Political mailers claimed by party, paid for by candidates

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It's a murky area of the state's campaign finance law, but it's apparently OK for the Kansas Republican Party to lay claim to a series of campaign mailers going into mailboxes in recent days.

That's because they're the entity actually writing out the checks to the Singularis Group, the Shawnee Mission company actually hired to do the printing.

But the mailers from area candidates Travis Couture-Lovelady, Sue Boldra and Ralph Ostmeyer all are being requested, approved and paid for by the candidates using money they raised from supporters.

In effect, the Republican Party is little more than an intermediary, funneling $445,259 to Singularis in October alone.

Ironically, the state's Democrats aren't as forthcoming in their campaign report, listing money received from candidates simply as contributions.

They did, however, split printing services among several firms, most of it farmed out to two Louisiana companies, Ourso Beychok Inc., Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge Printing, Port Allen, and a Lake Lotawana, Mo., company. None of the printing services were provided to Democratic candidates from northwest Kansas.

For Couture-Lovelady, a Palco Republican seeking to represent the 110th House District, it was the Republican Party's expertise and bulk mailing permit.

"They get the bulk mail rate, that's why they get so many of them," he said of candidates using the party. "I think it's 10 cents on postage rather than the normal rate."

With approximately 4,100 copies of two mailings being sent out just in his campaign, that's a significant savings. The normal rate would be 45 cents apiece.

But it's confusing enough Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, was curious herself after receiving a raft of the mailing at her residence.

So she asked state GOP treasurer T.C. Anderson why they're taking credit for the mailings.

The response was simple enough, she said. They're paying the bill, and then turning around and billing the candidates for their share of the package.

That fits with the state law on campaign finance, she said.

"Who paid Singularis to do it?" she said of the question being asked. "It was the party."

Couture-Lovelady, however, said he had to pay the cost of two mail pieces in advance.

Those "two positive mail pieces," he said, cost $6,000.

He listed two $3,000 expenditures on his campaign finance report as newsletter mailers. The Republican Party listed it as payment for printing services.

Similar situations exist for both Boldra and Ostmeyer, although terminology differed for both of them.

Boldra paid $6,200 to the Republican account for "mailings," and Ostmeyer paid $2,800 for "campaign services."

Couture-Lovelady said he approved the mailing, something that's allowed because of the direct connection with the Republican Party.

But it muddies the question of who is sending out the information, and Couture-Lovelady said he's already had questions about that from prospective voters.

"I wish there was some way I could put my name on it," he said.