Gov. Sam Brownback has not taken a public position on efforts to oust four Supreme Court justices this fall. But his political action committee has given $65,000 to one of the organizations leading those efforts.
Brownback vocally backed efforts to oust two justices in 2014, but this year, he has refused to weigh in on the retention races. Five of the court’s seven justices stand for retention this fall.
However, his Road Map PAC made a $50,000 donation to Kansans for Life on Sept. 29, according to a campaign finance report filed Monday. The PAC donated another $15,000 to the anti-abortion organization in October.
I think that they understand more than most people do what’s at stake here.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life
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“We’re thankful for it,” said Mary Kay Culp, the organization’s executive director. “I think that they understand more than most people do what’s at stake here.”
A Shawnee County judge ruled last year that the Kansas Constitution guarantees a right to abortion and blocked a new abortion restriction from taking effect. The Court of Appeals upheld that ruling by a split decision. The issue is now pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.
Culp said if the Kansas Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, “it wouldn’t just threaten the ‘dismemberment’ ban, it will threaten every bill that we’ve ever passed.”
Culp wants to replace four of the court’s justices before the court has a chance to rule on the issue. If Kansans for Life succeeds in its campaign to oust the four – Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Justice Marla Luckert, Justice Dan Biles and Justice Carol Beier – Brownback would be able to pick their replacements after a state commission makes nominations.
Brownback, while at an adoption event in Topeka on Tuesday afternoon, dismissed the idea that his PAC’s contributions were connected to the anti-retention campaign.
“They work for pro-life causes,” Brownback said. “I don’t know what route they will go.” He added that he has given money to Kansans for Life for multiple campaign cycles.
They work for pro-life causes. I don’t know what route they will go.
Gov. Sam Brownback
Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that it’s been the Brownback administration’s “goal to make Kansas the most pro-life state in the nation, and we are hopeful the contributions to Kansans for Life will help achieve that.”
Kansans for Life is a 501(c)(4) organization and is under no obligation to disclose how it will spend Road Map’s donation, but Culp said the money would go toward the anti-retention campaign.
In addition to donations to the organization, Road Map PAC made a $25,000 donation to Kansans for Life’s PAC in July.
Culp said that money has been used to pay for postcards that include Kansans for Life’s legislative endorsements and its recommendations for judicial retention races.
The group also wants to oust four of the six Court of Appeals judges up for retention this fall based on how they ruled in the abortion case. It also has waded into judicial races in Sedgwick, Johnson and Shawnee counties.
Culp said Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks, who made the ruling on the right to abortion, is the “poster boy” for one of her mailings.