Topeka Paper Breaks Ethics Story

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A state ethics commission is investigating allegations that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ re-election campaign illegally solicited contributions from lobbyists.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic governor confirmed Friday that the Governmental Ethics Commission staff had discussed an e-mail with Sebelius’ campaign committee. The commission is expected to take up the matter when it meets next Thursday, spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.

Under Kansas law, it is illegal for a legislator or state official to solicit contributions from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session.

The email was “an update on schools” that was sent while legislators were still debating funding issues, Corcoran said.

“Despite their best efforts, this list may have inadvertently included the e-mail addresses of ineligible individuals,” she told The Associated Press Friday.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday that the email included a link to the governor’s campaign Web site, where contributions could be made. The newspaper, which first reported the ethics investigation in the campaign, said three lobbyists gave it a copy of the email.

The ethics commission has a long-standing policy of not discussing inquiries, and executive director Carol Williams would not confirm an investigation into Sebelius’ campaign.

The allegations come as national Democrats are making ethics a major campaign issue in the wake of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal in Washington.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, is now 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.

“Gov. Sebelius believes in strong campaign finance laws and greatly respects the job the ethics commission does,” Corcoran said. “The Sebelius committee makes every effort to comply with campaign finance rules. If this is found not to comply with those rules, we would apologize for the error and be certain it is corrected in the future.”

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