Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Right Wing PACs Funnel Money to Board Candidates, But is it Legal?
Kansas election laws limit contributions to state school board candidates from individuals and political action committees to $500 dollars in each primary and general election cycle. A study of campaign finance reports by Red State Rabble reveals that a network of interlocking conservative political action committees have been constructed by conservatives to skirt Kansas campaign finance laws and channel money to conservatives on the board.
In 2002, the state and federal Free Academic Inquiry and Research (FAIR) PACs shared a post office box with the Kansas Republican Victory Fund -- which also runs state and federal PACs. Both are associated with and share a post office box with the right-wing Kansas Republican Assembly. In 2002, Elizabeth Stark was the Kansas Republican Assembly Treasurer, the Treasurer of FAIR and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund. In 2005, Marilee Martin was listed as treasurer for these same PACs. All three organizations, and their state and federal PACS, list PO Box 626, Topeka, KS 66601 as their address.
When Red State Rabble first reported on this shadowy interlocking network of right-wing PACs, we noted:
The incestuous relationships between FAIR, Kansas Republican Victory Fund, Kansas Republican Assembly, their state and local PACs, and their leading contributors, raise serious questions about whether the spirit of the campaign finance law has been skirted.Back then, we believed that these machinations were highly unethical, but probably not illegal.
Today, in light of Monday's ruling by a Texas judge to uphold felony charges against former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) stemming from alleged money laundering in connection with the 2002 Texas election, we're not so sure certain aspects of the Kansas operation aren't at least technically illegal.
DeLay is charged, and now will likely have to stand trial, on charges that he funneled money from corporate donors to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature through PACs he controlled in order to conceal their source.
Texas law prohibits corporate contributions to legislative candidates.
The issue in Kansas isn't corporate contributions, rather, it is the funneling of money through a group of PACs -- all of which share the same treasurer and post office box -- to to get around contribution limits. In effect, they are concealing the source of the funds -- just as DeLay did -- by setting up a group of dummy PACs to allow right-wing contributors to give more than the law allows.
Here's how they worked it:
In 2002, right-wing school board member Connie Morris, for example, was given $500 by the FAIR State PAC on Nov. 5. She also received $1,000 from the FAIR Federal PAC between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25. On April 12, the FAIR Federal PAC -- which had already contributed $1000 to Morris -- transferred $500 to the Kansas Republican Victory Federal PAC which turned around the following day, April 13, and made a $500 contribution to Morris. The Kansas Republican Victory Fund state PAC also made a $500 contribution on May 8.
The bottom line? Morris received a total of $2,500 from PACs that share the same treasurer and post office box. That's $1,500 more than Kansas law allows a single PAC to give.
This skirting of the law is amplified by individual contributors who not only contributed through the PACs, but directly to the candidates. Top FAIR contributors include Nancy Hannahan, Harold C. Hutcheson, and Dennis L. Marten who also made substantial contributions to five of the six conservative board members: Steve Abrams, Connie Morris, Kathy Martin, Iris Van Meter, and Ken Willard.
Other right-wing candidates were also beneficiaries of the scheme, as well:
- Stealth candidate Iris Van Meter reports $1,800 from the FAIR and KRVF state and federal PACs during a two month period in 2002.
- Ken Willard, the board member from Hutchinson, reported $2,000 in contributions from FAIR between July 8 and Sept. 20 of 2002.
- Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City, and Kathy Martin both report contributions of $1000 from FAIR in 2004.
Tomorrow, we'll be reporting on potential conflicts of interest between contributors who support intelligent design and board members who accepted contributions from them.
Later, we'll take a look at the activities of this shadowy network of right-wing PACs during the past year as they prepare for the elections next November.