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FactFinder 12: Brownback fundraising letter claims

By Jade DeGood, jdegood@kwch.com
Published On: May 14 2014 10:56:30 PM CDT
Updated On: May 15 2014 06:32:41 PM CDT
WICHITA, Kan. -

A letter sent out by Governor Sam Brownback's campaign, makes claims that there were significant increases in the state bank account since Brownback took office.

The letter states: "When I was sworn in, State Treasurer Ron Estes informed me that the state had a shocking $876.05 in the bank. But as of January 1st, that amount has grown to $764 million on hand."

It goes on to tout other accomplishments made by Brownback's policies.

In Governor Brownback's State of the State address, he actually uses that $874 figure saying this, "When we gathered here three years ago, we faced two big challenges: the economy and the budget. Kansas state government was flat broke. We had begun the fiscal year with $876.05 in the bank. The state couldn't even pay its own bills on time.”

The fiscal year started July 1st of 2010. He was sworn in on January 11th of 2011.

FactFinder 12 wanted to fact check the claims made by the fundraising letter so we reached out to the Kansas Legislative Research Department. It's a nonpartisan agency that provides policy and fiscal analysis for the Kansas Legislature.

Here's the numbers they gave us pertaining to the state's bank account.

  • June 30th, 2010 (end of fiscal year 2010): $876
  • January 9th, 2011 (2 days before Brownback was sworn into office): $251 million
  • June 28th, 2013: $764 million
  • December 31st, 2013: $280 million

The figures used in Brownback's letter are actual figures, each approximately six months prior to the dates used in the letter.

Mark Dugan, Governor Brownback's campaign manager said in a statement, "The campaign letter used incorrect dates, not incorrect numbers. We will work to ensure all our future communication contains correct dates related to the remarkable turnaround for the State of Kansas under Governor Brownback's leadership."

The numbers used in the fundraising letter shows an increase of nearly $764 million, much larger than the increase of the actual numbers which is $29 million. 

The research agency did note that these numbers go up and down each month depending on when revenue comes in and when the state uses that revenue to pay bills, sometimes even ending in a negative number.

"Campaign ads are used to either fire up people that already tend to agree with you, already tend to support you, but aren't particularly enthused, aware or engaged, or it's designed to attack the other guy," said Friends University Political Science professor Dr. Russell Arben Fox. "Very little advertising is designed in such a way to try to actually reach out to someone who is uninformed or who believes differently from the people making that ad and educate them or get them to change their mind."

Dr. Arben Fox said that's why many aren't looking to fact check fundraising letters.

"The people who would question the claims aren't going to get the fundraising letter in the first place," he said. "They're not going to waste the postage."

He guesses only 1 out of 10 people actually read through the entire letter no matter who the political candidate. And said likely this mistake won't affect Brownback's campaign, unless multiple incidents are reported.

"Everyone knows the people who are going to write fundraising letters are going to lie, they are going to exaggerate, they are going to get things wrong, and possibly they get things wrong unintentionally," he said.   

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