Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Big bucks from small group of donors fueling Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

High-dollar contributions from a small group of individuals are fueling the Kansas Chamber of Commerce political action committee’s efforts to lock down a conservative agenda in the Legislature, according to campaign finance reports released Monday.

Meanwhile, the Kansas National Education Association PAC, relying on numerous small dollar donations, had a slight advantage in raising funds and was contributing to moderate Republicans and Democrats.

The reports cover the period from July 27 through last Thursday.

The Chamber PAC raised $590,530, in addition to having $58,558 on hand from before, for a total of $649,088. The Chamber PAC spent $543,155, leaving it with $105,932 as of Thursday.

According to the finance report, Chamber PAC Chairman Ivan Crossland and his construction companies chipped in $80,000. Oilman David Murfin also contributed $80,000 and Wichita-based Koch Industries, run by the billionaire Koch brothers, $50,000.

Crossland Construction also loaned the PAC $122,500, the report said.

The Chamber PAC donated its money to the campaigns of conservative Republican legislative candidates statewide.

Meanwhile, the Kansas National Education Association PAC raised $68,040, in addition to $630,115 cash on hand at the beginning of the period. That gave the PAC a total of $698,155.

The KNEA PAC spent $279,905, leaving it with $418,250 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period.

Of the money raised during the reporting period, nearly all of it came from contributions of $50 or less.

The KNEA PAC then contributed funds to moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Campaign finance reports filed in the race for Senate District 3 exemplified the divide in Kansas politics as unions supported incumbent Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, while Republican challenger Anthony Brown, a state representative from Eudora, received the backing of the Chamber and related business interests including Koch Industries.

During the period, Holland outraised and outspent Brown, although Brown was also getting an unknown dollar amount of assistance from the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, which under law is a nonprofit social welfare organization that does not have to disclose its finances.

Holland had $104,730 cash on hand, and he received another $80,440. He spent $152,389, which gave him $32,781 at the end of the filing period.

Brown had $9,398 on hand from his Republican Party primary victory in August. He added $64,800 in contributions and spent $61,275, which left him with $12,923 cash on hand.

Holland’s biggest donation was $20,000 from the Senate Democratic Committee.

He received a number of $1,000 contributions from unions and trade association political action committees, such as the KNEA, Kansas AFL-CIO, Kansas State UAW and the Northeast Kansas Building and Trades Council.

Brown received $5,700 from the state GOP last week; $3,000 from state Rep. Owen Donohoe, his wife and their business; $1,000 from Crossland, the chairman of the Chamber PAC, and $1,000 each from two PACs of Crossland’s; $2,000 from the Leavenworth County Republican Central Committee; and $1,000 each from the Chamber PAC, Koch Industries, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s Prairie Fire PAC, and Road Map PAC, which is affiliated with Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican.

Republicans have a 92-33 advantage in the Kansas House and 32-8 majority in the Senate.

But moderate Republicans had control of the Senate until eight were defeated in the GOP primary at the hands of candidates backed by the Kansas Chamber, Koch Industries, Brownback and Americans for Prosperity.