Sen. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh have served in statewide office since the 1990s, but they can’t tap funds raised for previous races in running for governor in 2010.

So they appear to be spending it ahead of time.

Thornburgh formed a separate organization last year for a campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010.

Brownback is expected to seek the GOP nomination. He hasn’t declared his candidacy publicly, but he already has confirmed that he won’t see another term in the Senate in 2010.

The state’s campaign finance laws would force Brownback and Thornburgh to start from scratch in raising money.

“A lot of early fund raising is based on conventional wisdom,” Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist, told The Wichita Eagle, adding Brownback is perceived as the leading contender.

Kansas law has long prohibited someone who serves in Congress from transferring money raised for a congressional campaign into a campaign for a state office, such as governor.

For three decades, someone who held one state office — for example, a legislative seat or secretary of state — could transfer unlimited amounts of money to a campaign for a higher state office, such as governor.

But Carol Williams, the executive director of the state Governmental Ethics Commission, noted in 2003, the Kansas Supreme Court said such a practice wasn’t permitted under state law.

That’s why Thornburgh had to form a new committee to raise money for a gubernatorial bid, just as Brownback will have to do, if he runs.

Through December 2007, Thornburgh’s new campaign fund had raised $135,000 and spent $28,000. Another report, covering this year, is due Jan. 12; reports for 2009 won’t be required until January 2010.

Meanwhile, records showed that in 2007, Thornburgh spent money from his secretary of state account to sponsor or attend political and charity events. Its balance had dropped to $2,000 by the end of last year.

Brownback, meanwhile, tapped his Senate leadership political action committee to make $500 to $1,000 contributions to dozens of Kansas Republican legislators and candidates, according to federal records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

He spent his Senate campaign account down to about $31,000 and his PAC down to about $39,000.

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On the Net:

Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission: http://www.kansas.gov/ethics/

Thornburgh campaign for governor: http://www.ronforgovernor.com/

Brownback’s Senate office: http://brownback.senate.gov

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Information from: The Wichita Eagle, http://www.kansas.com