Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was fined $1,500 by the state ethics commission Thursday for illegally soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists.
The case involved an April 12 e-mail that Sebelius’ re-election campaign sent to 92,000 supporters. Among those supporters, 39 appeared to be lobbyists, and 16 registered lobbyists actually received the e-mail, according to testimony before the commission.
State law prohibits legislators, statewide officials, and candidates for those offices from seeking contributions from lobbyists, corporations and political action committees while the legislature remains in session.
Sebelius’ staff had described the e-mail as an update on education, but at the bottom was a link to the governor’s campaign Web site, where people can make a contribution. The link itself said: “Make a contribution.”
The Governmental Ethics Commission concluded that the Sebelius campaign e-mail was a solicitation.
Sebelius’ campaign paid the fine immediately.
Campaign attorney Gary White and Deputy Director Joe Scranton had no comment. The governor, a Democrat in her first term, could have faced a fine up to $5,000.
Democrats nationally have been making ethics a major campaign issue in the wake of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal in Washington.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, was fined $4,000 last year after pleading no contest in an ethics scandal involving his failure to report free golf outings and other gifts.
Sebelius herself served on Kansas’ state ethics commission during the 1970s.
Ethics commissioner John Solbach said Thursday he doesn’t believe the Sebelius campaign meant to violate the law. However, he said, if that were the standard for determining whether to fine someone, there would be no point in having the restrictions.
Solbach also noted that, according to testimony, the campaign hired a Tampa, Fla., company to weed out lobbyists’ names from its e-mail list.
“Obviously, it was a solicitation, or that effort would not have been made,” Solbach said.