Kansas Senate panel OKs campaign finance changes

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas Senate committee recommended a bill Thursday that would allow certain political party committees to solicit and raise campaign contributions from lobbyists, individuals and organizations during the legislative session.

The changes by the Senate Ethics and Election Committee apply to committees established by the state Republican and Democratic parties for House and Senate campaigns. The funds raised are used to support the campaigns of candidates for the Legislature, such as direct contributions or paying for activities like polling or political advertising.

Kansas law has prohibited lobbyists and political action committees from contributing to those committees during the 90-day legislative session. Political action committees, such as those formed by business, labor or education groups, could collect and solicit donations. The prohibitions were among a number of changes to campaign finance laws made in in the early 1990s.

Candidates would still be prohibited from soliciting and accepting funds for their own campaigns during the legislative session.

The measure was sent to the full Senate for debate after little discussion by the committee.

Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said there hasn’t ever been a complaint filed over the existing law and that she didn’t anticipate the changes would lead to more influence on the legislative process.

“That was the perception that lobbyists had additional influence,” Williams said.

The committee also worked on a bill regarding lobbying done on behalf of any unit of government, requiring lobbyists that are hired through public funds, state or local, report their activities to the Governmental Ethics Commission. The intent is to track the flow of taxpayer money that is spent on lobbying for or against legislation. The committee heavily amended the bill and will likely endorse the product next week.

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