It’s good to see members of the Kansas Senate attempting to correct a serious omission in the state’s election laws.
Two proposals, including one by Sen. Marci Francisco of Lawrence, were introduced Wednesday in Senate committees to set contribution limits and reporting requirements for campaigns to decide whether members of the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are retained in office.
The fact that these retention votes are not covered by campaign regulations that govern other Kansas elections came to light last month in connection with the “Fire Beier” campaign aimed at unseating Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier next November. The effort was launched by Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group that is unhappy with the way abortion cases have been handled by the court and especially by Beier, who wrote some key opinions on such cases.
Apparently because members of the state’s two appellate courts are appointed and stand for retention, but are never elected, they are not included in the state’s election statutes. Because the state’s campaign finance laws refer to the statutory list of elected officials, they also exclude the judges.
The unhappy result is that campaigns aimed at the retention vote have no contribution limits and no reporting requirements. Groups either opposed to or in favor of retaining a judge can spend unlimited amounts of money on efforts to influence the vote and without ever having to report the source of that money.
Although retention votes usually draw little attention, it appears this year will be the exception and, without legislative attention, it could become a nasty affair for the state.
The two proposals introduced Wednesday reportedly would limit contributions to groups involved in retention campaigns to $2,000 and also require the campaign committees that accept those donations to file campaign reports.
It’s late in the session to be tackling a new issue, but it’s good to see state legislators recognizing the importance of this matter and taking the necessary action to try to remedy it before the November election.