Politics & Government

Kansas Democratic Party official responds to recall petition

A Kansas Democratic Party official says she had no conflict of interest when she voted on a request that the party provide congressional candidate James Thompson’s campaign $20,000.

Party Secretary Casey Yingling faces a recall petition that would force a vote in the party over whether she should remain in the position. Yingling is part of both the party’s executive committee, which voted on the request, and Ad Astra Group, a political consulting firm that has been paid more than $200,000 by the campaign.

The Eagle first reported on the recall petition on Friday. At the time, Yingling didn’t specifically rebut the petition – which also says she has attacked the party on social media – but called its allegations “unfounded and politically motivated.” She said that day Democrats were mourning the death of former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, who had died the day before.

Over the weekend, Yingling sent out a four-page rebuttal of the petition where she called the conflict of interest allegation “the most inflammatory and incorrect.” She said she holds herself to a high moral and ethical standard.

Yingling also released a statement on Tuesday after The Eagle approached her about this story.

“I have not provided any internal documents to the Wichita Eagle, nor any of my partners. Once again, this isn’t the proper venue. I am the youngest female voice on the Executive Committee of the Kansas Democratic Party. These types of unfounded character attacks are demonstrative of what young women face each and every day – just for speaking their voice. We still have a long ways to go,” Yingling said.

Levi Henry, who co-organized the Ad Astra Group with Yingling, has also said on Twitter he did not provide the petition to The Eagle.

Yingling was on a conference call of the party’s executive committee in March in the run-up to the special election to fill the U.S. House seat left by Mike Pompeo, who resigned to become CIA director. Thompson’s campaign had requested $20,000 from the party to pay for a mailer.

The committee voted to reject the request. Yingling was asked twice to abstain from voting but declined, according to Sage TeBeest, a committee member who is circulating the petition, and Carri New, another member of the committee who was on the call and supports the petition.

Yingling says in her rebuttal it is not true that she was asked twice to recuse herself from the vote but refused. TeBeest declined to comment Tuesday.

Yingling said in her rebuttal that after the initial vote on the request, New asked why she was allowed to vote. Yingling wrote that was the first time any concern was raised during the meeting but that it came after votes had been cast.

According to Yingling’s rebuttal, the Thompson campaign had proposed that the party pay the printer – rather than the campaign – for the mailer and postage to avoid any allegations of a conflict.

“No one stood to profit from this vote, other than the opportunity to elect a Democratic Congressman in KS-04,” Yingling wrote.

Yingling has been critical of the party at times on social media, and the petition alleged that she has been engaged in ongoing attacks against the party. Yingling wrote in the rebuttal that any accusation that she is motivated by profit over the success of Kansas Democrats the “ultimate insult.”

“I want to extend an apology to any of my fellow Democrats who were disappointed by my representation of you as the Secretary of the Kansas Democratic Party. I am truly sorry,” Yingling wrote. “I want each of you to know that any actions I have taken have been motivated purely by a desire to grow the Kansas Democratic Party and we so we can take control of our great state together.”

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman