Spending by PACs set records in Kansas primary

Political Action Committees spent record amounts of money to flood the airwaves and mailboxes of Kansas voters in the days leading up to the Aug. 7 primary election that resulted in huge victories for conservative Republicans, according to a tally provided by the Kansas Ethics Commission on Wednesday.

The $797,465 PACs spent in the last 10 days before the election easily dwarfed the amount spent during the same pre-primary periods in 2008 and 2010. In 2010, PACs reported spending $14,604 in the final days leading up to the primary.

The big last-minute spending underscores the growing reliance on political action groups, which are typically funded by big businesses, wealthy donors and union dues. But it also highlights the contentious fight between Senate Republicans who consider themselves part of a new wave of conservatism and those who identify themselves as traditional Republicans.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC easily had the loudest voice.

Throughout the entire primary election cycle, the Chamber PAC easily outspent any other PAC, dropping $675,810 to persuade voters to cast ballots for conservative Republican candidates who are seen as more likely to relax regulations, lower taxes and shrink government.

But PACs that are more aligned with the moderate Republicans who resisted several of Gov. Sam Brownback’s major policy pushes also spent big.

The Senate Republican Leadership Committee led by Senate President Steve Morris came in second to the Chamber PAC, spending $242,602. That, combined with spending from the Kansas National Education Association PAC, Kansas Realtors PAC, Kansas Jobs PAC and Kansas Wins PAC, gave moderate Republican candidates roughly $1 million worth of support.

But just which side of the mostly Republican-versus-Republican battle had more money is difficult to gauge because third-party groups that don’t have to disclose their spending also played a big role by dropping thousands of postcards in mailboxes just days before the election. Those groups include Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and the Alliance for America’s Future on the conservative Republican side. Meanwhile, Kansans for Kansas and the Kansas Values Institute also dropped ads either in support of moderate Republicans or ripping into conservative challengers.

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce PAC, which backed conservative Republican challengers, ranked 11th in PAC spending during the primary election cycle, two spots behind the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which helped moderates.