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Closed Kansas dog tracks' owner funding new PAC

8/2/2012

By JOHN HANNA

By JOHN HANNA

Associated Press

TOPEKA -- The owner of two closed Kansas dog racing tracks is funding a new political action committee that is helping moderate Republican state Senate candidates, campaign finance records showed Wednesday.

A report the new Kansas Wins PAC filed with the secretary of state's office disclosed that it received all of its funds so far -- more than $144,000 -- from Phil Ruffin, the owner of Wichita Greyhound Park and Camptown Greyhound Park outside Pittsburg in southeast Kansas. The PAC spent more than $122,000, most of it on mailings and radio ads for moderates facing conservative opponents in GOP Senate primaries Tuesday.

All of the activity occurred within the past week, the PAC's report showed. Kansas Win's efforts supported GOP moderates in seven contested Senate primaries, including Sen. Pete Brungardt, of Salina, chairman of the Senate committee that normally handles gambling legislation.

Some backers of legalized gambling, including Ruffin, want legislators to rewrite a 2007 law allowing slot machines at his dog tracks and The Woodlands dog and horse racing complex in Kansas City, Kan., arguing it's not generous enough toward their owners to make slots economically viable. Conservative Republicans have successfully blocked such efforts, and none of the three parks has slots or is open.

Ruffin and Dan McLaughlin, chairman and treasurer for Kansas Wins, did not return telephone messages Wednesday seeking comment.

But Ruffin's interest in GOP primary races comes as conservatives seek to oust moderate incumbents and gain control of the Senate, which has acted as a check on conservative Gov. Sam Brownback's agenda. Republican moderates have in turn forged a financial alliance with labor unions and other groups in hopes of retaining power.

Others in the gambling industry already have jumped in on the GOP moderates' side. The three companies operating state-owned casinos in Dodge City, Kansas City and south of Wichita contributed $70,000 this year to the Senate Republican Leadership Committee, a PAC led by Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Hugoton Republican.

Of that, $50,000 came from the company operating the Kansas Star Casino south of Wichita.

"Our goal is to protect gaming jobs and continued economic growth in south central Kansas," Scott Cooper, the casino's general manager, said in a statement. "We support candidates who support a stable business climate."

Kansas Wins reported spending more than $53,000 on mailings for five GOP Senate candidates. They are incumbent Sens. Tim Owens, of Overland Park; Jean Schodorf, of Wichita; Ruth Teichman, of Stafford, and Dwayne Umbarger, of Thayer, and challenger Miranda Allen, of Kiowa, who's trying to unseat conservative GOP Sen. Steve Abrams, of Arkansas City.

The PAC disclosed spending $60,000 on radio ads for Allen, Brungardt, Teichman, Umbarger, and Rep. John Grange, an El Dorado Republican running for an open Senate seat.

Kansas Wins also reported spending almost $6,400 on mailings for Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, who also has contested primary.

State law allows PACs to produce such mailings and advertising -- in addition to donating $1,000 directly to each Senate hopeful's campaign -- as long as the activities are not coordinated with the candidate.

Ruffin and other advocates of slots at the tracks have wanted to increase the share of slots revenues set aside for track owners, now capped at 40 percent. Also, Sedgwick County residents narrowly rejected slots at Wichita Greyhound Park in 2007, and Ruffin and some local officials are pushing legislators to allow another vote.

The Wichita park closed after the local vote in 2007, and the Woodlands shut down the following year. Camptown has been closed since 2000.

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Online:

Kansas campaign finance reports: http://1.usa.gov/N0pPst

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