John Hanna, Brown County Democrat, January 2, 2020
A group that sponsored ads promoting conservative Republican Kris Kobach during his failed 2018 run for Kansas governor is arguing that it isn’t legally required to disclose its donors to the public.
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has given Per Aspera Policy until Jan. 15 to file public reports on its activities during the last governor’s race. The commission warned the group in a notice this week that it could face a potential fine of up to $300 for each missing report and that intentionally failing to disclose the information is a misdemeanor.
But a Washington attorney representing the group told the commission in a letter that it is not required to disclose any information under Kansas law because its ads did not “expressly advocate” for Kobach’s election. Its spots praised Kobach but did not specifically tell viewers to vote for him.
Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump who built a national profile over the past two decades by advocating for tough federal, state and local laws against illegal immigration.
He is now running for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring four-term Republican Pat Roberts.
Kansas law defines a political action committee, as “a combination” of two or more people, with a major purpose to expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate or to make campaign contributions “or expenditures for” a candidate’s election or defeat.
The law defines “expressly advocate” by listing a series of phrases as examples, such as “Bob Jones in ’98” and “vote against Old Hickory.” It generally has not covered “issue” ads, in which candidates are praised or criticized for stances.