Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 2010

State law from 1994 prevents charity ball for Kansas Governor-elect Sam Brownback’s inauguration

December 22, 2010


Governor-elect Sam Brownback talks about his priorities after being sworn in

Governor-Elect Sam Brownback speaks about economic development, education and medicaid in an interview with the Journal-World, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. Enlarge video

— Kansas Gov.-elect Sam Brownback said he wanted his inaugural ball to raise money for charity, but he ran into an unexpected problem: state law won't allow it.

Costs of the traditional dinner and dance are covered by ticket sales and cash contributions from supporters. Brownback wanted the funding that was left over to be given to charity, but a well-intentioned 1994 law requires that the money go toward the swearing-in ceremony and upkeep of the governor's residence.

The Republican plans to ask legislators to rewrite the law after he takes office Jan. 10, the same day lawmakers open their annual session.

"How much better statement could you make, if we said, 'We're going to have a big ball, and we're going to do it very cheap, and every dime over the amount goes to charity'?" Brownback said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

He's promising to hold down costs of inaugural events, saying Kansas residents are still feeling the effects of the struggling economy. Charitable events will still be held in three communities as part of the festivities leading up to the inauguration.

Brownback's dinner and ball are scheduled for Jan. 8, a Saturday evening. Tickets start at $125, though a $500 ticket gets its holder preferred seating at the ball and entry to a VIP reception beforehand.

But the events associated with the inauguration begin Jan. 5 with a blood drive in Hays, followed by a medical supplies repackaging event Jan. 6 at a community health center in Pittsburg and the stuffing of backpacks with food for needy children Jan. 7 at a Wichita food bank.

"I don't want to send a message of a big expensive ball," Brownback said. "I want to send the message that we want to help Kansans."

Brownback's inaugural committee also has a prayer service scheduled Jan. 9 at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe. The swearing-in ceremony for Brownback and other statewide elected officials will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 10, on the south steps of the Statehouse.

Legislators enacted the law that prevents Brownback from having a charity ball as a reaction to Democratic Gov. Joan Finney's inaugural in 1991.

Like other governors before and since, she relied on private funds for the festivities outside the swearing-in ceremony. Her ball was free, but her inaugural committee hit up dozens of corporations for up to $10,000 each.

State law now limits contributions to $2,000, outside of ticket purchases, and requires inaugural committees to publicly disclose their donors. The law also requires that leftover funds must go to the state to defray costs associated with the swearing-in ceremony, then toward upkeep at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he has no problem with Brownback's proposal to allow extra funds to go to charity. He said after a three-year, $4.4 million renovation completed in 2000, the governor's residence is "in pretty good shape."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said once the state's costs for the swearing in are defrayed, "If we could go beyond that to assist some charities, that would be terrific."

Inaugural festivities, though privately funded, have become elaborate.

Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, spent about $351,000 on his first inaugural in 1995, and almost $312,000 on his second, four years later.

Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' events for her first inaugural in 2003 cost almost $388,000 — and her committee turned another $89,000 over to the state, records show. She had pre-inaugural receptions at universities or high schools in six communities.

Four years later, Sebelius had five days of events in four cities that celebrated the arts and Kansas food. She had the traditional ball but ditched the sit-down dinner for "food stations" that allowed people to sample Sunflower State cuisine. The festivities cost more than $563,000, with $14,000 left over.

Davis said governors have done a good job of controlling costs, adding, "I think it's proper for us to have a fitting celebration for a new governor."

Hensley believes Brownback's plans for a little more austerity are already showing. The invitation that Hensley received is 5 inches by 7 inches — smaller than in the past, and without gold embossing.

"I commend him for attempting to be more frugal and setting an example," Hensley said.


Sharon Aikins 7 years, 4 months ago

Frugal would mean having a swearing in ceremony only.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

There's an idea!

If you want to really get a bit depressed or angry, think about all of the money that's been spent on campaigns over the years, and how much good it could have done if spent in other ways.

anonyname 7 years, 3 months ago

Brownback is "promising to hold down costs of inaugural events, saying Kansas residents are still feeling the effects of the struggling economy," so tickets start at only $125, but you can spend $500/ticket if you like. Most people who would want to attend would likely want to bring a spouse or date. I wonder how many Kansas residents that are still feeling the effects of the struggling economy have $250 to spend on a night out. Wish I did.

nobody1793 7 years, 3 months ago

Brownback should host an inaugural barn-dance ho-down. Free of charge. BYOB.

tolawdjk 7 years, 3 months ago

Donating to charities is admirable, but creates the inevitable backlash of "which" charities it goes to.

Planned Parenthood? Boy scouts? NAACP? Catholic Charities?

The current set up, while imperfect, is still neutral. If the residence upkeep doesn't need it, I say set up a list of agencies it could be shuffled to. If the gov's mansion doesn't need maitenance, I'm sure there is a state park somewhere that could use a couple extra grand to improve campsites, or facilites or something.

geekyhost 7 years, 3 months ago

There are also schools and medicaid programs that need funding this year.

Danimal 7 years, 3 months ago

If that money isn't used to fund the swearing-in and maintain the Governor's mansion where will the funds for those expenses come from? My guess is tax revenues. I don't think that Brownback should be allowed to use his inaugural ball as a fundraiser for his favorite charity. You're adsolutely right tolawdjk, the current system may not be perfect, but it's neutral. If the law is changed what's to prevent Governors-elect from using the inaugural ball as another campaign fundraiser? I'm afraid the next few years with Brownback could be disastrous. I hope I'm wrong.

earline james 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm waiting to see how much they spend to redecorate his office and the mansion. They usually spend a lot of money rececorating. Let's see some budget cutting with education or medical coverage and whatever else is left of the 'safety net,' but this wallpaper is to die for.

geekyhost 7 years, 3 months ago

He's having the red white and blue Bibles printed up special.

ggw 7 years, 3 months ago

Agree with money wasted on advertising and campaigns. I'm for limits. Current campaigns are just the grownup version of the high school popularity votes - a campaign promising better food in the cafeteria, etc. No meat on the bone.

The numerous receptions seem to overinflate politicians egos and be a contest on who spent the most on their ticket to sit the closest to the trough. (Think how much those wives spend on gowns, accessories, and the afternoon at the spa and you'll get sick.)

If Brownback really wanted to help, sell those tickets with a BOGO - one person from the shelter attend the banquet free for every $125 sold. (oh, you now want a $500 ticket Mrs. Anderson so you sit further away from the free table?)

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