TOPEKA — Kansas ethics officials on Wednesday ordered Senate President Susan Wagle’s campaign to pay a $100 fine after one of her employees distributed Wagle’s endorsement of Republican Kris Kobach using an official government email account and a government computer.
Wagle spokeswoman Shannon Golden in a legal document acknowledged that she had sent the endorsement of Kobach for governor in July while on the clock as a state employee but said Wagle, R-Wichita, had no knowledge that Golden was going to send the endorsement using a state computer.
The state ethics commission imposed a fine of $1,000 but waived $900 on the condition that Wagle’s campaign pay the remaining $100 and that Wagle arrange for her staff to receive ethics training. The decision came during a commission meeting to consider a complaint about the endorsement filed against Golden.
The ethics commission voted unanimously to impose the fine after a closed-door session that lasted about 10 minutes.
Golden, who began working for Wagle in January, said she didn’t know that sending the endorsement on a government computer would constitute an ethics violation. But she said as soon as concerns were raised, Wagle’s office self-reported the situation to ethics officials.
“We’ve done everything in our power to remain completely transparent in this process,” Golden said, adding that since sending the endorsement she’s checked with ethics officials before posting on social media to make sure she’s complying with ethics rules.
Golden told the commission she will do “all that I can to ensure this never occurs again.”
Wagle’s endorsement of Kobach, the secretary of state, came from her office’s press email account, and was on her Senate letterhead, which says “Office of the Senate President.”
Kansas law prohibits state officers or employees from using public funds, time, equipment or supplies to “expressly advocate” the nomination or election of a candidate.
The endorsement, which came before the August primary election, called Kobach the “strongest conservative” in the Republican race for governor. Kobach defeated Gov. Jeff Colyer in the election to win the Republican nomination for governor.
“I am proud to endorse Kris Kobach and I ask my fellow Republicans to stand with the candidate who best reflects Kansas values,” Wagle said in the endorsement.