Politics & Government

Kansas Ethics Commission makes plans to cut one of two auditors

TOPEKA — The Kansas Ethics Commission would lose one of its two auditors if it reduces its budget by 10 percent, as Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has asked departments to plan for.

The result: “There would be less audits,” commission Executive Director Carol Williams told commission members Wednesday.

The potential cut comes after the state’s budget department asked agency directors to put together budgets with 10 percent less spending.

It comes when lobbyist spending is up, campaign cash flows are growing and the Ethics Commission expects to take on more responsibilities. And, although the number of lobbyists working the state Capitol is relatively stable, the number of businesses and nonprofits enlisting lobbyists has grown.

Lobbyists’ spending is up nearly $58,000 this year, largely because of a spike in the mailing of brochures and postcards that ask voters to call lawmakers in support or opposition to state policies, a new Ethics Commission report says

From January to August, lobbyists spent $708,646, the report shows. Spending on communications, which includes the mailings to voters, spiked from $15,064 during that time frame last year to $105,512 this year.

Ethics Commission auditors review reports by county and state candidates, political action committees and party committees, prioritizing situations where someone has filed a formal complaint.

They also do random audits of reports filed by candidates and their opponents.

Williams said she expects lawmakers to push again to have the Ethics Commission handle school board members’ campaign documents and to evaluate the roughly 50 ballot questions submitted to voters in jurisdictions across the state each year.

Losing one auditor would bring the Ethics Commission staff to seven full-time employees and two part-time workers, Williams said.

The Ethics Commission voted unanimously to forward its proposed budget, including the cuts, to the state budget department. The budget proposes cutting $42,243 in salaries and wages. The commission would have $15,240 to pay a part-time temporary employee to help with audits.

Williams said from what she has heard from other state officials “they truly expect the 10 percent reduction to take place.”