TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party is accusing the presumed Democratic nominee for secretary of state of illegally soliciting contributions from lobbyists through a campaign Facebook page, and she said Monday that its formal ethics complaint against her is “mudslinging.”
The state Governmental Ethics Commission plans to consider the GOP’s complaint against Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Jean Schodorf during a closed session Wednesday as part of its regular monthly meeting. The commission will decide whether to pursue the case further by setting a public hearing to consider a possible fine.
The Republican Party complaint, filed last month, alleges Schodorf violated a law prohibiting candidates for statewide office from soliciting campaign contributions while the Legislature is in session. State GOP Executive Director Clay Barker pointed to a May 1 posting on a Facebook page for Schodorf’s campaign, telling visitors that she needed help raising money to challenge conservative Republican incumbent Kris Kobach.
Barker said at least one person who liked Schodorf’s page is a registered lobbyist and there are likely more. The Legislature did not formally adjourn until May 30.
“The system works — the whole regulatory system — because each side watches the other,” Barker said. “It just keeps everybody on their toes.”
Schodorf of Wichita is the only Democratic candidate in the race, but Kobach of Piper faces Scott Morgan, a Lawrence attorney and former local school board member, in the Aug. 5 Republican primary.
Schodorf said her campaign is working hard to comply with campaign finance laws and has had regular contact with the ethics commission’s staff. She also said her campaign is cooperating with the commission’s investigation of the GOP complaint.
“I absolutely believe this is the first of the mudslinging,” she said.
Carol Williams, the commission’s executive director, declined to discuss the complaint against Schodorf or even confirm its existence. However, in a letter to Barker last month, Williams spelled out the commission’s plans for handling it. Barker provided a copy to The Associated Press.
The commission can levy a fine of up to $5,000 for a first-time campaign finance violation. But in September 2012, when it first dealt with questions about improper soliciting of lobbyists through Facebook, it fined two GOP candidates $100 each.
State Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis called the GOP complaint an attempt to distract voters from issues such as Kobach’s championing of a law that requires new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. The registrations of nearly 19,000 prospective voters were on hold Monday because they haven’t yet complied.
Barker said he believes substantive issues will be aired thoroughly during the campaign, and the GOP pursued the complaint because, “Everybody has an equal duty to follow the rules.”