A new attack ad that hit mail boxes over the weekend is stirring up a lot of angry chatter in Johnson County political circles.
The mailer, put out by the Kansas Jobs Political Action Committee, places conservative Senate candidate Greg Smith in the cross-hairs by questioning a salary he pays himself from a foundation born out of the murder of his late daughter, Kelsey, in 2007.
Calling Smith a "political opportunist," the ad notes that Smith is paying an annual salary for himself from "donations collected for his daughter's charitable foundation."
The ad, done on behalf of moderate candidate Joe Beveridge, was paid for by a political action committee funded heavily by a PAC controlled by Senate President Steve Morris, the Kansas National Education Association and the teamsters.
Smith supporters have decried the ad as "vile" on the Internet. Smith called it a "cheap shot."
"They're trying to cast aspersion. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not," Smith said.
Smith acknowledged that he is paid a salary from the foundation, similar to how many other non-profit charities work. Smith, a teacher, said he is paid about $200 a week from the foundation to serve as its executive director.
A review of the organization's latest available tax forms shows that Smith was paid a $9,600 salary in 2007 while the foundation raised $87,469 in contributions.
In 2008, Smith was paid a $11,138 salary while the foundation raised about $54,000. And in 2009, he was paid $8,248 while the group raised $34,753.
Among other things, the foundation provides safety awareness seminars to teach people how to protect themselves. As of July 1, 2010, the foundation estimated serving 15,000 people, according to the tax forms.
Beveridge distanced himself from the ad, emphasizing that it was mailed by the Jobs PAC not his campaign. He said it would be illegal for his campaign to coordinate efforts with the Jobs PAC.
"I didn't think it belonged in that piece," he said. "I wished it wouldn't have been in there."
A message seeking comment was left today for a representative of the PAC, which has spent about $187,000 during the primary election season.
Beveridge and Smith are battling for the Senate District 21 seat, which covers parts of Overland Park and Lenexa.
The race is one of more than a dozen that are playing out between moderate and conservative Republicans to decide who controls the state Senate, which has been blamed for blocking Gov. Sam Brownback's conservative agenda.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interest groups have been pouring into Senate races across the state seeking to influence the outcome of Tuesday's Republican primary election.
The Kansas Jobs PAC spent about $3,800 on a mailer for Beveridge on July 30, state campaign finance reports show. It also gave Beveridge a $1,000 donation.
The Smith ad isn't the first time the Kansas Jobs PAC has heightened tensions in an already intense political season.
Late last week, moderate incumbent Sen. Roger Reitz of Manhattan apologized for a Kansas Jobs radio ad criticizing his opponent, Bob Reader, for home-schooling his kids, The Associated Press reported.
Reitz said he didn't produce or approve of the ad aired by Kansas Jobs. Reitz said he thought the ad went overboard. Reader thanked Reitz for his apology.