Who’s giving money to candidates for the local school board? Good luck finding out. You can’t.

At least not before the election. Seems preposterous, but that’s the way the rules work in Kansas.

Those rules are screaming out to be changed.

Candidates for most offices have to file reports prior to the election that make clear where they raised and spent their campaign money. That includes candidates for the Manhattan Commission; there’s an election going on right now, and the campaign finance disclosure reports for the most recent filing period were due Monday.

We at The Mercury, as part of our job of serving our subscribers so that they can make informed choices about who they want to represent them, routinely obtain those reports and write stories on the basis of the information. While the money is not the entire story, it is at least a part of the puzzle in figuring out who aligns with whom,

But for school board races, the reports aren’t due until a month after the election.

AFTER the election. Therefore the information is useless. Well, it’s not entirely useless, since it can still shed some light. But you will not have that information at hand prior to casting a vote in this election.

How does that make any sense?

It just doesn’t. There’s a historical explanation, but that doesn’t matter now. Right now, at this very moment, we have a school board race where the political parties have lined up behind different candidates. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. But how beholden to each party — or to whatever interest group — are the candidates?

All we can do is take their word for it.

Gee, that seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? Take as gospel the word of candidates running for public office?

If they’re lying, we won’t know until a month after the election. Of course, electing a liar is not a crime — we’ve done it repeatedly in this country.

But this situation is easily fixed. It just takes a vote of the Legislature to fix the law. And this is clearly not a partisan issue — Republicans and Democrats can agree that informing the public prior to elections is a good thing.

In this particular election in Manhattan, the partisan lineup is already quite clear, so at least there’s no unsolved mystery. But going forward, this situation needs to be fixed.

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