End Citizens United joins Democrats in denouncing the way dark money haunts elections
TOPEKA — Chris Mann, Democratic attorney general candidate, said he would work to end the use of dark money in elections if elected, saying many Kansan elections were clouded by funding from unknown sources.
Dark money refers to money where the donor or source of the funding is unknown, and is used to influence political spheres. Mann’s campaign has said his opponent, Kris Kobach, has “deep ties to special interest dark money groups and sided with them against the interest of Kansas families,” in a campaign news release.
Kobach also has outlined his own plans for the office, saying he would fight drug trafficking, fentanyl distribution and retail crime.
“By coordinating with law enforcement across county and state lines, we can trace the thefts to the top of the criminal enterprise and slow or even stop the criminal activity from the top down,” Kobach said in a news release.
Mann was joined by Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes and Rep. Jerry Stogsdill for a discussion of dark money during a Friday campaign stop in Topeka.
Stogsdill said the current Republican strategy was to accept dark money funding and let it do all the campaign work for them.
“They have been told: ‘Lay low. Don’t go to forums, don’t do interviews, don’t do anything that puts you in the public eye. Don’t worry about it. We will flood your districts the last two weeks with dark money-bought flyers. And it seems to have worked for them in the past, but I think people are getting on to this now,” Stogsdill said.
Mann, a Lawrence attorney and former law enforcement officer, said he would make anti-corruption laws a priority, working to limit the special interests groups who use money to influence politics. Mann said he would also protect Kansas democracy by supporting open records laws and laws that would increase legislative transparency.
Mann is supported by Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, an organization with the goal of protecting democracy and promoting voting rights nationally. Muller was Kansas’ first openly LGBTQ public official, serving on the Topeka City Council in 2004, and fought to expand anti-discrimination legislation in the state.
Muller co-hosted the meeting in support of Mann. In a recording of the Kansas Reflector podcast, she said Kobach and GOP candidate for governor Derek Schmidt pose a fundamental threat to Kansas democracy.
Muller said she has known Schmidt and Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for years. She said Schmidt changes his views based on what will get him the most votes.
“He’s really kind of just a political shell, whose opinion on any given issue depends on which way the wind is blowing at that particular point in time,” Muller said.
Muller referenced the fight in the Legislature to advance a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, which voters passed in 2005. Muller, who was the lead lobbyist against the amendment, said Schmidt, a freshly elected senator at the time, told her his vote was politically calculated.
“He ended up telling me in a private meeting, which I am going to now make un-private and tell everyone, that he was with us, that he would vote against that marriage amendment if it was just him, but he wanted to be attorney general and governor someday,” Muller said.
C.J. Grover, a spokesman for the Schmidt campaign, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment for this story.
Muller said she supported candidates like Mann and Kelly as part of her organization’s goal to get rid of dark money in politics. Muller said America is currently threatened in a way she’s never seen before, with unlimited and undisclosed money pouring into politics.
“It’s drowned out the voices of everyday Americans,” Muller said. “You have all these big special interests, whether it’s big pharma, or big oil and gas, dumping in hundreds of millions of dollars every single election cycle to not only buy the outcome of elections, but also then buy the outcome of policy debates. And it has stopped progress on so much of what we need as a country to make progress on.”
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