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Ethics Questioned in Kans. Funding

August 19, 1999

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A wealthy family’s funding of classes for lawmakers and judges at the University of Kansas has raised ethical questions about whether it is improperly influencing the workings of government.

A state ethics commission is expected on Thursday to review the legality of lawmakers accepting tuition, lodging and other expenses for a five-day economics course funded by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation.

The foundation is run by Koch family members and executives for Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held company. Its assets include agricultural, refining, pipeline and petrochemical businesses.

Forty legislators have signed up for the first class, even though state law forbids a legislator from receiving more than $40 a year from an interest that has business before the Legislature, said Burdett Loomis, interim director of the Dole Institute.

In a related matter, a district judge last week removed himself from hearing a Koch case in Wichita after news reports of his participation in a Koch-funded University of Kansas Economic Institutes for State Judges.

The judicial program curriculum advocated pro-business economic theories, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Among the hundreds of judges attending the classes was District Judge C. Robert Bell, who had been overseeing a Koch Industries lawsuit in Wichita against a chemical company until he withdrew from the case last week.

The economic classes for lawmakers, which begin in November, are funded by a $250,000 grant from the Koch foundation to the university’s endowment fund.

The Koch foundation, funded in 1953, has donated millions of dollars over the years for everything from swimming pools to university classes, said Mary Beth Jarvis, spokeswoman for Koch Industries.

``The Kochs have a lot of things they believe in and for years and years and years they have supported community organizations and educational institutions they think add value to our community,″ she said. ``The idea we would do that for control seems very far-fetched.″

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