February 27, 2024

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Ethics complaint: Sedgwick County Dems improperly report donations and spending

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An ethics complaint filed against the Sedgwick County Democratic Central Committee (SCDCC) alledges the party is inappropriately hiding the sources of contributions and also how it is spending money. The Sentinel has obtained a copy of the complaint filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Committee.

The complaint was filed by Ben Sauceda. He is the Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Republican Party but stressed that his filing the complaint is an individual decision. He told the Sentinel in a phone interview that he discovered the lack of SCDCC transparency when doing research comparing the money raised by the respective party committees.

At the heart of the complaint is that all of the contributions to the SCDCC were from unknown donors totaling $21,657 for 2019.

“All of that was either contributions under 50 dollars or unknown contributor. So basically they list nobody as a donor to the party,” said Sauceda.

Unknown donors are not uncommon to campaigns, such as small cash contributions at community events, but Sauceda says there is no way that all of the contributions are from unknown recipients.

Sauceda included what he says is proof SCDCC improperly reported their financials, along with a copy of their 2019 filing.

“We got to looking into and looked at some of the democrat candidates here in the county and looked at their campaign finance report and sure enough, they list contributions to the Sedgwick county democrat party in amounts over $50, which would require them to be listed on a campaign finance report.”

It is not just contributions to the party that is missing in recent filings. It is also excluded where and how the money was spent.

“For their expenditures, they said everything that was spent, close to $27,000, was under $50.” Sauceda continued, “It’s impossible to spend $27,000 and not have even one bill.”

Documents included with the complaint show that democratic candidates gave money to the SCDCC that should have been reported. For example, on December 19th, 2019 Kansas State Representative Jim Ward (D-Wichita) made a contribution of $100. On August 14th, 2019 the Kansas Democratic Party donated $1,500 and it gave another contribution in September for $480.

The 2018 campaign finance filing by SCDCC lists some donation details but about half is not itemized. For a point of reference of what other party committees are doing around the state, the Johnson County Young Democrats reported pages of individual contributions, including some as low as $5 in 2019.

The Sentinel reached out to the SCDCC last week for comment on this story and never heard from the group.

Sauceda’s ethics complaint asks the Kansas Governmental Ethics Committee to do a full audit of the SCDCC.

“It does mislead citizens of Sedgwick County and it definitely provides for influence on our elections.”

The Sentinel reviewed the Sedgwick County Republican Central Committee filing for 2019, which lists the vast majority of contributions by name and shows $905 in unitemized contributions.

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