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Much improved Ethics Commission report of 2008 “Top 20” PACs in Kansas

By   /   October 13, 2009  /   No Comments

ethics-commissionThe Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission reports a “Top 20” list of Political Action Committees (PACs) each year.   To find these reports online, start at the Ethics Commission’s web page, select “Campaign Finance” and then “Statistical Charts.”

In the past, each year’s “Top 20” report provided insight about the big political money players in Kansas, but the report had many limitations.   

As PACs spent more and more independently, their independent expenditures exceeded their direct contributions to candidates, so the PAC rankings based only on contributions to candidates became less meaningful.

Analysis of the 2006 election cycle showed the ProKanDo PAC raised more money and spent more money than any other PAC in Kansas but was not listed in the top 20 for that year. 

To show an alternative approach to ranking PACs, I published Political Money Rankings of 228 Kansas PACs in March 2008.  This report showed separate rankings for money raised, money spent, and money in the bank.

This year the Kansas Ethics Commission used a similar approach and gave separate PAC rankings for money raised, total expenditures, and contributions to candidates for the 2008 election cycle.  See their statistical chart:

UPDATE:  The Ethics Commission updated the following table on 10/14/2009 to correct a mistake.   

Top 20 PACs in Kansas — 2008 Election Cycle

The right-most column in this chart, “Contributions Directly to Candidates,” was equivalent to rankings in previous years.   For example, view the rankings for 2007.

The very bottom of the above statistical chart shows Kansas PACs received about $9.9 million in the 2008 election cycle.  The PACs spent about $2.5 million on candidates, and about $7.2 million on independent expenditures.  This “imbalance” shows why the old ranking system based only on contributions to candidates did not always rank PACs correctly.

Notice that the #1 and #2 PACs in 2008 Expenditures, which ranked #3 and #4 in money raised, do not rank in the top 20 for contributions to candidates.  Without the improved report by the Ethics Commission, neither the Bluestem Fund PAC (Kathleen Sebelius) nor the ProKanDo PAC (Dr. George Tiller) would have been in any “Top 20” list of PACs.

Thanks to the Ethics Commission for this improved report.

Out-of-state PACs are still a bit of a problem. 

Some PACs, like the Greater Kansas City, MO Chamber of Commerce PAC, raise money from their donors but not for any particular cause or candidate. Allocating the amount raised only for Kansas is not possible so that total may seem inflated. The KC MO Chamber’s #1 $1.1 million raised above was spent in both Kansas and Missouri.  Only about half of this $1.1 million was spent by the Greater KC Chamber in Kansas, but that $497,493 still ranked #3 for Kansas.

Other out-of-state PACs file “Verified Statements” listing their expenditures in Kansas.  But these amounts are not included in the PAC rankings and these reports are not published online.  Often these “Verified Statements” are for small amounts, but in some cases the amounts are quite large.  For example, SEIU gave Kathleen Sebelius’ Blustem Fund PAC $125,000 last year and filed  a single-page “Verified Statement” that was never published online.  This amount would have given SEIU a ranking of #14 on expenditures, but it is not listed at all.

This is the first in an ongoing series analyzing the “Kansas Political Pie.”