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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Ethics panel fines Kansas governor $1,500 for soliciting cash from lobbyists


TOPEKA, Kan. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was fined $1,500 by the state ethics commission today for illegally soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists.

The case involved an April 12 e-mail that Sebelius re-election campaign sent to 92,000 supporters. Among those supporters, 39 appeared to be lobbyists, and 16 registered lobbyists actually received the e-mail, according to testimony before the commission.

State law prohibits legislators, statewide officials, and candidates for those offices from seeking contributions from lobbyists, corporations and political action committees while the legislature remains in session.

Sebelius staff had described the e-mail as an update on education, but at the bottom was a link to the governor s campaign Web site, where people can make a contribution. The link itself said: Make a contribution.

The Governmental Ethics Commission concluded that the Sebelius campaign e-mail was a solicitation.

Sebelius campaign paid the fine immediately.

Campaign attorney Gary White and Deputy Director Joe Scranton had no comment.

The governor, a Democrat in her first term, could have faced a fine up to $5,000.

Democrats nationally have been making ethics a major campaign issue in the wake of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal in Washington.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, has been considered vulnerable in his re-election bid because of an ethics scandal involving his failure to report free golf outings and other gifts. Taft pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor ethics reporting violations last year and was fined $4,000.

Sebelius herself served on Kansas state ethics commission during the 1970s.

Ethics commissioner John Solbach said today he doesn t believe the Sebelius campaign meant to violate the law. However, he said, if that were the standard for determining whether to fine someone, there would be no point in having the restrictions.

Solbach also noted that, according to testimony, the campaign hired a Tampa, Fla., company to weed out lobbyists names from its e-mail list.

Obviously, it was a solicitation, or that effort would not have been made, Solbach said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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