TOPEKA — The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on Wednesday fined Lisa Wisdom $500 for failing to provide documentation for over $3700 in expenditures by the 2010 campaign of State Rep Phil Hermanson (R-Wichita).
The consent decree agreed to by Wisdom and the Commission indicated that after an audit of three campaign reports there were over $2700 in undocumented expenditures and checks for cash and a $1000 loan that had been repaid when in fact there had been no loan.
In questioning by her attorney, Steve Kearney, Wisdom told the Commission that Hermanson was her step-brother and he approached her to be his treasurer. Wisdom agreed to help.
In her account Wisdom said Hermanson told her as treasurer she would “write checks and sign the reports” and that he would “take care of everything else.” Wisdom said Hermanson told her he would take care of all receipts: “don’t worry about that, I’ve got that covered.”
Wisdom told the Commission the checkbook for the campaign was “basically in [Hermanson's] possession the entire time” and the she had not written any of the checks for cash or the disputed payments.
When asked, Kearney explained to the Commission that Hermanson could not attend the hearing since the legislature was in session.
Depending on interpretation of the facts of the case, the Commission could have levied a fine ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.
Statement by State Rep. Phil Hermanson
On Thursday Kansas Watchdog asked State Rep. Phil Hermanson for comments about the hearing:
“I appreciate the work of the Commission. My 2010 election involved a spirited and highly competitive race. Changes in the middle of the campaign resulted in the loss of some receipts and records. I have personally reimbursed the campaign for 100 percent of any expenditure that was not accompanied by receipt. I have also appointed a new treasurer with a strong background in accounting and record keeping. Furthermore, I will pay the fine and Lisa’s legal fees.”
“I regret the mistake and will do all I can to prevent future reporting errors. I look forward to continuing my hard work on the issues important to the people of district 96.“
Other Ethics Commission Business
Before the meeting Eric Rucker, Assistant Secretary of State, swore in the newest member of the Commission, James Ward, who serves as the Franklin County prosecutor. Ward said he was a 2007 graduate of the KU School of Law.
Ward was appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback and replaced Sabrina Standifer on the Commission.
As part of her monthly report Executive Director Carol Williams introduced the subject of “express advocacy” because of difficulties she was having responding to questions in an email from a person who asked not to be identified.
Normally “express advocacy” involves the “magic words” of “vote for” or “vote against” an identified candidate in a political ad.
Ethics general counsel Camille Nohe gave the Commission a memo that discussed the “functional equivalent of ‘express advocacy’” and pointed out a conflict between a U.S. Supreme Court decision and the regulations based on Kansas statute.
Nohe asked the Commission if they wanted to consider updating the regulation to reflect the “functional equivalent” language from the federal court decision.
Nohe said she thought it was “in the public interest to know who is paying for ads that don’t have these ‘magic words’ but still are clearly asking for support or defeat of someone.”
The Commission voted for Nohe to draft a new Ethics opinion about “functional equivalent” language for consideration at a future meeting.
Changes to Kansas regulations may or may not occur after a new opinion is adopted. Williams did not think a new regulation could be put in place before the 2014 election because of the review process if the Commission decided to follow that course of action.
Other details from the Commission’s meeting can be found in the “Twitter Minutes” below, which were tweeted live during the meeting.
Live tweeted by @KansasWatchdog on May 16, 2012 using hashtag #ksethics.
Some corrections from the live tweets were made below.
- 12:45 Live tweeting from Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission starts at 1 PM. Fairly light agenda: http://t.co/QZ6tXdVO Hashtag #ksethics.
- 12:56 #ksethics A missing “paid for by” attribution statement by James Stevenson, candidate for Barber County Sheriff, to be considered today.
- 12:59 #ksethics Camille Nohe has memo for discussion of “Functional equivalent of ‘express advocacy’”. Possible conflict with US Sup. court ruling.
