Topeka Who is behind mailings and ads in the attorney general's race is about as clear as the mud being thrown by the candidates.
Republican Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and Democrat Paul Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney, are locked in a bitter campaign that has attracted special interest groups that aren't what they appear to be.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection - the group responsible for the recent "Snoop Dog Kline" mailings criticizing Kline - is linked to George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who specializes in late-term abortions.
And the group responsible for recent ads that accuse Morrison of being soft on crime operates from K Street in Washington, D.C., and is bankrolled by some of the largest corporate interests in the nation.
Brooks Jackson, director of the nonpartisan and nonprofit FactCheck.org, said voters need to be wary of what they see, hear and read during the campaigns.
"Stay very skeptical and be aware that some of this false stuff is going to seep into your brain. It's an insidious thing, and it's very powerful," Jackson said.
FactCheck.org monitors the accuracy of political ads and statements and is part of the Washington, D.C.-based Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Kline's campaign said Tiller was trying to hide his efforts opposing Kline through a group called Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection.
"This is evidence that George Tiller is beginning his back-door assault on the attorney general," said Kline spokeswoman Sherriene Jones.
Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection has the same office address as ProKanDo, a political action committee, or PAC, started and financed by Tiller. Shortly after taking office in 2003, Kline, an ardent abortion opponent, launched a secret inquisition into clinics run by Tiller and Planned Parenthood.
Race for Attorney General
- Questions and answers from Kline following Tuesday's AG debate (10-25-06)
- New Kline ad called a 'jaw dropper' (10-24-06)
- Crime bill rears its head as race heats up (10-22-06)
- Stovall endorses Morrison (10-20-06)
- Soccer moms may provide election kick (10-21-06)
- Full coverage of the Attorney General race
- Transcript of chat with Attorney General Phill Kline (10-09-06)
- Candidate: Phill Kline (Republican)
- Candidate: Paul Morrison (Democrat)
- Candidate selector: See whose positions you agree with
Kline sought the medical records of 90 women and girls, saying he was investigating allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions.
The clinics challenged subpoenas for the medical records, saying Kline was on a fishing expedition. Morrison has said the inquisition was part of Kline's political agenda and an "abuse of authority."
In recent days, Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection has mailed campaign pieces critical of Kline, saying that while the attorney general was prying into medical records, crime was on the rise.
The group has not registered with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. It doesn't have to because it is not specifically advocating voting for or against a candidate.
The address on the group's mailing is 6505 E. Central, No. 106, in Wichita. The group filed as a corporation with the Kansas Secretary of State's office Aug. 28 with the address of 555 N. Woodlawn St., Suite 215, Wichita. That is the same address on ProKanDo's registration as a PAC, according to state officials.
Morrison's campaign said it had no dealings with Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection.
"I'm not familiar with the group," Morrison spokesman Mark Simpson said. "But a lot of people have problems with Phill Kline's serious invasion of privacy."
ProKanDo v. Kline
Tiller's PAC, ProKanDo, was founded in 2002 to help elect candidates who support abortion rights.
Julie Burkhart, chairwoman of ProKanDo, did not return a phone call seeking comment. On ProKanDo's Web site, Burkhart says: "Kansas is now on the frontlines in the national battle for women's rights. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is on a crusade to glorify his personal political agenda by trampling on the rights of women."
In 2002, Tiller contributed more than $150,000 to try to defeat Kline. The funds went through ProKanDo to another PAC called Kansans for Democratic Leadership, which bought radio ads touting Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Biggs.
Biggs, who was relatively unknown statewide, came within a few thousand votes of defeating Kline.
Meanwhile, a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee has been running an ad saying Morrison is soft on crime.
The committee is a so-called 527 group, an independent political committee that isn't restricted by federal campaign contribution limits. It is among the top fundraisers in national politics and receives most of its money from corporate interests.
Morrison has said the Republican State Leadership Committee has spent about $1 million in television advertising against him in Kansas. The group's spending won't be disclosed until a Monday filing deadline.
Jones, the spokeswoman for Kline, said the Kline campaign has had nothing to do with the group. But she said the group supports Kline because he opposes frivolous lawsuits.
The group's ad, however, focuses on a crime bill that was approved in 2003 in Kansas.