The Pew Charitable Trust and the Kansas Taxpayers Network were the biggest financial backers in Wichita’s November vote on fluoridation, campaign finance reports filed with the Sedgwick County election commissioner’s office show.
Although the reports list dozens of small contributions on both sides of the issue, the biggest spender in the campaign was a group called Wichitans For Healthy Teeth, which said it raised $168,340 to promote the fluoridation of Wichita drinking water.
The fluoride measure was defeated by a vote of 60 to 40 percent.
The bulk of the pro-fluoride money came from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which contributed $68,000 in cash to the campaign and listed $35,000 worth of in-kind contributions that came in the form of Internet ads.
A Pew Foundation spokesman said the contributions were made as part of the organization’s Children’s Dental Campaign, which was launched in 2008 to promote cost-effective policies that expand children’s access to dental care.
The Healthy Teeth report also listed a $50,000 contribution from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, which had vowed earlier to contribute $250,000 to help pay for the cost of fluoridating the water had the measure been approved by voters.
The only report filed on behalf of an anti-fluoride group came from Wichitans for Pure Water, which listed $92,040 in contributions, all of which came from the Kansas Taxpayers Network.
The Kansas Taxpayers Network was formed in 1991 as a tax watchdog group, but it has not played an active role in shaping public policy since its executive director, Karl Peterjohn, resigned after being elected to the Sedgwick County Commission in 2008. Records from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office show that the corporation is still active, with James Garvey listed as the president and Brad Smisor as secretary. Neither was available for comment Wednesday.
Wichita pediatrician Larry Hund, who was one of the main faces of the pro-fluoridation campaign, said he paid little attention to the financial side of the election but said he was aware that the Pew Foundation was the big financial backer.
Mark Gietzen, one of the most visible fluoride opponents, said he didn’t realize that the Kansas Taxpayers Network was a major financial contributor, but he said he knew that members of the Garvey family were helping the anti-fluoride forces.
Gietzen also said he knew of the involvement of the Pew Foundation, which he said made sure the pro-fluoride groups “had all the money they could possibly use.”
Nearly all of the expenses mentioned in the reports went to advertising and bulk mailing.