The final campaign finance reports for the primary election are in, with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC spending almost $400,000 in the last week backing conservative Republican candidates, most of them part of a bid to take control of the state Senate.
In Wichita, oilman David Murfin donated $80,000 to the conservative side of the battle for the Senate. Koch Industries kicked in another $20,000 in the past week to the Wichita Metro Chamber PAC, which is also backing the conservatives.
Casino magnate Phil Ruffin’s political action committee weighed in on the other side, spending nearly $143,000 in the past week on behalf of more moderate candidates in potential swing districts. Ruffin, who wrote a check for $144,590 to his PAC, Kansas Wins, owns the closed Wichita Greyhound Park.
The new donations are detailed in forms that have come in since the Aug. 1 deadline for PACs and candidates to report spending on campaigns.
The period to file the last-minute contribution and spending reports to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission ended at 5 p.m. Monday.
The state Chamber is allied with Gov. Sam Brownback and the Wichita Metro Chamber PAC in an effort to break a narrow moderate majority in the Senate that has blocked some of the governor’s proposals.
The state Chamber PAC, which had already spent $281,000 on politics this year, spent another $394,000 in the past week — most of it on Sunday — bringing its total campaign spending to $675,000.
The state Chamber’s new spending was spread across the state, but three Wichita-area Senate candidates were among the beneficiaries.
Rep. Dan Kerchsen, R-Garden Plain, was the beneficiary about $30,000 of the Chamber’s spending in the last week of the campaign for direct mail and radio ads.
Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, wasn’t far behind with a reported $27,000 of Chamber support.
The state Chamber didn’t provide a detailed breakdown of about $50,000 in spending, but reported spending the money on the same candidates the Chamber has been backing.
Kerschen is trying to unseat Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, a fellow conservative who clashed with Brownback on taxes and disability services issues.
Abrams, a Brownback supporter, is facing a strong challenge from newcomer Miranda Allen of Kiowa.
The state Chamber also put about $5,200 into businessman Gary Mason’s challenge against Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce reported an influx of $20,000 from Koch Industries and has spent about $10,500 on mailers backing Wichita-area conservative Senate challengers in the past week.
As with most of its political spending this year, the Wichita Chamber PACs went to help challengers running against incumbents in the Republican primary.
The PAC paid $6,450 for mailers supporting Kerschen and $4,136 for mailers supporting Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell, who is trying to unseat Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita. The PAC also spent $1,000 on polling.
The single donation from Koch exceeded all the other contributions to the local Chamber PAC for this year combined, a total of $16,750 from Jan. 1 to July 26. The $20,000 from Koch was the company’s first donation this year to the Wichita Chamber PAC.
Ruffin, who has sought a second public vote on slot machines at the greyhound track, has been spending his last-minute PAC funds trying to keep the majority in the Senate.
He funded $15,424 worth of mailers and phone calls on behalf of Schodorf.
Ruffin also spent nearly $20,000 supporting Allen’s candidacy against Abrams.
Other political action committees have backed moderate Republicans in Kansas Senate races statewide have spent at least $178,000 in the past week. A PAC for Kansas real estate agents reported spending more than $58,000 on mailings and online advertising. Other groups backing moderate Republicans for Senate also report spending more than $30,000 each in recent days. They include the Kansas Traditional Republican Majority PAC, the Kansas Jobs PAC and the Kansas Values PAC.
Contributing: Associated Press