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Kansas sees unprecedented campaign spending

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August 16, 2012|By Michael Schwanke | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.) — On TV, radio, and in your mailbox—Kansans were inundated with political advertising this primary season.

“Three million dollars for a state senate race…$400 thousand in in the last three days of the campaign,” says Kansas State Senator Jean Schodorf who lost in the primary.

Schodorf, who until now has refused to give a media interview, became a target for political action committees that spent thousands portraying the longtime Republican as a liberal. 

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC spent the most money. 

“I never imagined I would be a threat and that people would have that much money to put into a campaign,” says Schoforf.

The money spent goes both ways.

Another PAC, called Kansans for Kansas, targeted her opponent Michael O’Donnell who won the election.

“I had no idea so many groups would be interested in the one state senate race,” says O’Donnell.

O’Donnell says if groups feel strongly about an issue or candidate they should have the right to voice their opinion.

“I believe it's a freedom of speech issue and just like my opponent’s PACs that were attacking me or my PACs that were supporting's their objective,” says O’Donnell.

So has this become the norm?

“I've never heard numbers like that before,” says political expert Dr. Russell Arben Fox with Friends University.

He says the Kansas Republican Party has two factions. One is more moderate and the other very conservative.

“Over the last two election cycles one of those factions has kicked the other faction's butt,” says Fox.

And he says it's been done with money.

“If you have a lot of money behind you can make sure everyone knows your name and knows something good about you. You can also make sure they know something about bad about your opponent,” adds Fox.

Fox says elections everywhere are becoming more expensive and that trend will continue.

But he says he would be surprised if the more moderate republicans were able to mount a comeback in the next couple of years. He thinks the next primary won't be as contested.
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