- 1:01 #ksethics Commission to mail out letters about late filings to 3 lobbyists with penalties ranging from $30 to $160. #ksleg
- 1:02 #ksethics New member of the commission to be sworn in today, James Ward. Looking for his introduction in a few minutes.
- 1:03 #ksethics Commission to consider three requests for waiver of civil penalty assessments.
- 1:05 #ksethics The Commission will hold a civil fine hearing at 2 PM for Lisa Wisdom, Treasurer of Phil Hermanson, a state rep candidate.
- 1:05 #ksethics Meeting delayed for arrival of new member, James Ward. Should start in a few minutes.
- 1:06 #ksethics #ksleg Lisa Wisdom hearing about no documentation for $3765 in campaign expenditures.
- 1:09 #ksethics Eric Rucker from the Secretary of State’s office swears in new member, James Ward. Meeting is now called to order.
- 1:10 #ksethics James Ward from Ottawa introduces himself to commission. Now the Franklin County prosecutor.
- 1:11 #ksethics Commissioners now introducing themselves to newest member.
- 1:14 #ksethics Carol Williams, Exec Dir, tells commission new law raises contribution limit for State Board of Ed candidates to $1000 from $500
- 1:17 #ksethics Carol Williams discussing omission of “Paid for by” statement by candidates. 1st one this year is James Stevens from Barber County
- 1:18 #ksethics Jim Stevenson’s letter to commission said “fact sheet” was never intended to be ad. Had given to friends for feedback.
- 1:19 #ksethics Commissioner John Solbach makes motion to send “usual” letter to Stevenson. Motion passes unanimously.
- 1:22 #ksethics Considering E-mail from anonymous person about “paid for” statement in phone call. Looking for guidance from Commission.
- 1:24 #ksethics Commission now reading KSA 25-4156 and memo about “Functional equivalent of ‘express advocacy’.” Discussion to follow.
- 1:27 #ksethics Williams: There is a difference between a paid fund raiser and one done voluntarily by individual citizens.
- 1:29 #ksethics Letters or phone calls by private citizen do not require attribution statement.
- 1:31 #ksethics For discussion Commission reviews old KFL against Bill Graves that was not express advocacy. Was only “implicit” advocacy.
- 1:33 #ksethics Chair Dan Harden reminds commission that as recently as 2 months ago decision was about strict express advocacy.
- 1:34 #ksethics Commission discussing “magic words” of “vote for” or “vote against” in ads for express advocacy.
- 1:37 #ksethics Williams: May not be possible to implement new functional equivalent of “express advocacy” regulation until 2014 election. #ksleg
- 1:40 #ksethics Commissioner Solbach motions to use US Supreme Court functional equivalent of express advocacy language in new Ethics opinion.
- 1:43 #ksethics Commissioner Mark Simpson says asking for money is different from asking for a vote.
- 1:46 #ksethics Solbach: Functional equivalent of express advocacy would give public more transparency.
- 1:47 #ksethics Solbach’s motion passes to instruct general counsel to draft opinion about functional equivalent of “express advocacy”
- 1:49 #ksethics Commissioner Solbach doesn’t think questions on phone should be considered express advocacy. Later debate might be.
- … [Civil Fine Hearing]
- 2:41 #ksethics Exec Dir Carol Williams says about 980 statements of substantial interest are late from various state employees. Due April 30.
- 2:54 #ksethics Regular ethics meeting back in session. Considering civil penalties and requests for waivers from past penalties.
- 2:58 #ksethics Commissioner Carol Foreman motions to waive $280 civil penalty against Mary Ann Flunder. Motion passes.
- 2:59 #ksethics No motions on other requests for waivers of civil penalties. Moving on.
- 3:01 #ksethics Commisson votes to go into a “regular” closed executive session for 30 minutes.
- 3:43 #ksethics Commission takes a short break and goes back into closed executive session for another 30 minutes.
- 4:14 Yet again: #ksethics Commission extends closed executive session for about 5 more minutes.
