KCTV5 Investigates: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's spending
Posted by Chris Oberholtz, Multimedia Producer - email
By Kelly Just, Special Projects Executive Producer - email
By Stacey Cameron, Investigative Reporter - bio | email
TOPEKA, KS (KCTV) -
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is known for slashing budgets, but a KCTV5 investigation into his expenditures uncovered about $250,000 in questionable discretionary spending paid for by taxpayers.
In his 2012 State of the State address, Brownback explained how the spending cuts he made during his first days in office had paved the way for a surplus of more than $450 million.
"I immediately instituted a policy of prioritizing expenditures," Brownback said.
But apparently "prioritizing expenditures" does not include cutting out the perks that come with being the governor of Kansas.
KCTV5 made that discovery through a Kansas Open Records Act request for documents for the most recent fiscal year, July 2011 through June 2012.
The first benefit of being governor that stood out from those records was Brownback's membership in the National Governors Association. The yearly dues of more than $83,000 were paid for with public money. Then Brownback spent an additional $375 of taxpayer dollars to attend the pricey group's winter association meeting in Washington.
Travel is a recurring theme in the documents obtained from the state, including some foreign destinations.
In July of 2012, taxpayers covered the $800 cost for Brownback to fly to Germany to attend an air show.
The previous fall, in October 2011, Brownback and other state officials spent $7,000 on plane tickets to Russia and Kazakhstan.
With long flights ahead of him, records show the governor spending another $200 in taxpayer dollars to upgrade his seats from economy to economy plus.
Obviously, any travel outside the United States requires a passport. Included in the records are receipts showing public funds were used to have Brownback's picture taken and his passport processing expedited.
Plenty of air travel happened inside the state of Kansas. The state actually owns a plane. While it was out of service last year, the governor chartered a different aircraft so he could be flown from Topeka to in-state locations like Wichita, Manhattan, and Kansas City.
Those trips, which could have been taken by car, cost taxpayers more than $11,000. Add to that, the $40 an hour charge for the pilot to sit by and do nothing while the governor spent the night in these towns, less than a three-hour drive from the capitol.
Those pilot fees alone cost Kansas taxpayers $1300.
Like man Kansans, Brownback is a big University of Kansas basketball fan. So much so that he chartered an airplane to carry him first to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games in St. Louis, then on to the Final Four in New Orleans to watch the Jayhawks play in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
The taxpayer tab for Brownback to show his team spirit totaled another $2,000.
Entertaining at the Mansion:
When he wasn't outside the state, the governor used taxpayer money to host a number of celebrations at the Governor's Mansion, Cedar Crest.
KCTV5 located catering bills for things like holiday gatherings, going-away parties for Brownback staffers, a wine tasting and several dinners with politicians.
Again, tax payers picked up a tab of more than $6,000 for menus that included jumbo shrimp cocktail and beef Wellington.
If it seems like the numbers in this investigation are being presented to nickel-and-dime Brownback's spending, be aware that KCTV5 requested additional documentation for the big-ticket items posted on the state's own website www.kansas.gov/KanView.
Why weren't those additional records provided to KCTV5?
The state says the receipts don't exist.
Based on the KanView website, we can tell you those purchases included another nearly $46,000 in out-of-state travel, another $53,000 on charter flights, nearly $6,000 spent on rental cars for staff and office workers to drive in Topeka.
Plus, $35,000 was spent on office furniture, guest speakers and household supplies for the Governor's Mansion.
That creates a grand total of $250,000 in spending on your dime that Brownback won't explain.
KCTV5 did eventually get a statement from the governor's office, touting Brownback's efforts to slash expenses by cutting staff and general spending.
The governor's office did operate on $7 million fewer dollars last year. But there was never an explanation for the discretionary spending
However, governor spending is not only an issue in Kansas.
In September, a state audit ripped into Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's office for spending more than $1 million in tax dollars on travel-related expenses.
One line in the report revealed $2,000 spent for hotel rooms in the capitol of Jefferson City.
Click here to read more on the findings in the audit of Nixon.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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