Monday, July 17, 2006
Carl Zimmer who publishes The Loom, Darksyde, who posts the popular science blog at Daily Kos, and Nick Matzke over at The Panda's Thumb are following the Kansas School Board election. RSR is getting a lot of hits from those links right now, so we thought we'd pull this one -- slightly updated -- from the archive to show our out-of-state visitors just how the game is played in Oz.
Campaign finance reports on file with the Federal Elections Commission, and reports from 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, reached into her desk drawer and took out four checkbooks.
Martin wrote a total of 15 checks that day which, when all was said and done, ended up putting a cool $6 grand -- $2,000 each -- into the campaign coffers of three creationist school board candidates: 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 website 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 Martin 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.
Moderate candidates for school board, who have pledged to reverse the theocratic decisions of the current fundamentalist majority, don't have a shadowy network of PACs backing them. They rely on small contributions from individuals like you to get their message out.
In RSR's sidebar, under the heading "Donate" you'll find the addresses and websites of moderate Democrats and Republicans who are fighting to "Take Kansas Back" from the religious right. Please make a contribution to their efforts.
Even small contributions of $5, $10, or $20 will make a big difference.
See Red State Rabble's previous reports on right's campaign finance shenanigans here, and here.