We learned 2 things on Wednesday:
Properly follow the rules in filing evidence of campaign finance violations. Magically see the accused “fix” the errors before Ethics investigates or holds a hearing. Ethics concludes no intentional violation happened but because a complaint was filed, the accuser cannot speak on the issue. Something doesn’t seem right and a reporter or two looks into the story so they can do their own investigation. Reporters, doing their job, report on what appears to be a whitewashing of campaign finance violations. Suddenly Ethics sees a violation and investigates a private citizen and fines him $7500 (click here to read more on that story). So much for protecting free speech, whistleblowers, or the freedom of the press. Oh, but one reporter who is absolutely certain the original charges were dismissed has never had to reveal his source for that information even though there is no way to know if no one has commented and violated the law, at least according to Ethics. Why has that source never been investigated? Perhaps because it “clears” the person they protected when they allowed him to “fix” his errors and then claimed he didn’t intentionally break the rules?
Meanwhile, in a Senate Committee meeting on this same day, a bill to protect a reporter’s source is shot down. (You can read more on that here.) I wonder what those Senators who voted against this are afraid might get said if sources could be protected from legislative inquiry?
So, here’s what you should take from this: if you have proof of violations of campaign finance law, don’t turn it in to Ethics, go public with it. And if you can’t risk being found out as the source of information, don’t tell a reporter when you see violations of the law.
Anyone else see a problem here?
Having said that, I’m going to take a risk and publicly ask – how is it that Carol Williams, Executive Director for Kansas Ethics, could acknowledge that an investigation of a private citizen was under way when acknowledging such a thing violated the law according to what she was saying the private citizen did wrong? Will we now see the Ethics Commission fine her?
Carol Williams, executive director of the ethics commission, said the board privately reviews all complaints. These preliminary assessments of evidence aren’t open to the public, she said. Neither the complainant nor the target of an allegation is permitted to comment publicly about the contents of a complaint, she said.If evidence points to a significant problem, Williams said, the commission could convene disciplinary hearings. Those are open to the public. Williams said Van Meteren might have committed a crime by speaking with The Topeka Capital-Journal about his case. A commission investigator in Topeka is looking into a possible counter complaint against Van Meteren.
As you can see above, unless the reporter made it up, Carol Williams said Kris Van Meteren was being investigated but didn’t yet know if they had probable cause to prove he violated the statute, which means she wasn’t allowed to comment! I can’t be the only person in Kansas who sees the inconsistently here, can I?
I believe it’s KSA 46-256 that they claim Van Meteren violated, but that’s also where I read that Williams can’t comment on the allegations against Van Meteren until after a hearing has been set, which I don’t believe was the case back in October.
I wonder, will anyone investigate if she broke the law? Will the legislature look into the secret goings on inside Ethics or are they more concerned with who writes $50 checks to organizations that make their actions public?