Topeka A Democratic state senator with a history of butting heads with his party has run afoul of party leaders again, this time over what they said he did with sensitive polling data.
Several Democrats have accused Sen. Jim Barone, of Frontenac, of trying to leave a December party retreat with the data stuffed down the back of his pants. A fellow senator has proposed removing him as caucus chairman.
"This incident is beyond the pale, in my opinion, because the instructions for everybody were the poll wasn't to leave the room," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.
About 80 Democrats, including lawmakers, party staff and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, attended the Dec. 19 meeting. The presentation materials were numbered to keep track of them.
Tim Graham, Hensley's chief of staff, said that once the presentation was over, he saw Barone put the documents in his pants and head for the door. Graham said he and state party leader Mike Gaughan confronted Barone.
"He didn't try to deny it," Graham said. "He'd been caught red-handed. He was the only person in the room full of people that we had any problem with."
Barone said he knew the documents weren't supposed to the leave the building but denied any wrongdoing.
"I did place the poll in the small of my back as I have done with bulky papers for 40 years," he said in an e-mail to Graham, "so that I could continue to review some areas that I did not clearly understand after returning from a bathroom break."
He said the effort to strip him of his caucus chairmanship was political.
"This is just part of the continuing rhetoric to discredit me and my work up there (in Topeka)," Barone said. "There is obviously, and has been for some time, an agenda to diminish my perceived effectiveness."
Barone has suffered a number of setbacks in the past two years, including being stripped in December 2006 of the title of ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and later being removed from the panel entirely. Hensley also removed Barone from the Joint Committee on State Building Construction and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
In October, the state Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a background report on Barone, effectively blocking him from renewing his license to serve on the Racing Association of Kansas Southeast. The nonprofit is involved with a southeast Kansas dog track that hopes to have slot machines later this year.
Barone has filed suit against the commission.