Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reporter's Notebook: Checking campaign contributions in 4 easy steps

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2009 at 10:13 AM

click to enlarge unclaimed.jpg

I started working on this week's cover story, "The Cure from Kansas," after discovering how much Big Healthcare money was pouring into the campaign fund of Kansas Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who heads the House Health and Human Services Committee. Landwehr's committee had proposed a particularly inhumane piece of legislation that made me wonder WTF they were thinking. Landwehr's campaign contributions told me everything I needed to know.

What I found out was disturbing enough that I decided to start checking into everyone else's.

The state of Kansas makes this super easy. In just four easy steps, you, too, can amaze dinner-party companions with gossip about exactly how much money your state senator or representative is taking from sleazy groups, powerful businesses, vaguely named political action committees and brave freedom fighters.

1. Go to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission's Campaign Finance Data search page here.

2. In the "Quick Statistics" box, click on the arrow to select "Itemized Contributions." This'll give you a list of everybody who has donated to your politician, when they donated, and how much they gave.

3. In the "pertaining to" box, click on the arrow to indicate whether you want information for the House of Representatives, the Senate, statewide races or the Board of Education.

4. Hit "Continue," type in the name of your politician ... and proceed to be shocked.

For anyone who sees all those contributions from R.J. Reynolds and is naive enough to be surprised at how much tobacco money's coming into Kansas, remember that Altria, which sounds nothing like a cigarette maker, is the parent company of Philip Morris. Altria loves Kansas senators and reps. And, yeah, health policy advocates who hoped for a statewide smoking ban know why legislators basically laughed it off the table.

Don't know who represents your district? Look 'em up here.

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