Information about 
State Representative 
Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer has Fought Hard to Clean Up State Government and Make it More Accountable to the People

When Tom Sawyer was chair of the House Elections & Ethics Committee, Tom Sawyer led the fight to pass the biggest Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform in Kansas History.

  Following are the highlights of those laws that are still protecting the public today:

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 Kansas Ethics Commission 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 regulate lobbyists including those 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.
  • Tightly regulates who can serve on the KS Ethics Commission, prohibiting current active politicians from serving on the Commission- no more foxes guarding the hen house. 
  • With the increased powers to regulate campaign finance, lobbying and ethics, changed the name of the commission from the KS Public Disclosure Commission to the Kansas Ethics Commission. 

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.

    • Tom Sawyer co-sponsored the bill that makes it easier for District Attorneys to prosecute violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act in 2008.

    • After Tom Sawyer pushed to have all Legislative Committee meetings, hearings and floor sessions broadcast live on the internet for the past four years, in 2021 it happened!  Now the Public can participate from home.  NO MORE SECRET MEETINGS!



    • TOM SAWYER is working for rules changes that would make it easier to debate bills on the House floor.  Current rules give leadership too much power to stifle debate on important issues.
    • TOM SAWYER is working to get rid of "gut & goes" that allow one legislator to hi-jack a bill and totally change its contents.  "Gut & Gos" make it very difficult for the public to track legislation.  

    • TOM SAWYER is working to limit the number of different bills that can be placed into one conference committee report.  "Bundling" is a way to get a very bad bill passed by sticking it into a conference committee report with several good bills and forcing legislators to vote the entire package up or down on in one vote.  

    Tom Feels that Elected Official should be Open, Accessible and Accountable

     "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) 

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