Kansas agency websites: campaign flyers?

Kansas state government agencies are headed by a mix of elected and appointed officials. After looking at the websites for agencies headed by elected officials, Kansans would be justified in asking if some are using their agency websites for campaign purposes.

Of the four agencies (other than the governor and lieutenant governor) that are headed by officials who must seek statewide election, all use their agency’s website to get their name and photograph exposed to the public. The exception is recently-appointed Secretary of State Chris Biggs, whose photograph does not appear on the front page of his agency’s site.

While it is important for Kansans to know who is heading state government agencies and how to contact them, there is a distinct difference between the website prominence of agency heads who are elected and those who are appointed. Only about one-third of the websites for agencies with appointed chief executives feature that person on the front page of the website. For agencies with elected chiefs, all — with one partial exception — feature the elected official, often prominently.

While adding a photograph or even a video to a website doesn’t appreciably increase the cost of providing the service, this type of self-promotion must be considered a form of campaigning.

Elected offices

Kansas Secretary of State website, July 1, 2007The Kansas Secretary of State’s website on July 1, 2007, with Secretary Ron Thornburgh’s photograph.

The page for the Kansas Secretary of State starts off with the message “Welcome … to Secretary of State Chris Biggs’ Web site.” Biggs was appointed to this position earlier this year and is running for re-election. Biggs’ photograph doesn’t appear on the front page. His predecessor, Ron Thornburgh, who ran for Kansas governor for a time in 2009 before bowing out in favor of Sam Brownback, had his photo featured prominently on the page.

At the website for Kansas Attorney General, visitors are greeted by the headline “Attorney General Steve Six.” The font page holds a video message from Six and a welcome message. The site carries the message “Copyright 2007 – 2009 Attorney General Steve Six,” which might raise questions as to who the website and its content belongs to: Six or the people of Kansas. Six is running for re-election this year.

The office of the Kansas Insurance Commission features the large headline “Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger” and her photograph. Praeger is running for re-election this year.

The website for the Kansas State Treasurer features the large headline “Kansas State Treasurer Dennis McKinney” and his photograph. The front page of this website features another large photograph of McKinney. While McKinney has not filed for re-election this year, it is widely believed that he will do so.

Appointed cabinet posts

The Kansas Governor’s office identifies 15 cabinet posts. Some of these agencies, like the Department of Revenue and Department of Transportation are quite visible, while some are obscure. With one exception, the heads of these agencies are appointed by the governor. They do not run for re-election.

Each of the 15 cabinet offices has a website. Of these, six have the agency’s commissioner or secretary featured on its front page. One of these six is the lieutenant governor, which differs from the others in that the lieutenant governor is not the head of an agency, and must run for office on a ticket with the gubernatorial candidate.

At the Kansas Department of Revenue, there is no mention of Secretary Joan Wagnon on the agency’s front page. To find a page about her, readers must click on “About” and then on “Secretary of Revenue.”

At the Office of the Kansas Securities Commissioner, there is no mention of Commissioner Marc Wilson on the agency’s front page except his mention in a list of news stories. Wilson was appointed to this office on May 25, with an effective date of June 7.

The Kansas Department of Transportation is one of the state’s most visible agencies. Secretary Deb Miller’s name is not on the agency’s front page except for a mention in a list of news headlines. To get her page, readers must click on “About KDOT,” then “KDOT Leaders,” and then on “Deb Miller.”

At the Kansas Department of Corrections there is a photograph of Secretary Roger Werholtz with a link to his biography page.

At the Kansas Department of Health and Environment there is a photograph of Secretary Roderick L. Bremby near a welcome message at the top of the main page for the agency.

The Kansas Department of Labor agency site makes no mention of Secretary Jim Garner except in a news story near the bottom of the page. Readers must click on the “About Us” link to find a link to Garner’s biography page.

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) agency website has no mention of Secretary Don Jordan on its front page. Readers muct click on “Agency Information,” the “Find out more,” and then “Executive Staff” to find mention of Jordan. That page contains just his name and telephone number. Using the agency’s search feature found no biography page for Jordan.

The front page for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks makes no mention of Secretary Mike Hayden. Clicking on “Site map,” then “About KDWP,” and then on “Executive Services” found no mention of Hayden. Using the agency’s search function for “Hayden” found a welcome message from him.

The Adjutant General’s departmental site has a photograph of Maj Gen Tod M. Bunting along with a welcome message on its front page.

The Kansas Department of Aging makes no mention of Secretary Martin Kennedy on its from page. Readrs must click on “About KDOA” and then on “Meet the Secretary” before finding Kennedy’s biography.

At the Kansas Department of Commerce, Secretary Bill Thornton is mentioned on the agency’s front page. Users must click on “About us” before finding a link to Thornton’s biography page.

The Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority agency website features a large photograph of Commissioner J. Russell “Russ” Jennings along with a link to his biography page.

The Kansas Highway Patrol has no mention of Superintendent Colonel Terry Maple on its front page. Users must click on “About the KHP” and then on “Colonel’s Welcome” to find Maple’s photograph along with a welcome message, but no biography.

Lieutenant Governor Troy Findley‘s front page holds his photograph and biography.

The front page for the Kansas Department of Administration makes no mention of Secretary of Administration Duane Goossen. The “Contact Info” page lists many divisions of the agency with contact information and links. The “A – Z Subject Index” does not mention his name.

3 Comments

  • I guess that I fail to get the point of this story with respect to state agencies. The author makes the point that the agency heads are appointed by the Governor and are not elected. So the issue apparently is that the agency head has his or her photo on the web site? You must not have had anything to do after you cleaned out the cat box and cleaned the lint trap on your dryer.

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