Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t the only elected official to face questions about flawed campaign finance reports, but his position as the state’s top election officer makes the situation a little more unsettling for the people of Kansas.
Last week, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission reported that finance reports filed by Kobach’s campaign had omitted about $35,000 in contributions and $42,000 in spending. The commission will hold a hearing on Oct. 26 to determine whether Kobach’s campaign treasurer should face a fine in the case.
This is the second time in less than three years that Kobach has been involved in questionable campaign reporting. In June, the Federal Election Commission concluded that the Kansas Republican Party had committed three federal campaign finance violations in 2007 and 2008, while Kobach was the state party chairman. The FEC cited flawed record-keeping and reporting, but Kobach portrayed the problems as technical.
Record-keeping and reporting seem to be among the “technical” duties involved with running a campaign — or running the secretary of state’s office.
In the more recent case, Kobach credited his campaign treasurer with uncovering the reporting problems in an internal review. He said the review was conducted because, “We just wanted to have our books balanced down to the penny.”
That’s a laudable goal, but shouldn’t that review have been conducted before campaign finance reports were submitted? The $35,000 and $42,000 errors also represented quite a few pennies. In fact, it was more than 10 percent of what his campaign raised and subsequently spent.
Kobach is portraying this case as a minor detail in his campaign, but, in the office he leads, details matter. In the coming months, Kobach will be putting in place new restrictions that will require Kansas residents to prove their citizenship when they register to vote and show photo identification when they go to the polls. Records that are mishandled could result in qualified voters being denied the right to cast their ballots. The supposed goal of the new voting rules is to prevent voter fraud, but voting mistakes also can have a serious impact on election outcomes.
Maintaining voter access and ensuring the integrity of elections in Kansas is a job filled with necessary details. Kobach should make sure none of them fall through the cracks.