- 4:21 And again: #ksethics Closed executive session now till 4:30
- 4:32 #ksethics Five more minutes Now till 4:35
The final tweet, which apparently was not received by Twitter, was about the next meeting to be held on June 27.
Civil Fine Hearing
- 2:02 #ksethics Hearing in the matter of Lisa Wisdom, treasurer for Phil Hermanson, about to start.
- 2:04 #ksethics Chair Dan Harden appointed Mark Simpson, who is an attorney, to be hearing officer. Consent decree to be passed out soon.
- 2:06 #ksethics Counsel Camille Nohe explaining consent decree. There were $2764 in undocumented expenditures to Hermanson or “cash”
- 2:07 #ksethics One campaign report erroneously showed a $1000 loan repayment to Hermanson when there was no loan.
- 2:08 #ksethics Hermanson has repaid disputed amounts to his campaign account. Consent decree says these were unintentional violations.
- 2:10 #ksethics Attorney Kearney to question client Lisa Wisdom about the treasurer’s reports for which she is responsible.
- 2:12 #ksethics Lisa Wisdom wanted to help her step-brother as his campaign treasurer. Wisdom said Hermanson would take care of receipts.
- 2:15 #ksethics Wisdom said all the records were in Hermanson’s possession at all times. “Phil brought me in and gave me a title.”
- 2:17 #ksethics Lisa Wisdom explains that she never had the check book in her possession. She did not sign the checks at issue.
- 2:19 #ksethics Wisdom: Checks for “cash” to Hermanson were signed by Hermanson.
- 2:20 #ksethics Wisdom does not know what the checks for “cash” were used for. This was her first time as a campaign treasurer.
- 2:22 #ksethics Commissioner Solbach asks Wisdom’s attorney for fine recommendation. Consider one violation with 3 parts.
- 2:24 #ksethics Attorney says fine should be no more than unsubstantiated amounts in campaign reports. No way to force payment by Hermanson acct.
- 2:25 #ksethics Commisson goes into executive session to consider Lisa Wisdom matter for about 10 minutes.
- 2:43 #ksethics Closed deliberation in Lisa Wisdom hearing extended 5 minutes. Commission asked some legal questions of counsel.
- 2:49 #ksethics Commissioner Solbach motions to accept amended consent decree. Fine to be $3764.66 but will waive all but $500 if paid in 30 days.
- 2:52 #ksethics Solbach’s motion passes unanimously. Fine for Lisa Wisdom will be $500 if paid in 30 days. Hearing adjourned.
p. 1: Agenda
pp. 2-4: Minutes from April 18, 2012 meeting (document packet from April meeting)
pp. 5-9: Omitted “Paid for By” Attribution Statement, James C. Stevenson, Candidate for Barber County Sheriff
p. 10: “Anonymous” E-mail used for Commission discussion about express advocacy
pp. 11-12: Functional equivalent of “express advocacy” memo by Camille Nohe
p. 13: Civil Penalties for late filings by lobbyists: Hank Booth, Jacqueline Waters, Tracey Wildey
p. 14-17: Requests for waiver of civil penalties: Mary Ann Flunder, Terry Leatherman, Todd Rathner
pp. 1-3: Notice of Civil Fine Hearing
pp. 4-7: Consent Decree
- Wichita Councilman fined $500 by Ethics Commission, Kansas Watchdog, March 22, 2012.
- New ethics complaints filed against State Senator Umbarger, Kansas Watchdog, March 14, 2012.
- Dan Harden appointed new chair of Ethics Commission, Kansas Watchdog, Feb. 23, 2012.
- Wichita City Councilman to Face Ethics Hearing, Kansas Watchdog, Feb. 20, 2012.
- Kansas House Republicans Cannot Have a “Leadership” PAC?, Kansas Watchdog, Jan. 19, 2012.
- Summary and Rankings of Kansas Political Action Committees, Kansas Watchdog, Jan. 17, 2012.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, email@example.com, KansasWatchdog.org
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