Politics & Government

Kobach campaign ended 2018 in the red, finance report shows

Republican Kris Kobach’s failed campaign for governor ended 2018 in the red, finance records show, but the campaign manager says the books are now balanced.

The negative report comes as Kobach’s future remains uncertain. His term as Kansas secretary of state ends Monday and he has said he is considering running for U.S. Senate.

Kobach’s finance report, filed Thursday, shows the campaign had negative cash-on-hand of $29,340.03 on December 31. The campaign spent $304,852 from September 26 through the end of the year, but only had $275,512 cash available.

Kobach raised $214,751 during the same period.

“It does balance and our next report will show that it does balance,” said Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican who was Kobach’s campaign manager.

Claeys said the campaign received invoices in December that were included in the report, but that they were paid in January. The campaign was also waiting for refunds from TV stations for unaired commercials.

“All of our bills are paid and I mean that as of today. Today, all of our bills are paid,” Claeys said.

The campaign received more than $28,000 in refunds, Claeys said, adding that the campaign knew those refunds were coming.

Claeys said the campaign was never in the red, noting that “Wink Hartman was on this race.” Hartman, a wealthy Wichita businessman, was Kobach’s running mate and loaned millions of his own money to the race.

Hartman spent about $2.5 million on the race, and on Thursday told The Eagle he has no regrets.

“I consider every dollar I spent to be a great investment,” Hartman said.

Claeys said the campaign submitted a letter from Hartman forgiving his loans to the campaign.

The finance report shows that in the end, the Kobach campaign will have more or less spent all the resources it took in for a race that he lost to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach received 42.98 percent of the vote to Kelly’s 48.01 percent.

“I think we left everything on the field when it came to resources,” Claeys said.

By contrast, Kelly’s finance report shows her campaign has $59,363 cash on hand. From September 26 through the end of the year, Kelly raised $429,874 and spent $900,814. She had a total of $960,178 in cash available during the period.

Kobach ran as a hardline conservative, advocating income tax cuts and promising to fight illegal immigration. Kelly worked to paint Kobach as extreme and an extension of Sam Brownback, the unpopular former governor.

In the aftermath of the election, Kobach has made fewer public comments and appearances amid speculation about his future. Kobach may receive a job in President Donald Trump’s administration (he has informally advised Trump) or he may run for U.S. Senate.

Claeys said it is “very much a possibility” that Kobach will be brought into the Trump administration.

On Friday, Kobach announced he had joined the board of directors of a new group dedicated to raising funds to pay for a wall along the southern border. Kobach is on the board of We Build The Wall, Inc., along with others, such as David Clarke, the former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who is outspoken on conservative causes.

A BuzzFeed News investigation earlier this week of Brian Kolfage, the Iraq War veteran leading the fundraising effort, found he had been banned from Facebook after pushing misleading information online.

Contributing: The Eagle’s Carrie Rengers

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.