Elections

‘No’ vote outspends ‘yes’ in Wichita sales tax campaign

The group in favor of a proposed 1-cent-on-the-dollar Wichita city sales tax has spent a fraction of what the “no” side has spent on broadcast advertising, according to filings broadcast media companies are required to report to the Federal Communications Commission. (Feb. 5, 2013)
The group in favor of a proposed 1-cent-on-the-dollar Wichita city sales tax has spent a fraction of what the “no” side has spent on broadcast advertising, according to filings broadcast media companies are required to report to the Federal Communications Commission. (Feb. 5, 2013) File photo

The Coalition for a Better Wichita has spent $436,565 on broadcast and radio advertising opposing a 1-cent-on-a-dollar sales tax on the November ballot in Wichita, records show.

A recent letter from that campaign asked people to donate and called itself a grassroots effort:

“We are up against powerful interests who want that money. They will spend a ton of money on radio and TV ads, billboards, and online advertising,” the coalition wrote.

But so far, the group in favor of the sales tax – Yes Wichita – has spent a fraction of what the “no” side has spent on broadcast advertising, according to filings broadcast media companies are required to report to the Federal Communications Commission.

Yes Wichita has spent $58,200 for advertising on four TV stations, according to FCC filings. It has not advertised on radio. FCC filings reflect advertising on TV and radio only.

It’s unclear just how much money has been given to the “no” campaign – and by whom.

A recent mailer from the Coalition for a Better Wichita had a return post office box associated with Koch Industries.

Koch officials said they support the coalition, mainly because they oppose the jobs development part of the sales tax. The tax would collect about $400 million over five years for Wichita’s water supply ($250 million), job development ($80 million), transit ($39.8 million) and street maintenance ($27.8 million).

“We’ve looked at that issue and we talked with City Council members, we talked with the city manager, we talked with some of the business leaders … we shared with them that our concern was the jobs fund was a bad idea for Wichita or for any community as a way to attempt to spur job growth,” said Mark Nichols, vice president for government and public affairs at Koch Industries.

“We just feel like in this case, particularly because they chose a sales tax as the methodology by which to raise these funds, that it really created an undue burden by using the most regressive form of tax that we have in our society and it places a burden on those who can least afford it.”

Sales tax opponents

At a recent event, coalition spokeswoman Jennifer Baysinger said the coalition had one major donor.

However she said she did not know how much Koch Industries has contributed to the campaign.

“It’s not my job to pay attention to dollar amounts,” she said.

Nichols wouldn’t say how much the company has contributed to the coalition.

“We said from the outset that we would be a contributor, a donor to that process. We’ve done that, but again are one of just many who are involved,” Nichols said.

“Again, as we understand, a wide array of Wichitans are involved – whether it’s individuals, whether it’s businesses, from working families who have made a commitment to it, to senior adults. Our involvement is specifically to engage with them just like it is with any political candidate or with any political organization, a ballot measure, whatever the case may be.

“We don’t discuss the dollar figure amounts that we do in any of these cases. We focus more on the time and effort and try to support the cause.”

The Coalition for a Better Wichita was registered in Delaware on July 2 by the Corporation Trust Co. The same company is a registered agent in Delaware for several Koch Industries subsidiaries.

Asked why the coalition was registered in Delaware, Baysinger suggested The Eagle contact Trent Sebits, the chairman of the coalition’s board, and Alan Cobb.

Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for Koch Industries and a former lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity, was listed on advertising documents from local TV stations as an officer for coalition.

Alan Cobb is the former state director of Americans for Prosperity and lobbyist for Koch Industries.

Neither Cobb nor Sebits responded to e-mails or calls to answer questions.

Recently, planes with a banner urging people to “vote no on the sales tax” flew over area high school football games. Baysinger said the campaign hired one of the planes; the other was provided by a supporter.

The group has at least two part-time staff for its headquarters, Baysinger said in a previous interview.

Sales tax supporters

The other side, Yes Wichita, has a relatively empty headquarters on the first floor of the Lux downtown, which is space donated by developer Michael Ramsey, who is a member of the group. It is staffed by volunteers, according to group organizers. Most of its business is conducted at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, said Jon Rolph, president of Sasnak Management and co-chair of Yes Wichita.

Yes Wichita was formed in Kansas on Aug. 12, according to the secretary of state’s website. Its listed agent was Harvey Sorensen, one of the group’s co-chairs and an attorney with Foulston Siefkin, who is a former Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce chairman.

“There is a lot of money being spent on TV right now,” Rolph said. “We are in a David and Goliath battle. … (The coalition is) relying on huge media buys, and we’re relying on networks and grassroots and endorsements.”

Rolph said Yes Wichita is not relying on one primary donor for its campaign.

Advertising exposure

Media buys for Yes Wichita were purchased through Mitchell Media Services.

Advertising slots for the Coalition for a Better Wichita were purchased through media buyer Diana Fredelake with the Media Source, whose other political clients include Americans for Prosperity, Pompeo for Congress, Kansans for Life, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Todd Tiahrt, according to its website.

Baysinger did not know whether the coalition would buy any more broadcast advertising.

“I suppose the question remains: How much is even left in the market?” she said.

Media buyer Bonnie Copp Tharp, who owns Copp Media Services, said that competition is stiff for the limited number of TV spots between now and the election; those who pay higher prices get more air time.

Tharp’s previous clients include the city of Wichita, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Commission and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., according to her company’s website.

Based on her review of the FCC demographics and rating data for the coalition, the average adult over age 50 will see the “no” campaign’s advertising on TV more than 46 times before the election, Tharp said.

“I’ve never seen a run like that in a four- or five-week period in the 21 years I’ve been in business,” she said. “If you hear something 46 times and then I say it three, what are you going to remember?”

But on the flip side, some of that repetitiveness can be a negative, she said.

Some people “may just get sick of hearing a commercial,” Tharp said.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over.”

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

Coalition for a Better Wichita’s ad buys

The Coalition for a Better Wichita, a group opposed to the sales tax, has a local broadcast gross advertising total of $436,565.

▪ KWCH Channel 12: $172,040

▪ KSN Channel 3: $111,600

▪ KAKE Channel 10: $77,495

▪ KSCW Channel 33: $11,165

▪ KSAS Fox Channel 4: $10,330

▪ KFDI 101.3 FM Today’s Country: $16,200

▪ KFTI 92.3 FM Classic Country: $11,430

▪ KNSS 1330 AM NewsRadio: $9,680

▪ KEYN, 103.7 FM Classic Hits: $5,705

▪ KQAM 1480 AM The Big Talker: $4,032

▪ KFBZ 105.3 FM The Buzz: $3,900

▪ KGSO 1410 AM All Sports: $2,988

Source: Federal Communications Commission filings provided by the media companies with orders dated through Nov. 4.

Yes Wichita’s ad buys

Yes Wichita, a group supporting the sales tax, has a local broadcast gross advertising total of $58,200.

▪ KAKE Channel 10: $24,905

▪ KSN Channel 3: $17,770

▪ KWCH Channel 12: $12,600

▪ KSCW Channel 5, 33: $2,925

Source: Preliminary Federal Communications Commission filings provided by the media companies with orders dated through Oct. 26.

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