A Republican lawmaker’s campaign donated $8,500 — more than the legal limit — to the Morris County Republican Committee, which then sent out checks to candidates across the state.
The committee received the money from Tom Moxley for State Representative on July 3, according to a campaign finance form filed July 28. It is the only contribution to the county party committee listed since January.
That same day, the party sent contributions totaling $8,400 to the campaigns of 17 Republican House candidates.
A candidate’s campaign is restricted from giving to other campaigns. It is allowed to donate up to $5,000 to a county party committee. That’s the amount listed as a donation on Moxley’s own form, also filed on July 28.
Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said she informed Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, that his contribution exceeded the limit when he called her office about an unrelated matter.
“He knows that now. He didn’t realize there had been a limit. And he was going to have the party reimburse him and take care of it, so I’m assuming that that is happening,” Williams said. “This is not something we even caught. This is something the candidate called and said this is how much I’ve given.”
Moxley corrected the mistake before filing his form, but the county party had already filed before it was notified. “My fault,” Moxley said.
The county party has until midnight on Aug. 5 to reimburse Moxley for the excess funds.
“We’ve taken steps to correct the mistake that was made, so that his contribution is within the limits and that will be reported on our next quarterly filing (in October),” said Miki Bowman, the Morris County Republican Party’s treasurer. “Call it a rookie mistake.”
The party used Moxley’s donation to donate to moderate candidates across the state.
Checks for $500 were sent to five moderate incumbents facing primary challenges from conservatives: Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa; Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park; Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills; Rep. Kent Thompson, R-LaHarpe; and Rep. Diana Dierks, R-Salina.
Another six candidates, all moderates seeking to unseat conservative incumbents in the primary, got $500 checks. They include Randy Banwart, who will face Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, in District 99 in Wichita and Andover, and Barbara Bunting, who will face Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, in District 72 in Harvey County.
Another five candidates vying for open seats in contested primaries also got $500 checks. Rep. Erin Davis, R-Olathe, who faces no primary opponent but will square off with a Democrat in November, received $400.
Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said that although a candidate is allowed to give donations as a private individual, his campaign can’t give campaign money to another candidate.
“This looks pretty clear that Moxley gave to the county party to then spread money around the state,” Barker said. “And if you can prove that it’s an ethics violation.”
“It’s the party’s money to do with what it wants. Where the problem can come in is if someone gives the county party money and wink, wink, here’s where I want it to end up,” Barker said. “This is kind of odd in a contested primary funding all these people.”
Moxley said he had no role in determining who the county would support, but that he trusted the party to support moderate candidates.
“They want quality candidates just like I do, people who are responsive to the citizens of Kansas,” Moxley said.
Bowman said Moxley did not tell the county party where to send the funds.
“We had a list that we were looking at and that worked out that we are able to provide almost all that we were looking at,” Bowman said.
Moxley holds the only House seat in Morris County, according to Barker. All of the candidates to receive donations are vying for seats in other counties.
Williams said there was nothing unusual about a county party committee donating to candidates in other counties.
“That happens all the time,” Williams said. “There’s nothing that says they have to keep the money within the county itself. You will see frequently county central committees giving to candidates outside their district.”
She said it would be an ethics violation if Moxley’s donation was designated for specific candidates; the comission has no plans to investigate.
Barker said that donations outside the county in a contested primary may have violated Republican Party rules.
“You can’t do that in a contested primary. We allow counties to endorse, but only if they get all the precinct leaders together and vote on it. And the understanding always was that was within your own county, not all over the state,” Barker said.
Moxley is unopposed for re-election. He said that is why he donated to the county committee, hoping to help counterbalance the efforts of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans For Prosperity, which have targeted moderate candidates.
“There’s nothing more independent than a cowboy with money in his pocket or a candidate with no opponent,” said Moxley, a rancher who often wears a cowboy hat to the Capitol.