Is Kevin Yoder a candidate for Congress? No, but here’s what he told the FEC

Former Rep. Kevin Yoder has filed paperwork to raise and spend money for a Congressional candidacy, but don’t expect him to actually mount a campaign.

He’s definitely not running, according to his long-time political adviser.

The Kansas Republican filed a statement of candidacy Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission, setting off speculation that Yoder was gearing up to try to recapture his old seat in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district from freshman candidate Sharice Davids.

Travis Smith, a Kansas City-based campaign consultant and Yoder’s former chief of staff, cast doubt on the idea of a Yoder-Davids rematch.

Smith said in a text message Tuesday night that Yoder filed the statement on advice from his lawyers because there is still money in the campaign account and it was the “proper way to handle” the situation.

In a follow-up text message Wednesday morning, Smith definitively stated that Yoder was not running.

The filing came in response to a letter Yoder received from the FEC in March, essentially telling him that his recent financial activity fit campaign finance law’s definition of a candidate for federal office. The letter said he “appears to have received contributions and/or made expenditures in support of your 2020 candidacy in excess of $5,000.”

The letter told Yoder to either disavow the activities or file a statement of candidacy by May 2. Filing the form enables a person to raise or spend money, but it doesn’t mean he’ll end up on a ballot.

“It’s what lawyers say is correct way to handle,” Smith said in a text message. “If you have more than 5K technically you trigger a campaign anyway.”

In March, Yoder’s campaign committee received a nearly $6,300 reimbursement check for campaign expenses from the CRC Executive Center in Overland Park.

This refund check from the campaign’s landlord is what prompted to the FEC to send the letter, said Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center. 

“The refund had to be reported as a receipt by the campaign committee, which triggered that FEC letter—the FEC is saying that Yoder’s campaign committee received over $5K in contributions, but Yoder hadn’t declared his 2020 candidacy,” Fischer said in an email after reviewing the filings. “The FEC gave the option for Yoder to ‘disavow’ the fundraising on his behalf, which does seem a little silly in this instance. In order to save themselves the headache Yoder just declared his 2020 candidacy.” 

The committee also spent nearly $27,000 from January through March— more than half of it on a January American Express credit card payment. The payments appear to be Yoder disposing of expenses from his 2018 campaign.

Yoder lost his re-election race to Davids last year by double digits after eight years in the U.S. House. Shortly after leaving Congress, he became a partner in a lobbying and consulting firm founded by former Rep. Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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