TOPEKA — When incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick had leftover campaign funds at the end of 2011 and no legal way to spend them on political activities or for personal use, he pocketed $14,464 and said he was reimbursing himself for a decade’s worth of communications expenses, records show.
A state Republican Party official acknowledged that to some Kansans the move perhaps “just doesn’t seem right” but is probably legal. Carol Williams, the state Governmental Ethics Commission’s executive director, said Merrick’s action would pass muster if he could properly document his past expenses.
Merrick spent a decade in the House before accepting an appointment to the Senate to replace Jeff Colyer after Colyer was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. Candidates can’t use campaign funds to cover purely personal expenses, and the Kansas Supreme Court had ruled previously that state law prohibited candidates who raised money for one office from transferring it to a campaign for another office. Merrick could have given leftover House campaign funds back to contributors, donated them to charity or, as he did, reimbursed himself for expenses associated with campaigning or holding office.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Merrick, R-Stilwell, reported reimbursing himself for telephone, cellphone, fax and Internet service expenses from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2010. The money came from Merrick’s dormant House campaign fund when Merrick was serving in the Senate.
Merrick’s House campaign committee disclosed the reimbursement in a report filed with the secretary of state’s office in January 2012 and attached a two-page spreadsheet listing monthly totals for telephone, cellphone, fax and Internet expenses from 2001 through 2010.