group with ties to Dr. George Tiller, who operates a Wichita abortion clinic, suggesting Kline doesn't care about making sure divorced parents pay child support. The mailing cites a 1997 vote by Kline as a House member, which he said was mischaracterized.
Meanwhile, Carol Williams, state Governmental Ethics Commission executive director, said Friday she's fielded numerous complaints about anonymous phone calls to voters, including calls in which people who say they plan to vote for Morrison were berated. Both campaigns decried the latter tactic.
It was another sign of the intensity of the race between Kline, seeking a second term, and Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney. Between them, they've spent nearly $3.38 million, including nearly $2 million on broadcast ads.
But other groups also have weighed in, most notably the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee for Kline and Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection against him.
Because the consumer group merely criticizes Kline - and doesn't specifically urge people to vote against him - it doesn't have to register as a political action committee and report its activities publicly.
But ProKanDo, an abortion rights PAC, reported paying $95,700 in "member dues" to the consumer group from Oct. 12 through Oct. 17. And in 2005 and 2006, Tiller contributed $120,000 to ProKanDo, about 20 percent of everything it raised.
Kline opposes abortion and waged a two-year legal battle to obtain medical records of 90 patients from Tiller's clinic and another in Overland Park. The consumer group's mailings call the attorney general "Snoop Dog Kline," saying he's more interested in crusading against abortion than protecting Kansans.
One mailing says that as a legislator, Kline voted against a bill that would have "cracked down on deadbeat parents."
"Instead of protecting seniors and children, he'd rather sniff around YOUR private medical records," it says.
The mailing refers to a 1997 law making it easier for the state to force parents to keep current on child support payments.
Kline voted against the bill after failing to ad an amendment to keep the state from taking a cut of child support payments to cover administrative costs.
"He didn't feel it was right to take the money out of the child support check and punish the children," said Kline spokeswoman Sherriene Jones. "I think it's just another example of Paul Morrison supporters trying to confuse mislead and voters on the issues."
Morrison's campaign doesn't know much about the mailings because it wasn't involved in them, said campaign manager Mark Simpson. Julie Burkhart, ProKanDo's executive director, did not return a telephone message left Friday by The Associated Press.
There also have been calls to voters using the same language as the mailings, but without identifying the caller. State law does not require such a disclaimer.
Other anonymous calls have riled both camps. Williams said listeners have complained that they're asked to say whether they'd support Kline or Morrison and, if they choose Morrison, they get an unpleasant earful.
"I don't know who's doing the calls," Simpson said. "Clearly, Kline supporters are feeling pretty desperate, and it's too bad they've resorted to this kind of inappropriate campaigning."
Kline said the calls are "vulgar and graphic in their descriptions of Morrison," and he called on them to stop.
"Such election tactics have no part in my campaign or any campaign in our state," Kline said in a statement.