Two important articles came out today (here and here) about a scheduled January 21, 2009 Ethics Commission hearing regarding two counts against a private citizen. For what is believed to be the first time in Kansas history, the commission is charging a private citizen with two counts of “talking to the press” in violation of state statutes.
In the Kansas Meadowlark post, “1st Amendment Constitutional Right may become issue in Kansas Ethics Commission Hearing in January. Silence the accuser?”, the two counts are outlined.
Count 1. On or after Oct. 15, 2008, Kristian D. Van Meteren disclosed to Phil La Certe, blogger for KansasLiberty.com, the filing of and allegations contained in Complaint No. 422, filed by Kristian D. Van Meteren on Sept 17, 2008, amended on Oct. 8, 2008, and amended on Oct 15, 2008 …
Count 2. On or after Oct. 15, 2008, Kristian D. Van Meteren disclosed to Tim Carpenter, reporter for the Topeka Capital Journal, … [the same as in Count 1]
The complaint, brought by the commission itself rather than an outside source, is based on K.S.A. 25-4161(b).
Whenever a complaint is filed with the commission alleging a violation of a provision of the campaign finance act, such filing and the allegations therein shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except as provided in the campaign finance act.
The commission’s charges are interesting for several reasons.
- The complaint was based on public campaign finance records. The records clearly show a violation of campaign finance laws. The commission could have (and should have) taken action on their own without a complaint from the public. The fact that they didn’t take action on their own is troubling.
- The basis of the two counts is simply that Kris Van Meteren, the citizen filing the complaint, spoke with two media outlets regarding the complaint. If Van Meteren had not filed a complaint and still spoken with these two media outlets regarding the finance violations, there would be no basis for the two charges. However, if Van Meteren had not filed a complaint, it would have allowed the commission to neither confirm or deny an investigation. How convenient for a commission that seems to be rather disinterested in fining real campaign finance violations.
- Hawver’s reported recently that the investigation into Umbarger was closed. According to the commission, even the closure of an investigation should not be disclosed to the public. So, how did the story get out? Did Sen. Umbarger leak the story? If so, will he be charged? Did someone within the commission leak the story? If so, will they be charged? Will the source of the Hawver story even be investigated? Ironically, if you asked the commission, according to state statute, they shouldn’t be able to tell you if they are investigating the investigation or not!!!
KRA Blog: Ethically Challenged Commission ‘clears’ Umbarger
Kansas Liberty: Talking to press attracts Ethics Commission ire
Kansas Meadowlark: 1st Amendment Constitutional Right may become issue in Kansas Ethics Commission Hearing in January. Silence the accuser?
Kansas Meadowlark: Did Senator Umbarger violate ethics rules buying a carport with campaign money? Umbarger clairvoyant?
Kansas Liberty: New campaign finance charges leveled against Umbarger
Kansas Liberty: Primary opponent says Umbarger violated campaign finance law
Kansas Liberty: Umbarger yields to ethics pressure, repays fund