Schwab refers No Labels nomination fiasco to Kansas attorney general for criminal inquiry

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Allegedly rogue No Labels chairman may have broken state election law

TOPEKA — Secretary of State Scott Schwab forwarded evidence to the state attorney general asserting a prominent Kansas campaign consultant may have falsely impersonated a political party officer while attempting to take control of the No Labels Kansas party by filing not-for-profit corporation documents.

The unusual sequence of events shared by Schwab on Monday with Attorney General Kris Kobach involved attempts by Kris Van Meteren, owner of the Singularis Group marketing firm and spouse to a Republican Senate candidate, to single-handedly seize operational authority of the state-recognized No Labels Kansas party. It was formed as an unincorporated association and wasn’t required to file business reports typical of a company.

Kris Van Meteren, who frequently works with GOP candidates, sought last week to place himself in charge of the third-party apparatus. He claimed No Labels Kansas, at his direction, nominated two candidates. One of those was his wife, Republican Echo Van Meteren, who could end up being a general election opponent of Democratic Sen. Jeff Pittman of Leavenworth. The other nominee by Kris Van Meteren was Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco of Lawrence.

His strategy was to engage in cross-party nominations and help Republican candidates by undermining the reelection campaigns of Pittman and Francisco. Neither Pittman nor Francisco, who are seeking Democratic Party nominations in the August primary, welcomed being linked to No Labels. They raised the possibility Kris Van Meteren engaged in unethical or illegal conduct with the extraordinary candidate filings.

Pittman sent a letter to the attorney general asking whether Kris Van Meteren complied with the Kansas Constitution, election laws and party bylaws.

“While there have been some opinions offered, someone in your official role could help with providing transparency and clarification for the voters in my district,” Pittman said. “This in turn helps ensure public trust in the accountability of the electoral process.”

In Schwab’s view of the push-and-pull drama regarding control of No Labels, Kris Van Meteren may have violated state law. He pointed to KSA 25-2424, a misdemeanor criminal statute on false impersonation of a party officer.

The No Labels Kansas party was affirmed by the secretary of state’s office in January based on petition signatures, but the party chose not to proceed to nomination of candidates in Kansas during this election cycle.

Kris Van Meteren attempted to take over that nomination role by forming at 4:51 a.m. June 3 a not-for-profit corporation called No Labels Kansas Inc. Hours later, Kris Van Meteren, conducting himself as chairman of the party, submitted documents nominating Francisco and Pittman.

Kris Van Meteren asserted leaders of No Labels Kansas didn’t complete paperwork required by the state after submitting sufficient petition signatures to gain political party status in Kansas. So, he said, he filed incorporation documents with the secretary of state’s office that he believed put him in charge of the party.

“I issued a call to convention, called that convention Monday morning, elected myself as chairman, and nominated two candidates for the Kansas Senate: Marci Francisco and Echo,” Kris Van Meteren said. “Following Kansas law, I then drove to Topeka, certificates of nomination in hand, and filed those nominations with the Kansas secretary of state.”

On June 5, the No Labels national political organization contacted Schwab’s office and alleged the pair of Senate nominations were fraudulent.

Schwab responded by declaring Kris Van Meteren wasn’t the authentic party chairman and had no formal connection to No Labels Kansas. The secretary of state invalidated the third-party nominations of Pittman and Francisco proposed by Kris Van Meteren.

Kris Van Meteren decided June 6 to form a second corporation, which was called No Labels Kansas Party Inc. This, too, was ruled out of order by Schwab.

“The proper method of challenging the secretary’s nomination rejection is to file a written objection requesting review by the State Objections Board,” according to the Schwab memorandum summarizing the flurry of No Labels intrigue.

That state board responsible for sorting out complaints about ballot candidates is comprised of Schwab, Kobach and Gov. Laura Kelly, or their designated representatives.

In a statement, Kris Van Meteren accused Schwab of engaging in “real election interference” by derailing his bid for control of No Labels and his attempt to influence outcome of the Senate campaigns.

“It’s coming from the creatures of the fever swamp and the secretary of state himself, who has simply set aside Kansas law because he and those who apparently steer him by certain sensitive body parts don’t like the political implications of my filings,” Kris Van Meteren said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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