Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Just released campaign finance reports on file with the Federal Elections Commission, and reports made available earlier by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, show that on Dec. 29, 2005, just before the end of year campaign finance reporting deadline, Merilee K. Martin, a right-wing Republican, wrote 15 checks totaling $6,000. (see note below)
All of the money handed out on Dec. 29 eventually found its way into the campaign coffers of three right-wing state school board members: Connie Morris, John Bacon, and Ken Willard.
Kansas election laws limit contributions made to state school board candidates from political action committees (PACs), such as those for which Martin serves as treasurer, to a total of $500 in period leading up to the primary election, and $500 prior to the general election -- $1,000 in total.
Despite those limits, Morris, Bacon, and Willard ended up pocketing contributions of $2,000 each from the checks written by Martin that day – twice what the law allows for the entire election and four times what's allowed during the primary election cycle.
Martin is listed on documents filed with the FEC and the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission as treasurer of four PACs: the Free Academic Inquiry and Research (FAIR) Federal PAC, the Free Academic Inquiry and Research (FAIR) State PAC, the Kansas Republican Victory Fund (KRVF) Federal PAC, and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund (KRVF) State PAC.
In addition to listing Martin as treasurer, all four PACs share the same post office box – P.O. Box 626 in Topeka – with the ultra-right Kansas Republican Assembly. Martin is also listed as treasurer of the KRA. All five PACs solicit contributions on a single webpage maintained by the KRA.
The quadrupling of the allowable limits on campaign contributions to the three right-wing school board members, all of whom are up for election this year, is accomplished by funneling the money through this network of PACs.
On Dec. 29, when Martin wrote out those 15 checks, the KRVF Federal PAC, had an embarrassingly small amount of money remaining in its campaign war chest. The PAC reported just $638.60 in cash at the beginning of the reporting period, and it raised only two contributions totaling $130 during that six-month period.
That was no problem for Martin, who needed to max out Morris, Bacon and Willard – who also had trouble raising money during the period – in order to get their re-election campaigns rolling with a quick infusion of cash.
Martin simply wrote a check for $1,500 from the FAIR Federal PAC to cover the contributions she planned to make on behalf of KRVF Federal PAC.
In similar fashion, Martin wrote checks out of the FAIR Federal PAC fund to cover shortfalls in the other PACs. One check for $1,500 went to the KRVF State PAC, another $500 went to the FAIR State PAC.
The three checks Marin wrote that day to the other PACs under her control were turned immediately into contributions to Morris, Bacon, and Willard.
In effect the PACs run out of the Kansas Republican Assembly by Martin are slush funds designed to evade the Kansas election law limitations on campaign contributions to state school board candidates.
Right-wing activists may feel they can thumb their noses at the state's election laws because, in the past, reporting of contributions has been difficult to obtain in the state.
Although the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission recently took steps to improve it's campaign finance disclosure reporting, the state was ranked 39th out of the 50 states, and received a grade of F, in a 2003 study of candidate campaign finance disclosure laws conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
See Red State Rabble's previous reports on this issue here, and here. As a reader has pointed out, the total of the 15 checks written on Dec. 29 comes to more than $6,000. However, that counts the money passed from the FAIR Federal PAC through the FAIR State, KRVF Federal, and KRVF State PACS twice. As we reported, $6,000 eventually found its way into the campaign war chests of Connie Morris, John Bacon, and Ken Willard.