Koch

Koch the primary donor to sales tax opposition group

Koch Industries headquarters, on 37th Street North in Wichita (Oct 3, 2012)
Koch Industries headquarters, on 37th Street North in Wichita (Oct 3, 2012) File photo

Koch Cos. Public Sector spent more than $1 million to defeat a proposed city sales tax, according to campaign finance documents filed with Sedgwick County.

The Koch company was the largest donor to the Coalition for a Better Wichita, a group formed to oppose the 1-cent-on-a-dollar sales tax in Wichita.

All but $3,165 of the $1,075,890.63 the campaign collected from August through November came from Koch. The campaign had about 150 donors, with most donations ranging from $1 to $100.

The sales tax – promoted as a way to pay for a future water supply, economic development, street repairs and public transit – was defeated by voters 62 percent to 37 percent on Nov. 4.

Through a spokesperson, Mark Nichols, vice president for government and public affairs for Koch Industries, said in a statement:

“The Coalition for a Better Wichita was made up of a diverse group of people from all walks of life. Koch Industries was proud to be a part of it and provide in-kind and financial support.

“We carefully considered the sales tax matter and became involved because it would have introduced yet another government subsidy – taking taxpayers’ money and giving it to private businesses. We don’t believe this is the proper role of government, and we have long been opposed to government subsidies.

“In the end, the citizens of Wichita made an informed decision, and 62 percent overwhelmingly rejected the sales tax.”

The campaign’s total expenditures were $879,109, leaving it with $196,781 at the close of the period. Among its major expenditures:

▪ $632,469 to the Media Source, a media buyer that places advertising with newspapers, TV and radio stations.

▪ $105,480 to Handy Mailing Service for printing and mailing services.

▪ $26,535 to produce radio and TV advertising through Joust Inc.

▪ $21,500 in digital advertising through Lin Digital in Dallas.

▪ $15,864 to Oklahoma City-based Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates for “message testing and strategy development.”

▪ $2,655 to Aircraft Data in Benton for a plane to carry a banner against the sales tax.

Americans for Prosperity, another organization with Koch support, filed a report with Sedgwick County saying that it spent $118,823.48 against the sales tax in mailers and TV and radio advertising.

In October, The Eagle wrote about how the coalition had outspent Yes Wichita, the group that supported the sales tax, in broadcast and radio advertising.

Federal Communications Commission documents showed the coalition had spent more than $436,000 on the advertising and Yes Wichita had spent about $58,000 at that time.

Less than a week before the November vote, Yes Wichita members filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office claiming the Coalition for a Better Wichita violated state laws when it did not properly label some of its campaign advertising.

State law requires that campaigns list chairmen and treasurers and include “Paid for” or “Sponsored by” in advertising and educational materials.

Last week, the district attorney’s office said it had finished investigating the complaint and found that although the coalition had violated state law, it would not face any charges or fines.

Jon Rolph and Moji Fanimokun, co-chairs of Yes Wichita, said they did not want to comment about the coalition’s campaign finance documents.

The expenditure report for Yes Wichita has not yet been posted. The deadline to turn in local campaign finance reports is Dec. 31.

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

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