Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State speech to an annual joint session of the House and Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.
Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP

From bad to worse for Kansas’ Brownback

The good news for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is that voters were willing to overlook his first-term failures and re-elect him to a second term. The bad news is, well, it’s hard to know where to start.
As 2014 came to a close, the Republican Kansan was facing a horrible mess of his own making. Due to a radical economic “experiment” Brownback imposed on his constituents, Kansas was confronted with debt downgrades, weak growth, and state finances in shambles.
Last week, the Kansas City Star’s Yael Abouhalkah noted that Brownback’s troubles were actually intensifying.  On the same day as reports on weak statewide job growth and a deepening budget shortfall, a judicial panel ruled that Kansas has been “inadequately funding K-12 education” – and a fix would cost hundreds of millions of dollars that Brownback doesn’t have.
At least things can’t get much worse, right? Well, actually they can.
Federal grand jurors are scheduled to hear testimony next week about loans made to the re-election campaign of Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a subpoena of a state ethics official shows.
The subpoena, issued last month and obtained by The New York Times through an open records request, asks Carol E. Williams, the executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, to testify and provide documents regarding loans made in 2013 and 2014 to Mr. Brownback’s campaign….. A spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday that the campaign did nothing wrong.
The exact nature of the controversy still seems a little murky, but an AP report noted that the investigation is focused on a small number of loans from Brownback himself and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. During their re-election bid, Colyer made three such loans to the campaign, including one of $500,000.
The AP report added, “The loans, the first of which was made in December 2013, raised eyebrows on the campaign trail because loans in such large amounts are rare in Kansas political races and because the loans were repaid within days, a highly unusual move.”
If this sounds vaguely familiar, this isn’t the first time investigators have taken an interest in Team Brownback. This report ran in April 2014:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is exploring whether confidantes of Gov. Sam Brownback operated influence-peddling operations in Kansas pivoting on personal access to the Republican governor and top administration officials.
The Topeka Capital-Journal learned the months-long inquiry involves Parallel Strategies, a rapidly expanding Topeka consulting and lobbying firm created in 2013 by a trio of veteran Brownback employees who left government service to work in an environment where coziness with former colleagues could pay dividends.
Today’s New York Times report noted, “Associates of Mr. Brownback are known to have been under F.B.I. investigation for their fund-raising and lobbying. It was not clear whether that investigation was related to the current grand jury.”
In case you’re wondering, there is a legal recall mechanism in place in Kansas, which can be applied to the state’s governor.