Kansas governor-elect sells inauguration tables for $10K
photo by: Associated Press
TOPEKA — Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly is selling premium tables of 10 people each at her inaugural ball in January for $10,000, five times what the law says is the contribution limit.
The new Democratic governor’s swearing-in is Jan. 14 at the Statehouse, and her inaugural committee said Tuesday that it is also planning other free community celebrations and a day of service for Jan. 12. Tickets for the traditional dinner and ball, set for the evening of Jan. 14, start at $100, with a top price of $1,000 for the best seats.
But the inaugural committee also is offering a “gold” package of $10,000 for a premium table for 10 and eight admissions to a VIP reception the day before with Kelly and Lt. Gov.-elect Lynn Rogers. A “silver” package sells for $5,000, with a table for 10 and four reception tickets. The Associated Press obtained a summary of the ticket prices and packages, along with a form for ordering tickets and a form for just making a contribution.
Kansas governors have long relied upon private and not state funds to cover the costs of their festivities. A 1994 law requires their inaugural committees to report donors and limits contributions by a single person, corporation or group to $2,000.
The state Governmental Ethics Commission issued a legal opinion in 1994 that the value of the food and entertainment is subtracted from the ticket price to determine the amount of the contribution. The commission has never dealt with how food and entertainment are valued — for now leaving it to the inaugural committee to calculate and the ethics commission to review the numbers.
“We’ve been in communication with them and they’ve been working with us to make sure they’re operating within the law,” said Mark Skoglund, the ethics commission’s executive director. “They contacted us. This has been an ongoing conversation.”
Kelly’s staff on Tuesday provided AP with a copy of a Dec. 7 email in which Skoglund said the text of a committee email to prospective donors outlining ticket packages “looks fine,” while including a link to a copy of the 1994 legal opinion online.
Kelly said in a statement: “We are excited to include people across the state in the inauguration celebration.”
Former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s committee spent almost $396,000 on his first inaugural in 2011 and donated more than $150,000 in additional unspent funds to charity. Tickets to his first ball started at $125, with $2,000 getting the purchaser eight “preferred view” seats and two tickets to a VIP reception beforehand.
Festivities for Brownback’s second-term inauguration cost less than $297,000, with additional donation of $378 to a group that helps maintain the governor’s official residence.