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Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission Rebuked

In a victory for free political speech, Kristian Van Meteren has prevailed over the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Reporting by Tim Carpenter of the Topeka Capital-Journal is State ethics fine reversed. The Kansas Meadowlark has reporting, including the Kansas Attorney General’s opinion, in Attorney General Says Kansas Ethics Confidentiality Rules are Unconstitutional. Kansas Liberty coverage is Ethics Commission caves on Van Meteren charge. I saw no coverage in the Wichita Eagle.

Here’s the statement from Van Meteren’s lawyer:

Perry, KS. Caleb Stegall issued the following statement today on behalf of his client, Kristian Van Meteren, in the wake of the monthly meeting of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission:

This afternoon, under the pressure of litigation, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has fully and completely recanted and rescinded its findings and the $7,500 fine it had previously imposed on my client, Kristian Van Meteren, for exercising his constitutionally protected rights to free speech.

By vacating its prior order after challenge in court, the Commission has both tacitly and, through its counsel at the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, expressly conceded that its actions violated Mr. Van Meteren’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech. As such, today’s action is a victory for the liberties of all Kansans.

Unfortunately, though Mr. Van Meteren’s legal rights have been clearly vindicated and he has emerged from this litigation victorious, it has not been without cost. This episode illustrates clearly the abuses that can occur when agents of the State choose to use their power to advance a political agenda, to reward friends, and to discourage political opponents. In fact, were it not for my client’s commitment to liberty, his willingness to expend his own resources to fight this injustice, and his dogged adherence to his clearly protected rights, the Commission would not have been forced to this decision and the speech of all Kansans would remain constrained. While today’s victory is clear, only continued vigilance on the part of citizens can protect against these kinds of abuses in the future.

As such, today’s decision does not end this matter. Mr. Van Meteren has been damaged by the Commission’s actions in having to expend time, energy, and financial resources to clear his good name. In addition, he has suffered the indignities of the Commission’s actions and prior public statements. We fully intend to evaluate Mr. Van Meteren’s options to pursue further recourse in federal courts for this clear and admitted violation.

Finally, we call on the Kansas Legislature to immediately address the unconstitutional statutes and regulations of the Commission at the convening of the 2010 session. Nothing short of a full review and rewrite of those laws will prevent such abuses from occurring in the future.

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