Kansas officeholders divert voter attention to public-service appeals ahead of 2022 primary

Schmidt warns of crooked contractors, Rogers champions college savings plan

By: - January 3, 2022 11:14 am
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a candidate for the Republican Party's nomination for governor in August, posted to YouTube a lengthy explanation of his office's collection of $1 billion in legal settlements during the past 11 years. It's among promotional messages aired through his office on television or social media. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in August, posted to YouTube a lengthy explanation of his office’s collection of $1 billion in legal settlements during the past 11 years. It’s among promotional messages aired through his office on television or social media. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Democratic state Treasurer Lynn Rogers made a splash in December with public service announcements on television or social media with the look and feel of commercials useful in their 2022 election campaigns.

Schmidt, who is making a run at the GOP gubernatorial nomination in August, offered viewers a two minute informational update on how the office of attorney general administratively collected $1 billion from the national tobacco settlement, Medicaid fraudsters, antitrust violators and an assortment of other sources. To put that in context, he said, running the attorney general’s office since he was sworn in 11 years ago cost taxpayers $250 million.

“We’ve recovered about four times more money than we’ve spent,” Schmidt said on the spot posted to YouTube. “That’s a great return on investment for Kansas taxpayers and that success didn’t just happen on its own.”

The political message: Schmidt is a dogged fighter for taxpayers and consumers.

Schmidt also can be seen on television in a fee-sponsored, 30-second spot on how crooked contractors could try to rip off Kansans dealing with storm property damage. Others in Schmidt’s portfolio offer consumer information about prescription opioids, underage drinking and internet safety.

Kansas state Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for that job in August, is featured in a public service announcement financed by the investment company managing the state's college savings plan. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)
Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for that statewide office in August, is featured in a public service announcement financed by the investment company hired to manage the state’s $2.7 billion college savings plan. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

 

Grandpa’s college plan

Rogers, appointed state treasurer a year ago and a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination in August, dropped a pre-holiday bundle of messages praising the $2.7 billion college savings program housed at the treasurer’s office.

In “Grandpa’s Wish: A Bright Future for All Kansas Students,” Rogers’ comments about the program can be viewed in a single three-minute segment or separated into six spots that have collectively received 48,000 views in two weeks. In these promotional ads, he’s the lone voice during scenes shot at a kitchen table and an office. At one point, Rogers peers out a window at the Capitol. Pictures of his family show up a dozen times.

“I was a big fan of Learning Question 529 plan long before I was state treasurer,” he said. “Investing in education is important, because starting your adult life with a ton of college debt is tough and can limit your opportunities. I’m investing so I can help my grandkids in the future.”

The political message: Rogers is a family man and friend of education.

The Learning Quest promotions, financed by fund manager America Century Investment Services of Kansas City, Missouri, has delivered political leverage for state treasurers of both parties for more than a decade.

Lynn Jenkins, prior to winning a seat in Congress, made use of this free publicity when she was state treasurer. Subsequent treasurers, including Democrat Dennis McKinney and Republican Ron Estes, benefitted. In 2018, Treasurer Jake LaTurner took it to a new level by taking center stage with his family in a TV campaign on behalf of the savings program. Estes and LaTurner went on to be elected to the U.S. House.

Rogers and Schmidt, as well as Gov. Laura Kelly, Lt. Gov. David Toland, Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt, can be expected to take advantage of their incumbency status until restrictions on certain forms of self-promotion kick in from June to November. All six of these politicians — three Democrats and three Republicans — are seeking statewide office in 2022.

 

Tacking up the roofers

Clint Blaes, communications director for the attorney general’s office, said most public service announcements involving Schmidt were on his YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/user/AGKansas. The roofing contractor spot was financed with registration fees required of contractors who file with the state.

“Other PSAs placed by our office are paid for through consumer protection litigation recoveries,” Blaes said. “No tax money is used for producing or for placing PSAs.”

Rogers spokeswoman Ashley Motley said the state treasurer’s PSAs had been limited to video and radio messages about the college savings program. Funds for advocacy of Learning Quest came from American Century Investments, she said.

Rogers also has generated attention for himself via highway billboards pointing to work overseeing the state’s unclaimed property account and the search to find rightful owners of millions of dollars.

The billboards involving Rogers were paid for with the office of state treasurer’s internal marketing budget, which hasn’t increased since LaTurner had the job. Expenditures in the 2020-2021 fiscal year for the billboards was $8,500. The budget for the current fiscal year is $9,200. The campaign is expected to generate 500,000 weekly impressions among motorists on Kansas roads.

“We feel this kind of marketing is a great way for people to build trust with the office and to see a face with my name,” Rogers said. “It’s important for Kansans to recognize that I am a real person at the helm of the office trying to do my best work for the state. I want folks to be able to recognize me and feel comfortable approaching me out in public.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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