Federal prosecutors will bring no criminal charges after an investigation into loans made to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign by his lieutenant governor, the U.S. attorney’s office said Wednesday.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas has completed an investigation involving loans made by Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to the Brownback re-election campaign,” said Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Wichita. “No federal charges are expected to be filed.”
That came after Colyer and Brownback, on the governor’s official website, said in a joint statement that they had been told by prosecutors “no charges are to be filed.”
“As we have stated many times,” their statement read, “our campaign finances were conducted in full compliance with applicable law and ethics regulations.”
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Colyer and his attorney did not respond to phone and email messages Wednesday.
Colyer made three loans totaling $1.5 million to the campaign. That raised eyebrows not only because their size was unusual in Kansas politics, but because the first two were repaid within days. Democrats speculated they might have been timed to inflate campaign finance reports. They came as the Republican governor in a deeply conservative state faced the real prospect of losing to the well-financed Democratic challenger, Paul Davis.
“We never doubted the eventual outcome” of the investigation, Clay Barker, director of the Kansas Republican Party, said in an email Wednesday afternoon. “But the wheels of justice turn slowly, which, unfortunately, can feed a swirl of rumors.”
Colyer first loaned Brownback’s campaign $500,000 on Dec. 31, 2013, right before a campaign finance filing deadline, and was repaid by Jan. 2. It’s not unusual for candidates to loan campaigns money, but the size of Colyer’s loan and his quick repayment struck many political observers as odd.
He loaned the same amount again on July 23 and was repaid on July 25. Democrats accused the lieutenant governor of artificially increasing Brownback’s finance totals with a floating loan during a tough governor’s race.
Colyer made one more loan on Aug. 13. At the time, Brownback’s campaign called the movement of money “simply an issue of cash management.”
The Associated Press reported in January that a federal grand jury was investigating loans made to Brownback’s re-election campaign after obtaining a copy of a subpoena for Carol Williams, who heads the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
Brownback repeatedly told reporters that his campaign followed all laws regarding loans. Colyer refused to discuss the matter when approached in the Capitol last month.
During the gubernatorial race, Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr derided the loans as the “Colyer Hokey Pokey.” A spokesman for Davis, who narrowly lost the race to Brownback, said before the election that voters “deserve to know where this money came from.”
The Republican running mates have repeatedly refused to disclose the source of those funds, and the government’s decision not to file federal charges means the public will probably never learn what the grand jury discovered.
Colyer, a reconstructive plastic surgeon from Johnson County, told the AP in August that the first two short-term loans he made to Brownback’s re-election campaign are examples of the good stewardship Kansas residents expect from government officials.
“It was just simple cash management,” Colyer said at the time. “It’s good money management, that’s all. That’s what you’d expect for me to do with the state’s money, too, is to manage it well. We manage our campaign well, that’s it.”
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he still believes “that the loans were questionable. … As to why the U.S. attorneys chose not to issue indictments remains a mystery to me.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.