No charges after federal probe into Kansas election loans

AP News
Posted: Jun 17, 2015 6:31 PM
No charges after federal probe into Kansas election loans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have completed their investigation into loans made to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's re-election campaign by his lieutenant governor and plan to bring no criminal charges, the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday.

Jim Cross, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, said in an email statement that no federal charges are expected in the case that involved the loans from Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Minutes earlier, Brownback and Colyer released a joint statement saying they had been informed of the decision.

"As we have stated many times, our campaign finances were conducted in full compliance with applicable law and ethics regulations," according to the statement by the Republican running mates. "We will have no further statements regarding this concluded matter."

The Associated Press was first to report about the federal investigation in January, after obtaining through an open records request a copy of a grand jury subpoena sent to the executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Brownback's office issued a statement at that time saying the investigation "has no merit," and that any loans were completed in compliance with Kansas law and ethics regulations.

The three loans totaling $1.5 million raised eyebrows not only because their size is unusual in Kansas politics, but because the first two were repaid within days. Democrats speculated they might have been timed to inflate campaign finance reports. They came as the Republican governor in a deeply conservative state faced the real prospect of losing to the well-financed Democratic challenger, Paul Davis.

Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, questioned the decision not to issue any indictments.

"Up until now, they were denying that an investigation was even going on," Hensley said of Brownback and Colyer. "They were denying that there was even an investigation, but as to why the U.S. attorney's office chose not to issue any indictments remains to be a mystery."

Democratic Rep. Jim Ward, of Wichita, said legislators need to rewrite campaign finance laws to prevent short-term "scam loans."

"It deceives the public, and we should stop it," Ward said.

During the gubernatorial race, Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr derided the loans as the "Colyer Hokey Pokey." A spokesman for Davis, who narrowly lost the race to Brownback, said before the election that voters "deserve to know where this money came from."

The Republican running mates have repeatedly refused to disclose the source of those funds, and the government's decision not to file federal charges means the public will likely never learn what the grand jury discovered.

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Colyer, a reconstructive plastic surgeon, told the AP in August that the first two short-term loans he made to Brownback's re-election campaign are examples of the good stewardship Kansas residents expect from government officials.

"It was just simple cash management," Colyer said at the time. "It's good money management, that's all. That's what you'd expect for me to do with the state's money, too, is to manage it well. We manage our campaign well, that's it."

Brownback is term limited, and Colyer has been mentioned frequently as a possible Republican candidate for Kansas governor in 2018. He has also been a key adviser to Brownback on health care issues, particularly the administration's decision in 2012 to turn over the state's $3 billion-a-year Medicaid program to private companies.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said the decision not to issue any charges in the case "blows away a cloud that was hanging there.

"The wheels of justice turn slowly, and I know that helps feed the rumor mill, but we weren't surprised by the outcome," Barker said.


This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Clay Barker's first name.