Kansas has a statute that allows the governor to use the executive aircraft for personal or political travel as long as he reimburses the state, but mentions no other state agencies. The Kansas Highway Patrol, which oversees aircraft operations, says it has no specific guidelines and leaves its usage up to each state agency. Kobach defended his use of the plane by saying that he’s doing it less than former Republican Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, who also flew with family members and logged about 8,700 miles over two years. He added that filling empty seats doesn’t increase the agency’s costs. Kobach said in an email that he plans to visit all 105 county election officials to observe voting equipment and voting sites and discuss implementation of voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws.
“It is absurd to suggest that such on-site meetings in the county election offices have no benefit to the Kansas taxpayer,” Kobach said. “The notion that officials in Topeka should govern remotely without understanding the specific situation in each of the 105 counties is dead wrong.”
The AP looked at all flights taken by the government officials regardless of which state agency paid for the trip. The costliest one any state official took during that 15-month period came Feb. 27, a 2,193-mile trek by Kobach to first deliver the eulogy at the funeral for a former employee, Jim Minihan in Virginia, then to speak at an archery banquet in Hutchinson before returning to Topeka. Traveling with him on the $3,290 flight was Dave DePue, a Topeka pastor whose ministry focuses on evangelizing government officials; DePue is not a state employee.