Rep. Mike Pompeo's campaign has sent a $2,500 bill to Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn for crashing a campaign fundraiser featuring House Speaker John Boehner.
"It's my view that Karl wanted a 'freebie,' " Pompeo's wife, Susan, wrote in an internal campaign e-mail that was leaked to The Eagle. "We rarely give freebies and there were none at that event. We probably won't get a dime from him, but hopefully he won't try to crash another event of ours."
Peterjohn acknowledged that he attended the Aug. 30 event but said the firm price of admission "was not my understanding prior to the event."
"There are lot of these events where elected officials are comped and allowed to attend," Peterjohn said. "If it was made explicitly clear to me it was going to cost $2,500 to attend that event, that's something I can't afford."
Last week, Susan Pompeo said she accepted that explanation.
"He seems to have clearly misunderstood" the nature of the event, she said. "It's no big thing, really."
She said Peterjohn, a friend and supporter of her husband, had indicated that he will make some contribution to the campaign. "He'll make it right," she said.
Peterjohn said he had attended similar events for Pompeo's predecessor, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, without being required to donate.
In her e-mail to a campaign staffer, Susan Pompeo said Peterjohn initially contacted her husband's congressional office because he had heard Boehner was coming to Wichita.
As a result of that contact, a campaign aide e-mailed Peterjohn "to let him know we'd love to have him — it was $2,500 per person, etc.," the e-mail said.
Peterjohn called Mike Pompeo on his cellphone about two hours before the event. The congressman "demurred and let Karl know it was most likely too late, for security purposes, to add attendees," the e-mail said.
However, "When we arrived at the event, Karl had already arrived," the e-mail said.
Peterjohn said he went to the Pompeo event in hopes of getting information on the debt ceiling showdown to share with his county constituents.
The congressional fight over whether to raise the limit on the nation's borrowing ended about three weeks before the Pompeo fundraiser was held.
Ken Ciboski, a professor of political science at Wichita State University who has donated to the Pompeo campaign, laughed when he heard about the Peterjohn situation.
"It's kind of like those people who crashed Obama's party," Ciboski said, recalling the couple who bluffed their way into a White House state dinner in 2009.
He said Peterjohn probably should have taken the hint that the fee to rub elbows with Boehner was mandatory.
"There are some high rollers in the community, we know about that," Ciboski said. "This is probably a more elitist event for people who can afford that kind of donation.
"Karl was not a rich man before he became a county commissioner and I don't think he's a rich man now, either."
But Ciboski said that on the other hand, the Pompeo campaign could have just written it off as maintaining good will with a successful local politician.
"Is it really costing the campaign anything?" he said. "And are the costs of excluding him greater than the cost of just letting him come?"
In the end, Ciboski had some free advice for both sides:
"Let's not make a federal case out of it."