WICHITA, Kan. – In a bid for his old House seat, former Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt claims an earmark he obtained during his previous stint in Congress helped capture a notorious serial killer that once terrorized Wichita. His opponent and the city’s police department disagree.
At a debate held Monday between Tiahrt and Rep. Mike Pompeo, the former congressman said that a Department of Justice earmark he lined up in 2004 helped catch the notorious serial killer Dennis Rader, known as BTK.
Rader killed 10 people in Wichita between 1974 and 1991 and resurfaced in 2004 after years of dormancy.
“Yes, I went and got an earmark for it. It was a million dollars. And with that, [Wichita police] were able to get the resources – the software, the overtime,” Tiahrt said on Monday, referencing an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant.
“And within six weeks of the time [Wichita police chief Norman Williams] cashed that check, Dennis Rader was behind bars,” Tiahrt told the crowd.
“And people who oppose earmarks, need to explain to us, maybe we should introduce them to the next victim that Dennis Rader had picked out,” Tiahrt added, defending earmarks, often called pork-barrel spending.
Pompeo, who was elected to the seat in 2010 after Tiahrt left to mount what turned out to be an unsuccessful senate bid, has slammed his predecessor’s penchant for earmarks, which the GOP placed a moratorium on in 2010.
Not only is Tiahrt out of step with the Republican party on pork-barrel spending, Pompeo’s campaign says that the earmark Tiahrt is touting did not do what the former lawmaker claims.
“To claim that Dennis Rader would be on the streets today without intervention from Washington D.C. is exactly the kind of claim we usually hear from big government liberals,” said Pompeo campaign manager Jim Richardson in a statement following Monday’s debate.
An official with the Wichita police department supported that criticism.
“As far as saying that he captured, or that the money was used to capture BTK, I’m not sure if that’s exactly accurate,” Wichita police deputy chief John Speer told The Daily Caller. Speer said he worked in the homicide and gang unit during the BTK case and currently oversees the department’s budget.
After Rader resurfaced in March 2004 following years of radio silence, Tiahrt moved that November to obtain the grant.
The city applied for the Edward Byrne justice grant on Jan. 14, 2005, Speer said. Rader was captured soon after, on Feb. 25.
But it was not until March 18 that DOJ approved the city’s grant application, said Speer. The city formally accepted the money on April 18, and received a check on July 25, 2005.
“Tiahart went and got the appropriation, but what happened in the meantime is we actually caught him,” Speer told TheDC.
“So, we didn’t start getting money until well after, obviously, that Dennis Rader was captured.”
Rader, who was sentenced to ten consecutive life sentences, was arrested after he sent a floppy disc to a local TV station that contained his name and the church he attended.
“It was really no super-sleuthing,” Speer said. “It was about 40 seconds worth of data recovery.”
Speer said that the money the city received from the grant did end up being used to reimburse the Wichita police department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other agencies which spent money on the investigation, which required extensive DNA analysis.
“Did that money help capture him?” Speer asked rhetorically. “No.”
“I appreciate Congressman Tiahrt at the time, the appropriation, because it did go to the benefit of the law enforcement and the Wichita community,” said Speer, who also pointed out that Rader’s floppy disc folly did not in any way diminish the hard work of the investigators involved in the case.
Asked to respond to the Pompeo campaign’s rebuttal, Tiahrt told TheDC via email, “in December , Wichita Police Department announced the federal funding, made budget transfers based on the law and began increased expenditures.”
TheDC relayed Tiahrt’s claim to Speer, who wrote “Budget transfers? There was no budget to transfer to – nothing was approved until 2005 as we discussed.”