Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eases campaign finance restrictions on corporations and labor unions could influence the Senate primary between Republican congressmen Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt.
For example, a series of television ads supporting one candidate and bashing another could deluge voters across the state until polls close on Aug. 3. In the 5-4 decision, the majority of justices allowed corporations and entities to spend as much as they want in campaigns through commercials and literature, as long as they are not coordinating the ads with candidates or campaigns.
“Not every race is going to be determined by corporate money,” said Joe Aistrup, a Kansas State University political science professor. “It’s the close races where this kind of money can make a big difference.”
According to Federal Election Commission records, the Koch Industries political action committee — an arm of the giant Wichita-based private company — donated $10,000 in 2009 to the campaign of Tiahrt, who represents the Wichita area in the U.S. House.
Aistrup said “the Koch infrastructure is leveraged behind Tiahrt” and could produce a widespread media campaign.
“That could have some direct impact upon the primary outcome,” he said.
Moran represents the western two-thirds of the state. The two men are seeking the GOP nomination to replace Sen. Sam Brownback, who is running for governor.
The Supreme Court ruling will not affect elections for Kansas state offices because state law already allows corporations and unions to fund “issue ads,” said Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Ethics Commission. The ads that do not mention the actual election; they just criticize one candidate.
Critics have called for more transparency in who produces these “issue ads,” and the commission is backing a bill to that effect that state Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, introduced Wednesday in the Kansas Legislature.
“Without the information as to who is backing that, you don’t know what the bias is,” Williams said.