GOP: Panel's inaction won't stop PAC complaint

TOPEKA — An attorney for the Kansas Republican Party said a campaign finance complaint is moving forward against a Democrat running for governor and a political action committee, even though an ethics panel took no public action on the matter Tuesday during its monthly meeting.

Clay Barker, an attorney for the Kansas GOP, said the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is seeking to consider separately the case against Democrat Tom Holland and Frances Graves of the Kansas Moderate Majority Committee.

Under Kansas law, if a political action committee and a campaign coordinate their activities, the PAC is limited to spending $2,000. If there is no coordination, the PAC can spend an unlimited amount of money.

The complaint alleges Holland received an in-kind contribution of television ads from the PAC that exceeds the limit. Republicans have estimated the value of the ads, which have run for the past week in the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita media markets.

"We expect their investigation will conclude what the facts already show — Tom Holland broke Kansas elections law — to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars," Barker said in a statement.

Holland faces Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback in the race to replace Democrat Gov. Mark Parkinson, whose term expires in January.

The nine-member ethics commission held its regular meeting Tuesday in Topeka. Its next meeting is Oct. 19, but no hearings are scheduled for then, which means the commission likely won't consider the matter until after voters go to the polls in November.

Carol Williams, the panel's executive director, declined to comment after the meeting.

Seth Bundy, spokesman for the Holland campaign, said he hadn't seen anything from the ethics commission about the complaints. The campaign has denied that it cooperated with Graves and the PAC to produce the television ads.

"I don't know what else to say," Bundy said.

Graves has declined to comment about the complaint, maintaining that the PAC operated independently of the Holland campaign in producing the video for the ad.

The commercial attacks Brownback's support of the fair tax, which would eliminate the federal income tax and move to a national sales tax. The ad suggests that would reduce taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes for everyone else.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the Brownback campaign, declined to comment about the ethics complaint.

The complaint also said the Holland campaign and Kansas Moderate Majority use the same media company, Media Research and Strategies.

Democrats have long suggested that Brownback has benefited from campaign-related activities by conservative groups. After his first U.S. Senate race in 1996, they forced investigations into contributions that came to him through a Washington-based consulting firm, Triad Management Services.

In 2002, the Federal Election Commission required Brownback to turn over $19,000 in over-the-limit contributions linked to Triad.