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Archive for Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kan. GOP leader’s reimbursement raises eyebrows

December 8, 2012

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TOPEKA (ap) — When incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick had leftover campaign funds at the end of 2011 and no legal way to spend them on political activities or for personal use, he still pocketed $14,464 and said he was reimbursing himself for a decade’s worth of communications expenses, records show.

A state Republican Party official acknowledged that to some Kansans the move perhaps “just doesn’t seem right,” but is probably legal. Carol Williams, the state Governmental Ethics Commission’s executive director, said Merrick’s action would pass muster if he can properly document his past expenses.

Merrick spent a decade in the House before accepting an appointment to the Senate to replace Jeff Colyer after Colyer was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. Candidates can’t use campaign funds to cover purely personal expenses, and the Kansas Supreme Court had ruled previously that state law prohibited candidates who raised money for one office from transferring it to a campaign for another office. Merrick could have given leftover House campaign funds back to contributors, donated them to charity or, as he did, reimbursed himself for expenses associated with campaigning or holding office.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, reported reimbursing himself for telephone, cell phone, fax and Internet service expenses from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2010. The money came from Merrick’s dormant House campaign fund when Merrick was serving in the Senate.

“That sounds like one that if the public looks at it just doesn’t seem right,” said Clay Barker, the Kansas Republican Party’s executive director. “But I know having worked with ethics quite a bit, that there are some areas with a very ‘bright line’ rule. As long as you stay on the correct side, you can come up with a result that is legal, and the Legislature’s candidates all know what those rules are.”

Merrick’s House campaign committee disclosed the reimbursement in a report filed with the secretary of state’s office in January 2012 and attached a two-page spreadsheet listing monthly totals for telephone, cell phone, fax and Internet expenses from 2001 through 2010. A note says Merrick sought reimbursement for 60 percent of his total expenses of $24,107, although it didn’t explain that percentage.

The incoming House speaker did not discuss his actions with The Topeka Capital-Journal and declined to comment Thursday to The Associated Press.

Several donors said they weren’t bothered by the reimbursement.

“I don’t have any complaints about Ray,” said Niels Hansen, an Overland Park firearms dealer and gunsmith. “He’s an honest guy. He works at what he was elected to do.”

Merrick decided not to seek a full term in the Senate after three federal judges redrew the state’s political boundaries this year and placed Merrick in the same district as Sen. Pat Apple, a Louisburg Republican. Instead, Merrick is returning to the House, and fellow Republicans there chose him to replace retiring Speaker Mike O’Neal, of Hutchinson, when lawmakers open their 2013 session next month.

Comments

question4u 2 years ago

"...the move perhaps 'just doesn’t seem right,' but is probably legal."

Yes, Merrick is definitely filling O'Neal's shoes. Legality, not ethics, is all that matters.

Ken Lassman 2 years ago

Filling them like one of my cats used to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years ago

Having 'Skin in the Game'

by Ralph Nader

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/07-4

"Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes,

“The worst problem of modernity lies in the malignant transfer of fragility and antifragility from one part to the other, with one getting the benefits, the other one (unwittingly) getting the harm, with such transfer facilitated by the growing wedge between the ethical and the legal.”

Recognizing the use of self-serving law by the powerful as an instrument of oppression to engage in blatantly unethical conduct, Taleb offers former Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, as an illustrative. With Bill Clinton, Rubin pressed Congress in 1999 to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. Just before the repeal’s passage, he resigned and quickly joined Citigroup, the giant financial conglomerate where he was making $40 million within a few months.

It was not a coincidence that Citigroup was the major lobbyist for repealing Glass-Steagall, an FDR-era success, separating commercial banking from investment banking to assure stability and minimize conflicts of interest that were very risky to trusting investors. But, it wasn’t Rubin who took any risks. After disastrously co-directing Citibank’s strategy to the edge of bankruptcy, he proceeded to rack up millions of dollars in bonuses while pushing to make sure that Washington directly bailed out his bank and other financial giants.

Because of Rubin’s avaricious and wrongheaded behavior, pension funds, mutual funds, individual investors, taxpayers and workers all paid the price for the 2008 Wall Street Collapse. Despite this wreckage, Rubin pops up after Obama’s election as part of the group of the president-elect’s leading advisers"

Fred Mertz 2 years ago

Politicians don't care about us and yet we think our guy is better than the other guy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years ago

They aren't all the same. There are some who really do care about the average guy. Bernie Sanders of Vermont comes to mind.

But if a politician doesn't play the game of supporting the plutocratic status quo, he/she will never succeed in a national campaign, or get a leadership position in the House or Senate.

Fred Mertz 2 years ago

You're right, not all, but a large number of politicians do not care about us. I forgot about Bernie Sanders and of course, our own Lynn Jenkins. But other than those two, I'm hard pressed to come up with any others.

jayhawklawrence 2 years ago

I was looking for a good example of Demcratic malfeasance. Thanks for providing it.

It is important to remember that both major political parties struggle with the temptations afforded by power and wealth. Polarization and partisanship is the result.

I hope our best values as Americans can survive the problems we are seeing in our politics.

pace 2 years ago

I hope he cleared this with the Koch bros.

parrothead8 2 years ago

The one on the Colbert Report was explaining how to move money from a super PAC, though, which is different from a politician's campaign funds. The campaign funds are personally attached to a candidate, who is ultimately responsible for how they are spent. In the case of a super PAC, the candidate him/herself is not actually (supposed to be) involved with the organization, and the organizer(s) of the super PAC are the ones deciding how to spend the money. They're also the ones deciding what happens to any money left over after the election and, in many cases, I assume they do with it what you saw the lawyer on the Colbert Report explaining how to do.

irvan moore 2 years ago

my favorite is still t lois, her thousands of dolllars of mileage reimbursment is a joke

avarom 2 years ago

Audit time.... with receipts. “Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.”

avarom 2 years ago

Shouldn't there be a statue of limitations imposed at the State House for collecting reimbursements?? Like the blue collar workers who were restricted from collecting there overtime and could only legally go back 3 years....due to the statue of limitations... they were not paid overtime for 10 years........Where is the Justice in this Country and Why is there different rules for some and not for others who deserve it and EARNED IT??? There should be no Privileged Characters, everyone should be treated Equally! Horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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