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What are Phill Kline's fundraisers paying for?

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, April 25, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 26, 2011, at 12:09 a.m.

He's no longer on the state payroll, but Kansas taxpayers are still writing checks to pay for Phill Kline.

The state has paid more than $400,000 in legal fees and other expenses Kline has incurred defending himself against allegations that he misled judges, disobeyed court orders and violated ethics rules while state attorney general and Johnson County district attorney.

Plus we'll be on the hook for many more dollars before the proceeding, which resumes in July, finally concludes at some far-off date.

That finding by the Topeka Capital-Journal surprised some. Among the most surprised, I would imagine, are the thousands of Kline supporters and others who heard a fundraising appeal via webcast in February, or who have since listened to the 90-plus-minute recording archived at a website called plannedparenthoodcorruption.org.

After all, as host David Bereit explained at least three times, the goal was to raise funds to "help support Phill's legal battle."

Bereit, head of the anti-abortion group 40 Days of Life, didn't spell out which legal battle. But the focus of that night's webcast was the ethics case that was to begin the very next week.

Guests on the show claimed Kline was being persecuted by, as Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, put it, a "corrupt" court system at odds with Kline's pursuit of abortion providers.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said that the charges against Kline "are a real stretch" and that the state disciplinary administrator was "basically seeking to punish Phill for doing his job."

Bereit pleaded with listeners to donate enough cash to match an anonymous donor's $50,000 challenge grant.

A couple of weeks later, webcast listeners got an e-mail that said, "YOU DID IT!!" and announced that $133,543 had been raised.

Maybe you're thinking the same thing I was after reading the Topeka newspaper account. If Kansas taxpayers are footing the bill for Kline's defense on the ethics charges, then what was the real purpose of the fundraiser?

I got no response from the group to which contributors were asked to make out their checks, the Cincinnati-based Life Issues Institute.

That's the same anti-abortion group that was the designated recipient for a 2009 fundraising appeal on Kline's behalf — the one that arrived in Kansans' mailboxes the week Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered.

Bereit didn't return calls, either.

But I did reach Kline via e-mail. He didn't give me a straight answer but did say he "incurred more than $250,000 in expenses" related to "numerous different lawsuits and litigation all relating to the investigation of Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller."

He went on to add that "I am still incurring expenses, even in this latest case."

So are all the donations going to pay off those expenses? What kind of expenses are we talking about? And how much of that $250,000 has he and the Life Issues Institute raised over the past couple of years?

To those and other follow-up questions, I got no response.

Some might say I should go suck an egg. If people want to give money to Phill Kline merely on the promise that it's going for what they see as a good cause, what's it to me?

Except here's the thing. All donations, it was advertised, are tax-deductible. I'm a U.S. taxpayer. Seems like that gives me every right to be nosy.

Mike Hendricks is a columnist with the Kansas City Star.

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