Tom Sawyer

Information about State Representative Tom Sawyer

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Tom Sawyer has fought hard over the years to clean up state government and make it more accountable to the people

As chair of the House Elections & Ethics Committee, Tom Sawyer led the fight to pass all of the following reforms:

Laws reigning in lobbyists:

  • Prohibit lobbyists or PAC's (Political Action Committees) from making contributions to Legislators during the legislative session.
  • Limit gifts from lobbyists to elected officials to $40 per year.
  • Require all lobbyists to file monthly reports detailing their spending on legislators and government officials.
  • Prohibit lobbyists from serving as campaign treasurers.
  • Require lobbyists to maintain & preserve their records for 5 years subject to inspection by the the state ethics committee at any time.

Laws strengthening the power of the Ethics commission:

  • Gave the Ethics commission investigative subpeona power to enforce ethics violations.
  • Expanded the commission's power to also regulate lobbyists who try to influence the executive branch not just legislators.
  • Provided for lobbyists registration fees and candidate filing fees to raise enough money to fund the commissions budget to be able to enforce ethics laws.

Laws regulating possible Conflicts of Interest:

 

  • Ban lawmakers from working for state agencies for pay unless their contracts were awarded through a competitive bid process
  • Ban state employees from making public contracts with relatives
  • An anti-nepotism policy for all state and legislative agencies.
  • Require private consultants working for the state to report their business interests.
  • Require all legislators, state board members and major state employees to file an annual report detailing all of their sources of revenue and assets.
  • Require competitive bids for purchases of state services.
  • Abolished the Political patronage in the vehicle inspection program.


 

Laws regulating the financing of Campaigns:

  • Limit campaign contributions to state representatives from any person, corporation, PAC or union to $500 per election ($1000 to state senators, $2000 to statewide candidates)
  • Require candidates to report the occupation of all contributors who give $150 or more.
  • Ban cash contributions over $100
  • Ban candidates from giving campaign funds to other candidates.
  • Ban candidates from using campaign funds for personal use.
  • Protect state employees from being forced to participate in political activity.
  • Ban public employees from campaigning while on the job.
  • Limit PAC Contributions to political parties to $5000 per year.
  • Require all candidates to file reports listing their contributions & their expenditures with their local county election officer before each election and on January 1 of each year.
  • Extend campaign finance laws to County officials, city officials and school board candidates.

Other reform efforts led by Tom Sawyer:

  • Repealed the Excessive Legislative Pension Plan  (In 1988 the legislature passed a 43% increase in their own pensions, in 1992 Tom Sawyer led the fight to pass HB 2481 repealing this act of greed).
  • Cleaned up the KPERS (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) Investment practices (In the early 1990s, KPERS made some very risky investments that ended up costing the state millions of dollars- Tom Sawyer led the fight in the House to pass SB 526 to prevent this from happening again).
  • In 1994 Tom Sawyer led the effort to force former Insurance Commissioner Fletcher Bell to return his $94,000 Workers Compensation claim for hurting his back while picking up his briefcase.  Eventually, Fletcher Bell was forced to return half of the reward.
  • In 2008 he co-sponsored a bill that makes it easier for District Attorneys to prosecute violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

 

 "Kansans who've believed that politicians care more about special interest groups than ordinary folks now have good reason to reassess their position.  The Kansas Legislature on Thursday passed a tough ethics reform bill that would make it much harder for legislators and other state officials to get away with ethically questionable behavior.....

....Much of the credit for this success goes to Rep. Tom Sawyer.  D- Wichita, the House's top ethics negotiator.  He and his colleagues had to give ground on some issues to get a bill passed.  But what remains is significant.  The Legislature did well to pass a bill that dramatically increases members' accountability to the people of Kansas....."     -Wichita Eagle Editorial:  GOOD JOB Ethics bill makes officials more accountable to the public  (May 4, 1991)