AG candidates spar over worth of abortion clinic inspections
Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and challenger Paul Morrison on Saturday verbally pummeled each other about Kline's abortion clinic investigation and Morrison's support in 2000 of a bill that reduced the supervision time of some criminals once released from prison.
Kline, a Republican seeking his second four-year term, faces Morrison, a Democrat and Johnson County district attorney, in the Nov. 7 election. The two faced off before about 50 people at the Kansas Associated Press Managing Editors annual meeting at the Dole Institute of Politics.
In one exchange, Kline announced that prosecutions have resulted from his controversial abortion clinic inquisition.
"There are prosecutions that have occurred -- several," Kline said during the debate after Morrison criticized Kline for the probe.
It was the first time Kline has said that the investigation of clinics operated by George Tiller in Wichita and Planned Parenthood in Overland Park had led to any prosecutions. Kline has sought patients' medical records, saying he has been investigating allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions.
The clinics and Morrison have accused Kline, who is an ardent opponent of abortion, of going on a politically motivated fishing expedition.
"I call that an abuse of authority," Morrison said.
When Kline was asked about the cases after the debate, he said he would provide details "in the near future."
Morrison said he was skeptical. "I suspect if something came of it, we all would've heard about it by now," he said.
Kline hammered Morrison for his support, as a member of a state sentencing commission, of a bill that reduced supervision time of some criminals.
Kline said the measure resulted in the early release from prison of hundreds of hardened criminals who went on to commit heinous crimes, including murder.
"He has supported legislation that has opened doors and let them out," Kline said.
Morrison responded: "I don't know why you continue to use untruths."
Morrison said Kline was misrepresenting what the bill did. He said the measure was designed to free up prison space for more dangerous criminals, in addition to funding construction of more prison space.
Morrison accused Kline of flip-flopping on the death penalty, showing a voter guide produced by the Kansas Catholic Conference in 1999 in which Kline said he supported abolishing the death penalty.
Kline said he doesn't remember filling out that questionnaire and that he is a staunch supporter of the death penalty.
Morrison said Kline has run the office like a political operation, while he would focus on law enforcement.
"He sees the world in terms of politics," Morrison said.
But Kline said he has worked to strengthen laws against sex offenders, child rapists and murderers.
"I've done what I said I was going to do," he said.
The two candidates were questioned by a panel of journalists including Lawrence Journal-World city editor Mike Shields, Associated Press writer Carl Manning and the Kansas City Star's Dave Helling.