Archive for Friday, May 10, 2013

Kansas Action for Children files lawsuit against Attorney General Derek Schmidt over settlement records

May 10, 2013


— A child advocacy group filed a lawsuit on Friday against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, alleging that Schmidt's office has violated the state law that requires the disclosure of public records. The attorney general's office issued a statement that said it was following proper procedure.

Kansas Action for Children is seeking information on how much the state will receive as part of a December 2012 arbitration settlement in the landmark lawsuit against Big Tobacco companies.

Dollars from the tobacco lawsuit are used to fund various children's programs, and KAC has said the information is crucial for legislators to have to make budget decisions before the current wrap-up session ends.

On May 1, KAC filed a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for the information. On Monday, the attorney general's office responded that it had "begun the process of determining if we possess any public records meeting the terms of your request …"

But according to the lawsuit, on Wednesday, the attorney for the KAC had a conversation with the attorney handling the open records request at the attorney general's office. The attorney at the attorney general's office said the office had the records and was determining if questions concerning confidentiality and interests of other states in the tobacco lawsuit might have to be considered, according to the lawsuit.

The KAC alleges that the attorney general office's response to the initial request for records was false and misleading, and that the office needs to turn over the records.

"Upon information and belief, the requested records would detail revenues flowing to the State of Kansas based upon the arbitration settlement. The public interest in such a matter is paramount. Given the legislative calendar at the time of the request, Defendant’s stalling tactic is politically motivated and not based upon any legitimate KORA rationale," the lawsuit contends. KAC filed its petition in state district court in Shawnee Couny.

But Don Brown, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the office was continuing to work on KAC's open records request, and was still trying to determine if the additional accounting that had been requested can be lawfully released.

Brown added, "We would note that no final settlement agreement document has yet been signed, that at least 8 lawsuits challenging this settlement have been filed and remain pending, and that Kansas’ future annual tobacco payments remain undetermined because they result from sales and other events that have not yet occurred."

The Kansas Press Association urged the court to act quickly on the lawsuit. "These records are extremely time-sensitive and essential to the ongoing public debate at the Legislature on the budget. Frankly, the attorney general's office could cut off this debate fairly quickly by stepping forward immediately and releasing the information," the KPA said.

The legal battle is also part of another battle between KAC and Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback has proposed taking $9.5 million from an endowment fund set up to pay for early-childhood programs and transferring that to the state's all-purpose general fund to help balance the budget.

In his budget amendment, Brownback said the state recently received $68 million as part of its annual share of the lawsuit with tobacco companies. The amount was larger than expected, so the transfer of $9.5 million to the general fund, he said, will not affect any of the children's programs. Aside, from the annual share, KAC says there may be additional dollars from the arbitration settlement, and that is what the group is trying to discern.

The state has budgeted $55.8 million for children's programs from the tobacco settlement. But KAC argues that the difference between the annual tobacco settlement and what is budgeted for children's programs, which is $12 million, should be kept in what is called the Kansas Endowment for Youth.

The KEY fund was established in 1999 as a conduit for the state to receive money from the settlement with tobacco companies. Most of the funds are appropriated annually to a multitude of early-childhood education programs. A portion of the money was supposed to be held back over the years to ensure funding of those early-childhood programs once the tobacco settlement runs its course in 2025. KAC says that the endowment should contain $216 million at this point. It currently has a balance of $1.165 million.


adastraperapathy 11 months, 1 week ago

Way to go Kansas Action for Children!

The tobacco settlement money should be used for children's programs.

Any excess funding the state gets from the tobacco settlement funding shouldn't be used as a slush fund to help the Governor pay for his tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans.

Of course, the Governor could have passed a tax cut that would have benefited the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor more equitably.

But instead he chose to pass a tax cut plan that gave many wealthy Kansans enough to pay for a luxury vacation, and in order to pay for it, he's robbing funds that should be dedicated to the children's fund to pay for general state expenditures.

It's not too surprising that big tobacco would try to re-negotiate the terms of the penalties levied against them for marketing their products to children.

It's disappointing that our government would try to re-negotiate that funding away from the children it was intended for.


Nani700 11 months, 1 week ago

Yes, Smileydog, the Hayride looks to be a really good source of fact, absolutely not biased at all. Beware of what you read on the internet. Bon Jour!


Brock Masters 11 months, 1 week ago

I suppose to be fair and balanced we should provide the other side of the issue. If they didn't raid the children's fund and sweep the money into the general fund they'd have to raise taxes so they are doing a good thing stealing from children.

And they were trying to cover it up because they knew if we knew they were stealing from children it would upset us. So they hid their actions knowing it was keep us blissfully ignorant.

See they are looking out for us. Darn those children advocates for pulling back the curtain. Now that we know we can't be happy little Munchkins worshipping the all knowing and all powerful Ozsam and Ozderek.


Richard Heckler 11 months, 1 week ago

I believe there were 3 different responses to this action...... hmmmmmmmmm

Does anyone know? What is going on? How many are lying?


Starlight 11 months, 1 week ago

Sam and Schmidt steal from children. Despicable.


dozer 11 months, 1 week ago

Not surprising at all. Schmidt is a lifelong politician, not a practicing lawyer. While he went to law school, this is the same guy that shopped for a State level position for years. What do the voters expect they are going to get...a lawyer that actually knows the law, or a politician working his angle.


Number_1_Grandma 11 months, 1 week ago

Now, we know why Schmidt said a little while back "he needed more money to defend lawsuits".

Do voters really not do their homework before electing a whack job AG? Seems like the last few AG's have a few screws loose. But, then again the have been republican AG's too...enough said.


Larry Sturm 11 months, 1 week ago

The reason they haven't put out the settlement records is Brownback has his eye on that money to help shore up the tax cuts to the rich.


smileydog 11 months, 1 week ago

Kansas Action for Children is another front group for George Soros, so their motives should be suspect......but, thanks for playing along all you educated types.


autie 11 months, 1 week ago

I know Derek would do about anything to keep his name in the paper but jeebus...this is bit much.


somebodynew 11 months, 1 week ago

Good for KAC. If there was a way to check you would find lots of other funds that have been directed to shore up this budget, not just this one.

And just think, the AG's office is the group who teaches on KORA/KOMA. Kind of makes you go Hhhmmmmmmmm.


Thomas Bryce 11 months, 1 week ago

Almost $215 Million missing from The Kansas Endowment for Youth and The attorney General's Office won't turn over records pertaining to this? I think This is going to get very interesting. I wonder if this will fall under the Legal Definition of Fraud?


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