Topeka — A Washington, D.C., corporate-interest political action committee spent a record $1.5 million in nine days to help Republican Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.
"That's a lot of moolah, and that will buy you many, many ads in some prime spots," said Joe Aistrup, head of the political science department at Kansas State University.
"I can't think of any outside group coming in and spending that amount of money in Kansas," he said.
The spending by the Republican State Leadership Committee financed a wave of negative television, radio and mail ads against Kline's Democratic challenger Paul Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney.
Between July 21 and Oct. 26, Morrison raised twice as much money as Kline in direct contributions to their respective campaign warchests $1.25 million to Kline's $613,776.
But the flood of RSLC dollars on Kline's behalf essentially negated Morrison's dollar advantage.
Under campaign finance laws, independent organizations such as the RSLC are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the candidates they are trying to help.
The RSLC ads started earlier this month as Kline fell behind in the polls and launched his own ads blasting Morrison over a 15-year-old unproven allegation of sexual harassment that was dismissed from court.
But while the RSLC ads criticized Morrison as being soft on crime, the group has nothing to do with fighting crime.
The RSLC is backed by a long list of corporate interests, and on its website, describes itself as supporting a "pro-growth agenda, including, reforming the tax code, healthcare and legal systems; promoting a better educational system; and advocating commonsense environmental protection."
The group focuses on races nationally for attorney general and state legislatures. It is aligned with the Republican Attorneys General Assn., a group for which Kline served as chairman in 2004.
A spokeswoman for the RSLC declined to answer specific questions about the group and its Kansas efforts.
Kline spokeswoman Sherriene Jones said the Kline campaign appreciated the RSLC effort.
"The ad that was run by the RSLC was a true and correct ad," Jones said.
Ads called deceptive
Morrison's campaign spokesman Mark Simpson disagreed.
"Unfortunately their ads were deceptive and false," Simpson said." We think the election will be decided by Kansans and not influenced by deceptive out-of-state ads," Simpson said.
Both Morrison and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius asked television stations to pull the ads because they said they were inaccurate.
The RSLC spent $1,556,290 from Oct. 11 to Oct. 20, according to the campaign finance report. That money was spent on television and radio ads, mailers, and polling.
Aistrup said it would be interesting to see if the ads were successful.
Kansans should ask themselves why an out-of-state group would try to sway an election, he said.
"Let the buyer beware," he said.
He said the RSLC's efforts in Kansas "has everything to do with ideology. What they are in the business of doing is electing conservatives everywhere, and right now there is a strong coalition between businesses wanting to cut taxes and cultural conservatives," he said.
Kline appeals to both those groups, he said.
Some expenses unknown
Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, said the RSLC's expenditures were the most for an out-of-state PAC spending in Kansas.
She said typically the top 25 PAC's may spend at most $150,000 each in Kansas, and that is spread among numerous political candidates.
But, she said, some special interest groups' expenditures will never be known.
Issue advocacy organizations, which promote certain candidates, but don't specifically ask voters to vote one way or another, don't have to reveal their expenditures and contributions.
Jones, the spokeswoman for Kline, noted that mailouts by Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection were actually linked to a political action committee run by George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who specializes in late-term abortions.
"They are pretending to be a consumer group," Jones said. According to Monday's campaign finance filings, the group received $68,000 from Tiller's ProKanDo PAC.