WICHITA, Kan. — Political advocacy groups are playing an outsized role in the race for a south-central Kansas congressional seat, campaign filings released Tuesday show.
Former congressman Todd Tiahrt had nearly $125,000 on hand as of June 30 after announcing in late May that he would challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo for the 4th District House seat. Pompeo had more than $2.1 million in campaign cash at that time. Pompeo filed his report with the Federal Election Commission late Tuesday showing he had $1.8 million on hand as of June 30 — spending nearly $715,000 and raising $447,790 in contributions during the past three months.
"You can't have a David without a Goliath — and all that money is a Goliath, and I am representing the people," Tiahrt said. "This needs to be about public service. It can't be about power and money."
Tiahrt's campaign finance report also shows he loaned his campaign $51,000 and raised more than $90,000 from individual contributions. Tiahrt spent nearly $17,000 for signs, rent and other expenditures.
Pompeo's campaign manager, Jim Richardson said in a press release that the congressman is "humbled by the overwhelming support" he has received.
But the finance reports only show part of the money spent on the 4th District GOP primary race in Kansas, which pits Pompeo against Tiahrt, a popular conservative Republican who previously held that position for 16 years.
On Tiahrt's side is Kansans for Responsible Government, a super PAC that's free from campaign contribution limits because it independently advocates for his election. It was formed by Kansas oilman Willis "Wink" Hartman, whom Pompeo beat in the 2010 GOP primary.
The group can't give money directly to Tiahrt — who has criticized Pompeo for pursuing special interest agendas while not doing enough to help a local economy that is losing jobs — but filings show it has spent more than $162,000 so far this campaign on ads.
Meanwhile, a conservative group with ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch is spending big money to thank Pompeo for his work in Congress amid a bitter race this year for his seat. Pompeo was swept into office with the Tea Party in 2010 and says he's now on a mission to reduce the size and scope of government.
The Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity is spending $409,225 for pro-Pompeo radio and television ads that begin Tuesday and run until the day before the Aug. 5 Republican primary.
"We like to be appreciative of those who share our values," AFP state director Jeff Glendening said.
Glendening also praised Pompeo's efforts to eliminate the wind production tax credit and control spending in Washington, as well as his opposition to earmarks — three big things he says are on the group's agenda.
Tiahrt said he is confident his grass-roots campaign will overcome AFP's new advertising campaign and Pompeo's fiscal advantage.
"He had $2 million to start with and I had zero, and that is not enough? I mean, that is obscene — to spend almost $3 million against someone who had zero dollars," Tiahrt said. "... If he can't manage his campaign on $2 million, he doesn't deserve to be in Congress."