Pittsburg, Kan. – Legal questions are being raised after Chuck Smith, who’s currently running for the Kansas House of Representatives against Rep. Monica Murnan, paid a Pittsburg church for postage services.
Smith paid the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church around $4700 for postage for mailers in October, according to a campaign finance and expenditures report submitted to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
Smith tells us in a phone conversation that he was using the church’s stamp machine. He says he had 11 thousand postcards to send out, so he used their machine and paid them for the amount that he used.
Now, some are saying the church has taken part in campaign interference by allowing Smith to use their equipment.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, “Organizations that are exempt from income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as organizations described in section 501(c)(3) may not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
According to a representative with the Kansas Government Ethics Commission, the Kansas Campaign Finance Act does not prohibit the activity, provided the candidate is paying fair market value for the service. The representative could not confirm or deny if the commission was looking into the activity.
We also reached out to Our Lady of Lourdes, and were referred to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, which sent us this statement.
“The Catholic Diocese of Wichita was made aware of the situation involving Representative Chuck Smith on Friday afternoon and will be looking into the situation as it pertains to Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Pittsburg, Kansas. At this time, we don’t have any further information however as things progress we will let you know.”
Candidates’ finance and expenditures reports are public records, and can be found on the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission’s website: http://ethics.ks.gov/CFAScanned/House/2020ElecCycle/HLinks2020EC.htm