Is Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer the target of a federal investigation?
You wonder, if only because of the way Colyer, Gov. Sam Brownback and Colyer’s attorney respond to questions about that and a series of three $500,000 loans from the lieutenant governor to the Brownback re-election campaign in 2013 and 2014. Oddly, two of the three were repaid within hours.
Last week, Colyer declined comment when confronted at the Statehouse.
Brownback would not directly say whether his running mate had received a target letter.
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“We just don’t respond to rumors or innuendos,” he said last month.
Colyer’s attorney, Charlie German, also sidestepped.
“I don’t think I can or should comment on what’s going on in Topeka,” he said.
Those reactions don’t exactly qualify as denials.
A common step in a federal investigation would involve issuing a target letter that suggests just what it sounds like – that the letter’s recipient is the focus of an investigation.
What we do know for certain is that a grand jury is investigating the case of the eyebrow-raising loans, which were made, it would seem, to inflate the Brownback campaign’s fundraising figures just hours before disclosure deadlines. Because of report deadlines, the fact that two loans were soon repaid wasn’t revealed for months.
In January, the Associated Press obtained a subpoena that showed that the state ethics chief was ordered to testify before the grand jury and provide documents pertaining to the loans.
Those loans, Colyer once said, were all about “cash management. That’s what you’d expect for me to do with the state’s money, too, is to manage it well.”
Brownback’s spokeswoman points out it’s common for candidates to loan money to their campaigns. “The campaign,” Eileen Hawley said, “abided by all applicable laws.”
All the maneuvering may well have been aimed at reporters so that they wouldn’t write that Brownback’s Democratic rival, Paul Davis, had actually outraised a sitting governor. By all rights, Brownback should have swamped the Democrat in bucks raised.
Democrats contend that the mere perception that the Republican’s campaign was better off than it was made it richer in the long haul. That’s because donors want to back winners. So inflating the campaign’s fundraising figures via the loans wound up attracting more money people.
Besides Colyer and Brownback, one more party isn’t talking. That’s the group issuing any target letter – the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Steve Kraske writes for the Kansas City Star.