Strong PAC spending proves Legislature can be bought.

Apparently, the cost of winning an election in Kansas is suffering from a bad case of inflation.

With an outspoken desire to rid Topeka of legislators who didn't march in lockstep with Gov. Sam Brownback's aggressive economic and social experiment for Kansas, outside groups answered the governor's call with buckets of cash. That, in turn, brought out additional money from groups who sought to keep moderates in office.

The result was that the 2012 primary election resembled something more like a shopping spree than a free election.

A Kansas Governmental Ethics report found that political action committee spending on Kansas elections increased exponentially this year from 2008. Since the beginning of 2012, PAC spending in Kansas reached $2,135,220. Last minute spending by PACS, which came after the official reporting deadline, surged to $798,000 a nearly six-fold increase over the $134,162 spent during the same period in 2008.

The leader in PAC spending was the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, with $675,709 spent since Jan. 1. In addition to PAC money, candidates for the House and Senate collectively raised $3.9 million during the campaign season.

While that is a staggering amount of money for groups to spend on what should be public service, it doesn't include the untold and unknowable amount of money spent by non-profit issue groups such as Americans For Prosperity.

Such groups aren't required to report their involvement in political races and insist they use their money to inform voters about issues rather than to alter elections. Yet such groups frequently point out which candidates align with their policy positions and encourage voters to "thank" or support them.

Kansans should be concerned that special interest groups hold such interest in who wins a part-time legislative job in Topeka. The message from PACs and non-profit groups is that with enough money the Legislature can be purchased and remit payment in the way of favorable legislation. ...

In the future, legitimate political candidates likely will find it difficult to stand against the blitzkrieg of even a weak opponent who has the backing of a well-financed non-profit group or PAC willing to spend countless dollars on its financiers' behalf.

-- The Hutchinson News