Politics & Government

Friend of Independent Greg Orman tied to group attacking GOP, Democratic candidates

Greg Orman arrives at KSN for a debate with Sen. Pat Roberts at the KSN television studio in Wichita on Oct.15, 2014.
Greg Orman arrives at KSN for a debate with Sen. Pat Roberts at the KSN television studio in Wichita on Oct.15, 2014. The Wichita Eagle

A dark money group tied to an associate of Independent Greg Orman is launching attacks on major Republican and Democratic candidates for governor with days until the primary elections.

TV commercials for the group, Grow Kansas Action Fund, are set to air this week, according to records maintained by the Federal Communications Commission.

Its website includes a video ad targeting Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer and mailers attacking Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly.

Grow Kansas Action Fund was established in December 2017, records show, but has drawn little notice until now. Its purchase of TV time in the final full week before the Aug. 7 primary elections suggests a desire to influence the Republican and Democratic races by hurting Colyer and Kelly.

Orman friend Jim Jonas is one of Grow Kansas Action Fund’s directors, according to business filings. Jonas also managed Orman’s 2014 Senate campaign. The group’s website says it is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Jonas didn’t respond to a voicemail left on Monday.

Asked if the Orman campaign agrees with the group’s messaging, spokesman Sam Edelen said Orman is the best possible candidate “to make Kansas a place where our children and grandchildren feel inspired to build their lives, and we intend to share that message with the people of Kansas every day until the election.”

Edelen said the campaign won’t comment on every third-party ad run in the race.

A video ad on Grow Kansas Action Fund’s website ties Colyer to former Gov. Sam Brownback. Colyer served as lieutenant governor under Brownback for seven years before becoming governor in January.

“Brownback says Colyer would do a great job, but he’s been wrong all along,” the ad says.

In a statement, Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said that since becoming governor, Colyer has substantially increased school funding, recruited employers to create thousands of new jobs and worked to increase transparency in government. Marr also referenced a recent poll that showed Colyer leading Kelly in a general election match-up. The same poll put Kelly and Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a dead heat.

“That’s why Orman, much like the Democrats, would prefer to face Kobach instead of Colyer in the general election,” Marr said.

Mailers also posted to Grow Kansas Action Fund’s website depict Kelly as “Two Peas in a Pod” with Kobach for voting in favor of legislation requiring voters to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. A federal judge this spring ruled the law unconstitutional after Kobach defended it in court.

Kelly has said that a large majority of lawmakers voted for the bill and that Kobach had abused the law.

“While Greg Orman is launching deceptive attacks using a dark money front group, Laura is campaigning every day on the priorities important to Kansans, like restoring excellence to our public schools,” Kelly spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw said in a statement.

As an independent, Orman must submit 5,000 signatures to secure a spot on the November general election ballot. He has until Aug. 6 to turn in the signatures.