By Andy Marso
The Topeka Capital-Journal
August 13, 2014

Governor hits back at Kansas Values Institute, says education spending has increased every year under his watch

Gov. Sam Brownback’s campaign hit back Wednesday after a “dark money” third-party group released ads attacking his record on public education and the economy.

The television ads were released by the Kansas Values Institute, a 501(c)(4) “issues” group that is not legally required to disclose its donors.

John Milburn, spokesman for the Brownback campaign, said the institute’s ads were meant to mislead the public and blamed the governor’s Democratic opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

“The entire Davis campaign is ultimately based on two bold-faced and easily disproven lies,” Milburn said. “The latest ad is proof that his liberal allies in the media and special interest groups will stop at nothing to deceive Kansas voters on these two key issues.”

Milburn later sent a fundraising email based on the ads.

The Kansas Values Institute is a third-party group legally banned from coordinating with the Davis campaign.

Ryan Wright, the institute’s executive director, said other groups are spending big on pro-Brownback ads and his group is giving voters different information.

“The reality is the Brownback folks are saying a lot of things,” Wright said. “What they’re not talking about is his record. That’s what we’re trying to educate Kansans about.”

Both sides are telling different stories about the governor’s record.

Wright’s group says Brownback “made the largest cut to Kansas schools in history” and relying on the base state aid per pupil figure to make its case.

Brownback’s campaign prefers to point to a total education spending figure that includes items other than base state aid, like payments to the teacher pension system and aid for capital improvements. That figure has gone up.

On the economy, Wright’s group points to a July New York Times editorial that states Kansas was one of just five states to lose jobs over the previous six months.

The Brownback camp discards that figure because it includes both private sector and government jobs and “The size and scope of government are not true indicators of a state’s prosperity or its economic strength.”

The governor and his opponents are grappling over narrative as he and Davis are locked in an unexpectedly close battle, with polls showing each ahead of the other.

The closeness of the race means that outside groups are likely to flood the airways between now and November with ads attackign both candidates. Some will be required to disclose their donors. Others, like Kansas Values Institute and American for Prosperity will not, because their primary purpose is ostensibly issue education and not electioneering.

Disclosures from the Kansas National Education Association’s political action committee, which is required to report donors and expenses, showed the teachers’ union gave $120,000 to the Kansas Values Institute this year.

When asked if his organization would voluntarily release a full list of its donors this cycle, Wright declined to answer “yes” or “no.”

“We’ve made all of what we need to make public, public,” Wright said.

Read the article here.