Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hunter has more lobbyists' gifts than other area legislators combined


Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, added another $537.18 in gifts from lobbyists to his total, already one of the tops in the state, during March, according to documents posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website. That brings him to $1,728.99 for the first three months of 2006.
Hunter's total is about $200 more than the $1,550.74 his fellow area legislators Ed Emery, Ron Richard, Marilyn Ruestman, Bryan Stevenson, Kevin Wilson, and Gary Nodler combined.
The biggest amount, $342.26 for travel, came March 16 from William A. Gamble, apparently listed as coming from the Missouri Beverage Association, though Gamble has a host of clients, including Ameristar Casinos and Ameren UE.
Hunter also received $24 for meals, food and beverage from Sarah Topp, a lobbyist in Gamble's firm, on March 10. That, too, apparently came from the Missouri Beverage Association, according to the documents.
Among the other lobbyists adding to Hunter's total were:
-James Farrell, Missouri Coalition for Preservation and Economic Development, $40.25 for meals, food and beverage on March 8
-Drue Duncan, Ameren UE, $15.09 for meals on March 9.
-John Kristan Jones, $7.29 for meals on March 15
-Ginger Steinmetz, listed as Steinmetz Consulting, $21.40 for meals on March 29.
-Richard C. Wiles, Missouri Cable Telecommunications, $72.89 for meals, food and beverage on March 1. On the same day, Hunter received a gift worth $14 from Gregory Harrison, another lobbyist for the cable interest.
Ed Emery
You could take the amount of lobbyists' gifts Ed Emery, R-Lamar, has received for the entire calendar year, $40.15, multiply it by eight and still have less than Hunter received for travel from William A. Gamble on March 16.
Emery's only listing for March, a $14 gift from Harrison from Missouri Cable Telecommunications, came on the first day of the month.
Ron Richard
Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received $162.03 in gifts during March, bringing him to $575.27 for 2006. He also was a recipient of the Missouri Cable Telecommunications blitz on March 1, picking up $72.89 in meals from Richard C. Wiles and that $14 gift from Harrison.
Richard also received a $44.63 meal from James Bantham of CitiGroup Management March 15, and $30.51 for meals from Joseph Treadway of First Guard Health Plan March 29.
Marilyn Ruestman
Ms. Ruestman, R-Joplin, has received $81.72 worth of gifts from lobbyists this year, according to the Ethics Commission documents. In March, her total was $22, the $14 gift from Harrison, and an $8 meal from Sarah Topp of Missouri Beverage Association.
Bryan Stevenson
Stevenson reported only one gift for March, the same $14 gift from Harrison, bringing the Webb City Republican's total to $521.09 for the year.
Kevin Wilson
Chalk up the same $14 gift from Harrison for Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho. Otherwise, Wilson received no lobbyist gifts in March, and has a total of $112.21 for 2006.
Gary Nodler
Nodler's only gift was the same $14 one from Harrison, according to the documents. He has received $210.30 for the year.

Lobbyists' reports finally posted

Earlier today, I noted that lobbyists' reports, normally posted three weeks earlier, had not appeared on the Missouri Ethics Commission website. I guarantee you my post had nothing whatsoever to do with it, but those reports have now been posted.

Blunt reports no expenditures for March

It takes a gifted lobbyist to get the job done without doling out gifts to legislators. Take Andrew Blunt, for example. According to his report for March, posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, he reported no expenditures. In fact, Blunt has reported no expenditures for this year or for 2005.
It sure makes it easier to lobby when your brother is the governor. By the way, today is the younger Blunt's 30th birthday. It is likely he received more from the politicians than they have received from him.

Ethics Commission website not updated

Missourians who want to keep an eye on their legislators (and you can include me in that group) have to be disappointed with the way the Missouri Ethics Commission website has not been updated.
While campaign finance disclosure forms were updated as they were turned in on April 15 or on the days just before that deadline, the lobbyist reports have not been updated.
Those hoping to keep up with the amount of money lobbyists have lavished on their elected officials normally have been able to have that information at their disposal by the 10th of each month.
So far in 2006, only the January and February disclosure forms have been put on the web. Today is the last day of April and March has not been included as of a few moments ago.
During a time when people across the nation are keeping a watchful eye on the behavior of lobbyists and the elected officials they are trying to influence, it seems particularly inappropriate that the people do not have this information at their disposal.
Now that we have the technology to make this type of accountability possible, it's a crime not to have this information provided to Missourians on a timely basis.

