Citizens Bank of Kansas is drawn into political dispute via Facebook

WICHITA — A political dispute became a business one for Citizens Bank of Kansas on Monday.

Bank chairman Jane Deterding filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission late last month over Kansans for Responsible Government, Wink Hartman Sr.’s super PAC.

“I just did it individually,” Deterding says. “No covert operation here.”

Nor was there a connection to her family’s bank, she says.

However, State Sen. Michael O’Donnell has found one, and on Monday he used Facebook to share it.

“Ms. Deterding at the Citizens Bank of Kansas filed just completely baseless and false charges against me and Wink Hartman regarding involvement with the Tiahrt campaign,” says O’Donnell, whose Facebook profile picture is of himself with former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.

“I got into politics with Bob Dole, and he taught us to play hard but play fair,” says Deterding, who worked for Dole from 1983 to 1987. “That’s not what’s happening in the Tiahrt campaign.”

Deterding, a friend and supporter of U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, says she believes that Hartman is inappropriately funneling money to the campaign of former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Pompeo’s opponent in the current 4th District House primary race. She says she believes that O’Donnell, Hartman’s marketing director, is serving as a go-between.

O’Donnell conducted a “poll” related to Deterding.

“Facebook poll: Who banks with Citizens Bank of Kansas? I’ve never come across such unethical leadership in my life,” O’Donnell wrote.

“I was just wondering who had banked with that bank, and I was trying to get reactions,” O’Donnell says.

He says there were some positive responses about the bank “and some unflattering posts, too, so I was just seeing if that’s the way she operates her business life.”

Deterding says she’s not Facebook friends with O’Donnell but that a friend pointed out the post.

“I thought he doesn’t understand politics,” Deterding says. “There’s no win for me to do this, to file this complaint. There’s nothing to be gained by the bank.”

She says she decided to file the FEC complaint after chatting with others who agreed it needed to be done. Deterding says she considered potential ramifications for the bank.

“Oh, sure. Oh, sure. Thought about it a lot. Discussed it with ownership and management,” she says. “At the end of the day, probably my mother’s comment was the best: ‘You know, this is something that ought to be done. I think you ought to do it.’ So I did.”

O’Donnell says Deterding has overstepped.

“She has no clue about any of the charges she’s been leveling against us,” he says.

He says neither Hartman nor Tiahrt would break the law and that he wouldn’t either.

“We have our attorneys that have made sure we are aware of the boundaries.”

O’Donnell says he doesn’t know why Deterding wouldn’t call him or Hartman or Tiahrt to see if her allegations were true.

“It’s just troubling that a leader of a bank would be so (quick) to falsely charge individuals that have a political opinion that differs from hers.”

Deterding, who also is a lawyer, says, “If the FEC had thought it was baseless, they wouldn’t have issued a matters-under-review case number to it.”

The FEC confirms it received the complaint but won’t comment on what action it may have taken with it.

O’Donnell says Deterding “clearly … believes in political points more than honesty or ethics.” He has deleted his Facebook post, though.

“I deleted the Facebook post because I didn’t want to perpetuate this issue,” O’Donnell says. “I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe that we should attack someone because they attack us. So I decided to remove the Facebook post, but I still am very troubled with her actions.”