Poster Child for Campaign Reform
New insights into the '96 Brownback senatorial campaign:
- In June '96, a memo from Republican consultant Carlos Rodriguez reached Carolyn Malenick of Triad Management Services: "...we must do everything in our power to ensure a Brownback victory in the primary" against the moderate Republican Sheila Frahm.
- Triad immediately began working closely with the Brownback campaign to defeat Frahm, as a message to Republicans not to ignore the ultraconservative wing that had effectively taken control of the party.
- A Triad worker, Meredith O'Rourke, described in a 174-page deposition to Senator Fred Thompson's committee (with Sam, also on the committee, listening, probably uncomfortably) how Brownback gave Triad his list of donors so Triad could approach them too. Could the understanding have been that Triad could hit them up for more, then funnel the money to Brownback's campaign, evading the disclosure requirements? If it was, it was illegal. If that wasn't the intention, then what the heck was? With this witness, the committee was dancing perilously close to the truth.
- O'Rourke also described helping Brownback conduct phone solicitation of potential donors -- at no charge. (It is illegal for a private company, which Triad is, to provide "in-kind services" to political candidates.) Triad's lawyer claims the worker was operating on her own, not representing Triad -- but apparently O'Rourke herself didn't make that claim.
- In the deposition is an interesting exchange: the questioner asked O'Rourke if she knew Brownback's in-laws, John and Ruth Stauffer. She said yes, then her lawyer objected and advised her to refuse to answer "any questions along this line."
- O'Rourke's was the only deposition from Triad personnel. All others refused when the Senate committee asked for their help.
- After hearing O'Rourke, the committee didn't insist. Thompson suddenly closed down the hearings in November '97. As we shall see, the resulting lack of testimony later was to enable the Republican-dominated committee to let Brownback off the hook.
Sources: the Kansas City Star, "Brownback documents show flexibility of campaign laws / Consulting firm backed candidate in primary of '96 Senate race," James Kuhnhenn, 12/05/97; "Group calls for investigation of Brownback's campaign / Democrats want Senate to examine funding by consultants," James Kuhnhenn, 12/13/97
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