TOPEKA – Federal prosecutors plan to file no criminal charges after an investigation into loans made to Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign by his lieutenant governor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
The office “has completed an investigation involving loans made by Kansas Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer to the Brownback re-election campaign. No federal charges are expected to be filed,” said Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wichita.
That came after Colyer and Brownback issued a joint statement on the governor’s official website.
“We have been advised by legal counsel that the United States Attorney’s office has concluded an investigation regarding campaign finance matters, and no charges are to be filed,” the statement said. “As we have stated many times, our campaign finances were conducted in full compliance with applicable law and ethics regulations.”
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Colyer and his attorney did not respond to phone and e-mail messages Wednesday.
He made three loans totaling $1.5 million to the campaign. It’s not unusual for candidates to loan campaigns money, but the size of the loans and the quick repayment raised speculation among political observers. Democrats accused the lieutenant governor of artificially increasing Brownback’s finance totals with a floating loan during a tough re-election race against Democrat Paul Davis.
Colyer first loaned Brownback’s campaign $500,000 on Dec. 31, 2013, right before a campaign finance filing deadline. He was repaid by Jan. 2.
He loaned the same amount again on July 23 and was repaid on July 25.
Colyer made one more loan on Aug. 13. At the time, Brownback’s campaign called the movement of money “simply an issue of cash management.”
The Associated Press reported in January that a federal grand jury was investigating loans made to Brownback’s re-election campaign after obtaining a copy of a subpoena for Carol Williams, who heads the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
Brownback told reporters that his campaign followed all laws regarding loans. Colyer refused to discuss the matter when approached in the Capitol last month.
During the gubernatorial race, Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr derided the loans as the “Colyer Hokey Pokey.” A spokesman for Davis, who narrowly lost the race to Brownback, said before the election that voters “deserve to know where this money came from.”
The Republican running mates repeatedly refused to disclose the source of the funds, and the government’s decision not to file federal charges means the public will likely never learn what the grand jury discovered.
Colyer, a reconstructive plastic surgeon, told the Associated Press in August that the first two short-term loans he made to Brownback’s re-election campaign are examples of the good stewardship Kansas residents expect from government officials.
“It was just simple cash management,” he said at the time. “It’s good money management, that’s all. That’s what you’d expect for me to do with the state’s money, too, is to manage it well. We manage our campaign well, that’s it.”
Clay Barker, director of the Kansas Republican Party, said in an e-mail Wednesday that the party never doubted the eventual outcome. “But the wheels of justice turn slowly, which, unfortunately, can feed a swirl of rumors,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he still thinks “that the loans were questionable.”
“Up until now they (the Brownback administration) were denying that there was even an investigation going on. And now they’ve acknowledged at least there was an investigation,” he said. “As to why the U.S. attorneys chose not to issue indictments remains a mystery to me.”
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said legislators need to rewrite campaign finance laws to prevent short-term “scam loans.”
“It deceives the public, and we should stop it,” he said.
Contributing: Associated Press