Robocall urging coal plant support hits KU lines

Regents, university have policy against using phones for political purposes, but call is legal

A Kansas University employee said Tuesday she received a robocall on her work phone that urged her to tell her legislator to vote to overturn Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of two 700-megawatt coal-burning power plants.

“This really irritates me,” Jeannette Johnson said. She said KU and the Kansas Board of Regents have strict rules against using state equipment for political purposes.

“I think that it is wrong for those robocalls to come in to tie up the phone lines of state institutions,” Johnson said.

The call was a recorded message paid for by the Kansas Chamber, which supports construction of the coal-fired plants near Holcomb.

Sebelius has vetoed legislation that would allow the project to go forward. When the Legislature reconvenes April 29 for the wrap-up session, lawmakers may attempt to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. Previous attempts to override Sebelius’ veto on the issue have failed in the House.

Jeff Glendening, a spokesman for the Kansas Chamber, said the telephone numbers for the robocalls were gathered from lists that matched phone numbers given with voter registration information.

But Johnson said that explanation made no sense. She said she would never give out her work number as part of voter registration.

Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said there is nothing illegal about a robocall coming into a place of work even if it’s a taxpayer-funded institution.

The caller that left the recorded message for Johnson identified himself as U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Glendening said the chamber also used U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., in the messages. Both are running for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat and both support the coal-fired project.

The caller urges the listener to contact his or her legislator and gives the legislative hot line number in the Statehouse, which can be used to leave messages for legislators.