Settlement enforced in Freeman lawsuit

Former Freeman Neosho employee Charis Seaton will receive only a $7,500 settlement, following a federal judge's ruling Wednesday that her lawyer, Donna Kitchen, Joplin, had accepted the settlement terms.
Attorneys for Freeman Hospital had claimed Ms. Seaton accepted a settlement agreement and indicated her lawyer was trying to weasel out of it. Ms. Seaton sued for wrongful dismissal. The case had been scheduled to come to trial on June 1.
In documents filed in February in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Freeman attorney Dwight Douglas claims he received three telephone calls from Ms. Kitchen Jan. 29 between 7 and 8 p.m.
"During the first telephone call, Ms. Kitchen asked me if defendants were interested in settling the case," Douglas wrote. Ms. Kitchen had made an offer to settle for $47,000 that had been rejected. At the time, Freeman had a counteroffer of $7,500.
During that conversation, Douglas told her he did not have the authority to approve a settlement. "A few minutes later, Ms. Kitchen called me for the second time," Douglas wrote. "Mrs. Kitchen asked, 'I want to know what you're going to pay to settle this case.' I explained to Ms. Kitchen that plaintiff's last demand was so far from defendant's offer of $7,500 that defendants had chosen not to respond."
Ms. Kitchen asked if Freeman's offer was still on the table. Douglas wrote, "I responded that it was not and that I did not have the authority to re-extend the offer." At that point, Ms. Kitchen asked if Freeman would cover Ms. Seaton's costs for depositions "I again responded that I did not have the authority to settle the matter."
At 8 p.m. Ms. Kitchen called Douglas for a third time. "She stated, 'We will take $7,500 to settle the case.' " Douglas said he would get back with her.
The next morning, at 9:26, Douglas e-mailed Freeman's acceptance of the settlement offer. "When I received no response to this e-mail, I called Ms. Kitchen at approximately 1 p.m. and left a voice mail for her. She immediately returned my call. Ms. Kitchen told me that she had not read her e-mails. She further stated that she assumed the offer was no longer outstanding since I did not respond to it on Sunday, January 29, 2006."
Ms. Kitchen e-mailed Douglas to let him know her client was not pleased with the agreement that had been drawn up since it "says nothing about expunging negative documents from her record. Nor does it say anything about her termination being changed to a resignation. I have told you all along that is very critical and important to her. My client is ready to move on, but not at the expense of her employment record.
"We have no settlement at this point."
In his e-mail response, Douglas said, "During our conversation on Sunday night, you made a firm offer to settle the case for $7,500. Not one word was said about her employment record or changes to her file. These were not a part of the settlement offer. These conditions cannot be obtained by your client even if she was successful in her suit. As I have said many times, your offer to settle was accepted and there were no special conditions.
"I am not responding to other discovery issues since the case is settled."
The checks have been issued and are being held by Freeman Accounting, according to court documents.
Freeman officials are asking the court to enforce the settlement.
Ms. Seaton, Joplin, was initially seeking more than $10 million from the hospital, claiming she was wrongfully fired. She said Freeman Neosho Chief Operating Officer Janice Walker violated criminal law by obtaining and disclosing patients' health information. The patients to whom Ms. Seaton is referring allegedly "were having sex with the Freeman Hospital physician who was under investigation for allegedly abusing drugs," according to the lawsuit. The petition also said Ms. Walker used Ms. Seaton's private medical records for her own gain.

Graham strikes out again

Nearly nine years have passed, but convicted swindler Patrick Dallas Graham is still upset that Circuit Court Judge David Darnold did not release him from prison after the first four months of his 15-year prison sentence.
Unfortunately, for Graham, District Judge Nanette K. Laughery did not have much sympathy for his point of view and turned down his habeas corpus petition Wednesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
In his petition, Graham said the Department of Corrections "violated his rights to due process when it submitted an erroneous parole eligibility report" to Barton County Circuit Court. He also claims Darnold violated his rights when he failed to grant him a hearing on his request to be released after 120 days.
The judge noted that the 120-day callback is "purely discretionary. No protected liberty interest has been created."
The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning Graham cannot file it again. Graham, who has tried numerous times to have his conviction tossed out or his sentence reduced, still has an action pending in Cole County Circuit Court.
Graham was convicted of fraud after fleecing more than 500 investors, including pop singer Pat Boone, and the Herschend family, owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, out of more than $5 million they invested in Conquest Labs, which Graham said was working on a vaccine to cure the AIDS virus, as well as other vaccines that would cure cancer and Alzheimer's Disease. In fact, no vaccines existed, and Graham was pouring the proceeds into his own pockets.
He was indicted by a Barton County grand jury in February 1996, following a May 23, 1995, raid of his office on the Lamar square.
More background on the Graham case is featured at this link.

How corruption becomes a way of life for some politicians


St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Pat Gauen wrote a thought-provoking piece in today's edition explaining how a culture of cooperation can enter politics. Though the column is based on the recent trial of former Illinois Governor George Ryan, it pertains to events in Missouri and across the nation.

