Volume 41 - Issue 36 - September 8, 2022
State of Kansas
Governmental Ethics Commission
Opinion No. 2022-05
Written August 24, 2022 to Tammy M. Owens, City Attorney, City Hall, 8500 Santa Fe Dr., Overland Park, KS 66212.
Synopsis: A municipal councilmember may use email addresses obtained from emails sent to the councilmember’s municipally supplied email address to invite subscription to their newsletter and provide a link to their Facebook page.
Cited herein: K.S.A. 25-4169a and Opinion No. 2007-11.
Dear Ms. Owens,
We understand that you request this opinion as city attorney for Overland Park, Kansas. Our opinion regarding application of the Kansas campaign finance act, K.S.A. 25-4119e, et seq., (act) responds to your request dated July 15, 2022. Pursuant to K.S.A. 75-4303a(a), jurisdiction of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission (commission) is limited to applicability of the act. The commission’s opinion does not address whether some other statutory system, common law theory, or agency rule or regulation applies to your inquiry.
- Is it a violation of the act to extract a resident’s email address from an email sent to the Councilmember at the city’s email address and automatically subscribe that individual to the councilmember’s newsletter?
- Is it a violation of the act to reply to a resident who would email the councilmember at the city email address with an invitation to subscribe to the councilmember’s newsletter and/or visit the councilmember’s Facebook page?
- Is it a violation of the act to include a link to sign up for the newsletter and/or to visit the Facebook page in the Councilmember’s signature block from the Councilmember’s City email address?
Analysis and Conclusion
The Councilmember activities described in each question do not violate the Kansas campaign finance act. However, one caveat should be noted.
K.S.A. 25-4169a prohibits the use of municipal funds, equipment or supplies to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates for elective office. In Opinion No. 2007-11 we opined that such express advocacy is prohibited within a URL or link. When a councilmember includes a link to sign up for their newsletter or visit their Facebook page, words constituting express advocacy should not be included within the URL or link if the email is being emailed from municipally provided equipment or supplies such as computers and email addresses.
Your request includes “the Councilmember has considered sending a newsletter endorsing candidates.” Many endorsements utilize express advocacy. If a newsletter that includes express advocacy is sent from equipment that is publicly funded, such as a city email address or from a city computer, this conduct would constitute a violation of K.S.A. 25-4169a.
Nick Hale, Chairman
By Direction of the Commission
Doc. No. 050481