TOPEKA — A federal audit has found the Kansas Republican Party committed three violations of campaign finance laws in 2007 and 2008 because of flawed record-keeping and reporting.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the state GOP for much of the period in question, said Thursday that the problems were technical.
The auditors concluded the Kansas GOP had inaccurately reported financial figures to the Federal Election Commission, mishandled the reporting of some spending and mishandled a corporate contribution.
FEC officials weren't saying whether the audit could result in any further action by the commission. A statement from two commission members has described the state GOP as "extremely cooperative," and a former party treasurer said it has taken steps to see that problems don't occur again.
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The FEC released a final version of the audit Wednesday, after the commission's six members approved its findings. Auditors had questioned the Kansas party's handling of an account set up to cover expenses from the 2008 Republican National Convention, but commissioners disagreed about whether federal campaign finance laws applied.
"It's important to note that the final report moved in the party's favor," Kobach said. "It's looking less likely that there will be any penalty."
An FEC team began work on the audit in June 2009, the same month it fined the state party $500 for filing a monthly campaign finance report late. Kobach served as state GOP chairman from January 2007 to January 2009, stepping down because he had launched his campaign for secretary of state.
Kobach's conservative politics had irritated some Republican moderates during his tenure as chairman, and news of the audit led to more grumbling. But Kobach won the party's nomination for secretary of state and, even though the audit was occasionally a campaign issue, he received 59 percent of the vote in the general election last year.
Officials who led the state GOP after Kobach's departure did not criticize him publicly as they waited for the final audit. On Thursday, Steve Fitzgerald, state party treasurer during the FEC audit, cited "poor record-keeping and reporting" in 2007-08 but said the party's previous leaders had "delivered very well in other areas."
"There has never been any evidence of wrongdoing connected with these findings," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "The party leadership put in place procedures that should prevent similar problems in the future."
Because federal and state campaign finance laws differ, the Kansas GOP, like party organizations in other states, maintains separate accounts for federal and state activities. Two of the three findings in the audit dealt with problems in handling contributions to and expenditures between different accounts.
The audit said a $10,000 corporate contribution — legal under state but not federal law — was deposited in the party's federal account. The audit said the party, in response to auditors, resolved the problem by transferring the same amount from its federal to a state account.
Another audit finding involved $20,123 in expenses covered by the Kansas GOP's state funds. The audit said the party could not show that the spending, for items such as rent, phone services and office supplies, was only for state purposes. It said the party should have allocated a portion of those expenses to its federal account.
The audit also found that figures for fundraising and expenditures on Kansas GOP reports to the commission were incorrect. In fact, the FEC concluded that the party overstated the contributions it had received in 2008 by almost 39 percent. Auditors based their findings on a comparison of bank records with the party's reports.
But Kobach said inaccurate fundraising and spending figures on FEC reports were a persistent issue under multiple chairmen, adding, "It's not unusual to Kansas, either."
"I don't expect that those kinds of errors will occur in the future," he said. "The FEC report reflects the fact that these were technical mistakes in accounting and nothing was done intentionally, and that the party has taken significant steps to improve the accounting process."