A top staff official in Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration asked for and was given reports on a police drug raid that took place 16 years ago at a Coffeyville strip club, prompting an accusation Thursday that Brownback used government resources to orchestrate a smear campaign against his opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis.
Timothy Keck, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and deputy chief counsel for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, requested and received reports on the club raid several days before a news story broke linking Davis to the club, according to Montgomery County Sheriff’s records obtained by The Eagle on Thursday through the Kansas Open Records Act.
Police raiding the club found Davis in the company of a topless stripper.
Davis, then 26 and single, was briefly detained but released when it was determined he was not one of the targets of the drug investigation and not involved in illegal activity, the records show. Davis, an attorney, has said that he worked for a law firm that represented the club’s owner and that his boss had taken him to the club.
After news of Keck’s inquiries surfaced Thursday, the Davis campaign issued a statement expressing outrage and accusing Brownback of misusing government personnel and resources to further his re-election campaign.
“This is a disgusting revelation that puts a public employee in the middle of a smear campaign, and likely using taxpayer money to fund it,” Davis campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly said in an e-mail. “It is shameful that Sam Brownback is laying off teachers, but paying partisan hacks with state funds to dig up dirt on his opponent. Keck should be fired immediately.”
A spokesperson for Brownback’s government office declined comment, referring questions to the governor’s re-election campaign.
Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn issued a statement saying that Keck was following up on a tip from a local elected official in Montgomery County. Milburn said Keck was allowed by state law to work on Brownback’s campaign, citing Kansas Statute 25-4169.
That statute generally prohibits government officials from using state equipment or employees to further their political campaigns. However, there is an exception: “The provisions of this section prohibiting the use of time of any officer or employee for such (campaign) purposes shall not apply to an incumbent officer campaigning for nomination or reelection to a succeeding term to such office or to members of the personal staff of any elected officer.”
“Paul Davis must have spent too much time in VIP rooms at strip clubs back in law school because, as an attorney and candidate, Paul should know full well that the law allows personal staff of the governor’s office to work on campaign issues,” Milburn’s statement said.
He said that until March of this year, Davis had a personal legislative aide who worked on political matters.
The sheriff’s log indicates that Keck requested the records on the strip-club raid on Sept. 15, the same day the records were requested by Cory Kneedler, executive editor of the Coffeyville Journal. The sheriff’s office fulfilled both requests two days later.
Three days after the records were provided to Keck and the Journal, the story appeared in the local paper and on Politico.com, a national political website.
The Eagle could not reach Kneedler for comment late Thursday. Kneedler told the Hutchinson News that he had asked for the records to follow up on a tip and had never heard of Keck.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.