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State Senator Steineger fined $5000 at Ethics Hearing

By   /   May 19, 2010  /   3 Comments

Topeka.  State Senator Chris Steineger (D, Kansas City) was fined $5000 by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on Tuesday.

State Senator Chris Steineger (left) at Ethics Hearing in Topeka on Tuesday

Steineger faced two allegations in a civil fine determination hearing.

The first allegation dealt with polls Steineger took to measure his statewide name recognition in hypothetical gubernatorial or secretary of state races.

Steineger paid for those polls taken in March 2009 and November 2009 with funds from his State Senate campaign account, which was a violation of ethics rules.   Steineger received a $5000 civil fine for this violation.  The vote was a unanimous 9-0.

Steineger faced a second allegation for soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists while the legislature was in session.     Steineger claimed he gave a contractor instructions multiple times to purge lobbyists names from his list, but about 40 lobbyists still received Steineger’s solicitation from about  2000 E-mails sent according to commission investigator Bill Beightel.

The commission ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove that Steineger had “knowingly” attempted to mail to lobbyists. The vote was 7 “yes” and 2 “no”, with Commissioners Glenn Kerbs and John Reimer voting “no.”

Highlights of the hearing can be seen in this video:

Carol Williams explained that the issue of whether campaign funds for one office can be used for a different office has been an yearly legislative  issue since 2003. State Senator Steineger should have seen this issue in the legislature several times.

Chairwoman Sabrina Standifer said that Steineger’s case was weakened by his multiple explanations for funding the polls:

  • “At one point there was an explanation that it was a mistake” and he thought he had written the check out of his personal funds but in fact he had written the check using his senate campaign funds.
  • “Another explanation was ‘I thought it was permitted’ since it was more of a general expenditure.”
  • Yet another explanation was Steineger couldn’t remember why he had paid for the polling out of campaign funds.

Standifer said the legislature added the word “knowingly” to the statute dealing with solicitations of lobbyists during the legislative session.  “It’s very difficult to meet that standard of proof,” according to Standifer.  She added that  “by making that amendment the statute is essentially unenforceable.”


Twitter Minutes (with clerical corrections)

[follow us on Twitter @KansasWatchdog; hashtag #ksethics]

  • #ksethics Today’s meeting starts as a business session, but 4 hearings will start at 1 PM. Sen. Chris Steineger’s hearing will be at 2 PM
  • #ksethics 2 PM hearing at Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for State Senator Chris Steineger. Crowded with press now.
  • #ksethics Press for Steinger hearing: AP, Capital-Journal, State of the State KS, Hawver (so far)
  • #ksethics Steinger ethics hearing case started. Investigator Bill Beightel telling about the nearly 40 lobbyists receiving e-mails
  • #ksethics Steineger had not self-reported. Info came to Carol Williams through another party.
  • #ksethics Steineger reported problem to Carol Williams after learning about the problem. He had not checked list or purging of names.
  • #ksethics Steineger repeats he had given instruction to fund raiser Sager to purge list.
  • #ksethics Solbach: “there was some probability”. Steineger: Gave Sager instructions repeatedly. Trusted his ability. Sager not witness
  • #ksethics Steineger: DC company “NGP” used to remove lobbyists from mailing list.
  • #ksethics 2nd issue: Commission Atty: Judy Moler talking about polls taken in 2009 for Steineger name recognition effort.
  • #ksethics NJ Ross in Oregon used for robocall. Steineger claimed paid with personal account, but Beightel says paid by Senate camp. account
  • #ksethics Beightel claimed robocalls had been placed in March and November 2009.
  • #ksethics Steineger: “I made this mistake myself” “Mistaken impression about general issues was acceptable”
  • #ksethics: Steineger: “Accepts responsibility for mistake” Reponse at the time was he paid for poll with personal funds.
  • #ksethics: Steineger: “Picked up the wrong check book” Claims he had five check books.
  • #ksethics Steineger: “CPA did not make the error. I made the error” Solbach: Have you reimbursed Senate account? Steineger: Not yet
  • #ksethics “I honestly don’t remember what I was thinking … months ago.” about intention to pay from personal or campaign account
  • #ksethics Steineger explaining his understanding of a “general” poll vs a “mixed” poll.
  • #ksethics Solbach to Steineger: if you hadn’t considered running for state office, would you have conducted these polls?
  • #ksethics Steineger said he thought it was OK for “mixed” polling
  • #ksethics Steineger making closing statement. Closed executive session to follow.
  • #ksethics State Sen. Chris Steineger fined $5000 for conducting polls for statewide office; paying for with Senate campaign funds
  • #ksethics State Sen. Chris Steinger not fined for “knowingly” soliciting from lobbyists during legislative session.

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Contact: Earl F Glynn, earl@kansaswatchdog.org, KansasWatchdog.org

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