Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Former Kansas attorney general uncovers church incident & accuses Phill Kline of improper fundraising

A blockbuster story in the Lawrence Journal-World reports today that former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan resigned as special assistant to Phill Kline because of what Stephan says is improper fundraising.

Stephan told the Journal-World that he is most troubled by an incident where members of a Topeka congregation wrote checks to their church, which sent money to a for-profit business owned by Kline's wife. That business made a donation to Kline's campaign.

State officials said there is no evidence that a law was broken. Kline's people deny doing anything wrong.

Stephan is a Republican who served as attorney general from 1979 to 1991.

The entire story is worth reading, but I think the key part is buried. Here it is:

But Stephan said he was told by someone that after Kline spoke this summer at Light of the World Christian Center in Topeka, the minister asked congregants to write checks to the church, and then the church would write a check to SWT Communications, which produces radio spots about historical events that are sold across the state. (SWT Communications is owned by Kline's wife, Deborah.)

"That bothers me because the public doesn't know who is giving money to Phill Kline," Stephan said.

Stephan said he spoke with Kline's deputy chief Eric Rucker and former communications director Whitney Watson.

Stephan said they told him there was nothing wrong with the practice and they weren't going to change it, but that they wouldn't put their statements in writing, like he had asked.

At that point, "I said, 'Forget it, I'm off the train,'" Stephan said.

...Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, said the state can't tell churches who they can give money to as long as "they're giving to the company, and that's where it stays," she said.

But, she said, it would be illegal for the church to give money to SWT Communications and for the company to then convert that to a donation to Kline's

"You cannot give in the name of another," she said.
This is serious stuff. We need a deeper investigation into this to determine if anything illegal occurred.

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