Moark egg division continues to hurt Land O'Lakes

The quarterly report issued this week by Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes indicates its Moark egg layer division is continuing to drag the company down.
In the report, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Land O'Lakes officials said they suffered a $6.3 million pretax loss on eggs, though sales were slightly up from $105 to $108 million over the same period last year.
Moark's expansion of its Neosho-area facilities has been a source of controversy for the past several months.

Leggett & Platt bucking gay rights trend

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt is bucking industry trends in its fight against a proposal that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a Fortune magazine article.
The article mentions a number of companies that have adopted anti-discrimination policies, including Wal-Mart, while noting that Leggett & Platt is opposing the shareholder proposal, which is scheduled to come to a vote during the annual meeting May 10 in Carthage.
For more information about the proposal, check out this post from the March 31 Turner Report.

Article explores casino impact on Seneca area

It took a Lima, Ohio, newspaper to do it, but the continuing problems casinos are causing this area are explored in an article in today's edition of The Lima News.
Seneca residents and officials are interviewed in the story, which was prompted by efforts by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, owner of Bordertown Casino, to build a casino in the Lima area.
The influence of legalized gambling is evident in every phase of our society; bankruptcies increased, charities have received less money, and we have allowed ourselves to believe that lotteries and casinos are a panacea for every financial shortcoming our state government has.
Plus, a close examination of how lobbying dollars are spent and where campaign contributions are going show that gambling interests are sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into our politicians. Obviously, they would not be doing this if they were not getting something out of it.
I would love to see the Globe and the local broadcast media explore the effect of casinos on this area. Of course, that might be difficult considering the amount of advertising dollars our local media receive from gambling interests.

Globe opposes Voter ID bill

In an editorial published today, The Joplin Globe's editorial board came out against the proposed voter identification bill, citing cost and headaches for poll workers.
I would suggest another reason to oppose it; the way it has been proposed, it would provide another lucrative source of revenue for Governor Matt Blunt's license fee office operators. It also opens the door for lobbyists connected to the governor's family to make a killing by representing companies that want to rake in the bucks by providing these new voter identification cards to those who do not have driver's license. For more information, read this post from the April 29 Turner Report.

How Nodler really feels about lobbying reform


A close examination of Sen. Gary Nodler's comments in Joplin Globe statehouse correspondent Sadie Gurman's weekly legislative roundup gives a clear idea of how the Joplin senator stands on the reform movement.
The influence of lobbyists and the current campaign finance system are not problems, Nodler says; it's the fact that people are looking at them and thinking they are problems. To quote from the article:

"Nodler said national scandals have caused citizens to feel they are being left out of the state policy-making process as well due to the influence of lobbyists, even though he does not believe that's the case. 'The whole idea here is to try to rest public concern,' Nodler said. 'But I don't think any campaign-finance bill will be a magic panacea that will completely solve that.' "

All you have to do to see it is a problem is to examine the number of lobbyists donating to Senator Nodler and the amount of money that is being funneled through his Nodler Leadership PAC. Nodler and other leaders on both sides of the aisle are hoping this problem goes away.

Southeast Missourian continues campaign finance study

A bill that would eliminate campaign contribution limits apparently is going nowhere during this legislative session, but it is the center of an absorbing study of campaign financing by the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian.
The politicians quoted in the article seem to believe there is no middle ground between public financing of elections and totally removing the contribution limits. It is noted that since limits were put into effect in 1994 money has been funneled into county committees, then sent to the candidates.
Perhaps we should look at closing off these loopholes and making candidates actually follow the rules. The popular idea seems to be to remove the limits and require complete disclosure. While that sounds good on the face of it, there are only a handful of media outlets that do any kind of serious examinations of campaign contributions, and most of those center on who has raised the most money and not the source of that money.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hunter legislation needs to be examined closely


