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Kobach flew in KU jet for lunch, speaking engagement; university says cost to taxpayers was $4,400

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaks during a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in Topeka.

— In February 2015, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach chartered a private jet owned by the University of Kansas so he could attend a luncheon in Wichita and speak at the Kingman County Career Day in the town of Kingman, about 45 miles west of Wichita.

The cost of that flight, according to KU officials, was $4,400. That cost ultimately was charged to the Secretary of State’s office.

That flight, which was documented in a recent University Senate report, represents one example of why some faculty, staff and students at KU are now calling on the administration to sell that plane, a move they say would not only generate about $6.6 million in immediate cash, but also save the university more than $1 million a year in operational costs.

But it also has caught the attention of some in the Kansas Legislature who are calling for a broad review of the state’s entire aircraft fleet, with an eye toward liquidating at least part of it.

Kobach, a Republican who was first elected Secretary of State in 2010, is now a candidate for governor in the 2018 election. And as part of his campaign, he has frequently criticized the Legislature for what he has called its “culture of corruption.”

That has rankled the feathers of some GOP leaders in the Statehouse, and those feathers weren’t smoothed when learning about Kobach’s $4,400 flight to a lunch and speaking engagement.

“When we’re talking about, obviously, the corruption in Topeka, why couldn’t you drive to Wichita? Why would you need to take a plane?” Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, asked rhetorically during a recent interview.

Waymaster said he plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s aircraft fleet as part of this year’s budget-writing process.

“I know there might be time constraints; there might be scheduling issues,” Waymaster said. “But if I have to go anywhere in the state, I have to drive. Now, I’m not an elected executive officeholder. But I still think, if you’re looking at trying to use the dollars that taxpayers send to Topeka, driving would be far more efficient than using a state plane.”

The University Senate committee that wrote the report, however, said the actual cost to KU may have been considerably higher.

After examining all of the flights taken by the jet over a 25-month period, from January 2015 through February 2017, the committee concluded that the actual operational cost penciled out to $4,856 per hour flown, or $15.01 per nautical mile flown — rates that the committee said were far above industry averages for that type of plane.

At that rate, according to the committee’s figures, the actual cost would have been between $5,341 (for the 1.1 hours of flight) and $10,567 (for the 704 nautical miles flown).

A KU spokesman said KU officials do not necessarily accept those estimates.

The private jet that Kobach and one of his aides used for the trip, a Cessna CJ4, has been the target of questions and criticism since the university acquired it around January 2015 at a reported cost of $8.1 million, a purchase funded by the KU Endowment Association.

And while its purpose ostensibly is to serve the university’s own travel needs — athletics recruiting, donor relations and operations of the KU Medical Center, according to KU officials — the university says the jet also is made available on occasion to other state agencies.

“Since KU is a state agency, we have occasionally allowed state agencies to use the university’s aircraft,” KU spokesman Joe Monaco said in an email. “Relatedly, KU occasionally uses state aircraft when we have multiple requests that we are not able to fulfill with our own university aircraft.”

Monaco added that the university operates the plane under Federal Aviation Administration regulations that require all flights to be paid for from the state treasury, explaining why the costs were billed to the Secretary of State’s office.

Kobach did not respond personally to telephone messages requesting comment. But his spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, said in an email that Kobach limits his use of state airplanes, but at times, he travels by state plane due to scheduling reasons. She also said Kobach has reduced other overhead costs in the Secretary of State’s office.

“This flight took place in (fiscal year 2015), costing the agency $4,400 in a year that the agency spent $300,000 less than the prior year,” she wrote. “The state planes that are normally used by statewide officers were unavailable. The KU plane is one of the alternatives that is used under such circumstances. Secretary Kobach’s record of fiscal responsibility is undeniable.”

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Conservatives are hypocrites. They talk about fiscal responsibility, then they do crud like this. You admire a man who is paid for a full time job in Kansas, but moonlights in other states and in DC. But I guess he's making money for himself. And that's what it's all about right? Making money for yourself, even if what you do is ripping off other people. Money is the thing. You need to get it morally or immorally, because that just means God loves you more.

And we can't ask your royalty to bother with traffic, like us proletariat, can we. He needs to save time, so he has more time for his moonlighting. By the way, he paid for it with his department's budget. HIS DEPARTMENT'S BUDGET IS TAX DOLLARS. THIS IS NOT HIS PERSONAL MONEY. Do you not know that?

4 months ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Are your still upset, because Sebelius sold all those state vehicles being used for personal reasons to save the state money? And she resigned as soon as she found out she was up for the position. Brownback is still holding on and on and on.

4 months ago

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Michael Joseph Walsh

I don't know. How many trips did Sebelius make on the the state's dime in regards to the federal position for which she left? The two aren't comparable, anyway. He was going to a career day luncheon. Tell everybody how to be a vote suppressing, trial losing low life.

4 months ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

"How many trips did Kathleen Sebelius make on the states dime while she pimped herself for the federal position she left for?"

Stacy, you are out of line. Let's keep the discussion civil without the innuendo.

4 months ago

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Chuck Holder

..don't you just love conservatives excuse of "but but but so in so did it" what a defense.

4 months ago

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Michael Joseph Walsh

You sure got your panties in a bunch over a "non-issue".

4 months ago

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Chuck Holder

The lazy basstur couldn't drive to Wichita? Hell take the capital limo. I wonder if he flew from Wichita to Kingman?

4 months ago

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Bob Forer

What a garbage comment, Stacy. It is so damned sophomoric (and I am talking about the high school level) that I am at a loss to come up with a more articulate response.

4 months ago

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Greg Cooper

And that is as playground as it gets. You could at least have the courage of your convictions. But, then you'd have to have some convictions rather than the playground rhetoric you guys like so much.

4 months ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

If that is all you are after, you can keep your comments to yourself.

4 months ago

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Don Brennaman

The GOP has dominated the legislature for as long as I know. The percentage of corruption must be directly related. Surely the minority party could not get away with such rubbish.

4 months ago

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Bob Summers

Yes. Sell the plane and use the proceeds to buy the Jayhawk golf club.

4 months ago

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Andrew Applegarth

It's amazing how many people saw the name Kobach and lost their minds. Never mind that the whole purpose of this article was to sway public opinion regarding the sale / non-sale of the KU CJ4 (and provoke a lively comment war) by dropping his name. If it was actually about his travel, his trips on other state planes would have been more than just a mention that he sometimes uses them.

You all played the suckers quite nicely. The LJ World staff is proud.

4 months ago

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