The danger of having a college intern serve as your capitol correspondent was on display in this morning's Joplin Globe as MU student Sadie Gurman examined Rep. Steve Hunter's latest anti-union legislation.
On the surface of it, Ms. Gurman's article is extremely well done. She covers Hunter's side and she covers the union side of his so-called right-to-work bill. Ms. Gurman is a talented reporter; I have no doubt she will go far, but like other statehouse and Congressional reporters, she looks at these bills as if they exist in a vacuum.
They don't.
The Joplin Globe was the first newspaper to report that Steve Hunter is essentially a paid lobbyist for Missouri businesses. This is not a reference to his political leanings, but to the money he receives as an employee of Associated Industries of Missouri. He is not technically a lobbyist. According to his biography on the Missouri House of Representatives website, Hunter is a membership recruiter for AIM. AIM's website describes just what the organization does, it represents the "interests of Missouri employers before the General Assembly, state agencies, the courts, and the public." That is called lobbying. The lobbying is paid for by AIM's members, who are recruited by Steve Hunter. The more members he recruits, the more money goes into lobbying, if his job description is accurate.
His paid position with a lobbying organization needs to be mentioned every time a story about Hunter is written. It's not as if he was churning out pro-business legislation since he arrived in Jefferson City.
During his first three years as a representative,as I noted in the July 15, 2005, Turner Report, Hunter did not sponsor any business legislation. Then three weeks after the end of the 2003 General Assembly, he found a new job as a membership recruiter for AIM. It would be safe to speculate that if Steve Hunter were not the chairman of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, he would not have been the first person AIM would have thought about hiring. That committee, of course, deals with the workers compensation legislation that AIM and Missouri businesses pushed during the 2005 session. It also deals with the anti-union legislation being promoted by Hunter this year and last year. If that is not a conflict of interest, the term has no meaning.

Cashing in on voter IDs

It hasn't taken long for the vultures to circle in on the almost certain success of the bill which would require all Missourians to provide photographic voter IDs.
The Missouri Democratic Party noted in an April 18 press release that the bill mandates that "taxpayers pay (Governor) Blunt's fee office operators, some of whom gross as much as $700,000 a year, an additional $1 million for providing photo IDs to Missourians so that they can vote."
The bill, which was passed by the Senate April 20, is scheduled to have a hearing Monday before the House Rules Committee.
Undoubtedly, companies will be vying to provide these voter IDs and one of the companies that stands a good chance of landing the state contract is Austin, Texas-based BearingPoint. On March 21, BearingPoint, which describes itself as a "leading global management and technology consulting firm," announced a teaming with Colorado-based Archon Technologies to "jointly pursue opportunities to provide information technology solutions for vehicle registration, drivers licensing and revenue management services to state, provincial, territorial and local motor vehicle departments in the United States and Canada."
The BearingPoint news release continued, " 'By aligning our business processes and information systems with Archon, BearingPoint will be better able to provide states with cost effective solutions to comply with the federally-mandated Real ID Act,' said Gary Miglicco, vice president for BearingPoint’s National Motor Vehicle Solutions Practice. 'Together, our two firms will review potential opportunities and work together to provide clients with integrated solutions that will allow them to upgrade their current systems and deliver results to citizens and other key constituents in an accelerated time frame.' Miglicco said the companies have already identified nearly a dozen potential market opportunities for 2006 and beyond."
Assuredly, Missouri is one of those markets since the following day, March 22, a Missouri lobbyist, Jay Reichard, filed documents with the Missouri Ethics Commission registering BearingPoint as a client. Reichard has some interesting connections. He shares a number of clients with another lobbyist, Andrew Blunt, younger brother of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, with most of those clients added to his list shortly after the governor took office.
Though Andrew Blunt is not listed as a lobbyist for BearingPoint (a wise move since the FBI is currently looking into the license fee operations in the state), there is little doubt that Blunt and Reichard are closely connected.
There is also little doubt that this is yet another chapter in the culture of corruption that encompasses Missouri.

Politicians: People don't care about lobbying scandals

A Washington Post article indicates politicians felt comfortable in passing a mild lobbying reform bill because they don't believe their constituents are concerned about the issue.

Cape Girardeau paper details campaign finance shenanigans


The use of political committees to circumvent campaign finance laws is something I have written about numerous times. Today's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian features an exploration of the process, including a close look at money that was funneled to Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.

Messenger blog begins at News-Leader site

The Springfield News-Leader's new editorial page editor Tony Messenger has hit the ground running. Messenger, whose blog was a popular feature at the Columbia Tribune, has already started one at the Springfield newspaper. He promises to share political views and a glimpse at the inner workings of editorial page decisions.

Friday, April 28, 2006

FBI continues investigation into license fee offices

The Associated Press is reporting today that the FBI is continuing its investigation into license fee office contracts awarded by the Blunt administration.

Emery explains vote for HB1075


In his latest column, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar,explained his vote on HB1075, the proposal which passed the House by a 90-60 vote Thursday (including "yes" votes by all of our area representatives).
Emery describes the bill, which changes the way sex education is handled in Missouri, as "keeping the fox out of the henhouse," the fox being Planned Parenthood.

Daily plays up Joplin stories

Thursday was a big day in the short existence of JoplinDaily.com. It was one of the few occasions on which Editor John Hacker and his crew had a handful of meaty stories to cover and they came through big time.
A quick check of the website shows a photo and story on the Mayflower Apartments fire, which fortunately claimed no lives, but did send five residents to the hospital.
Having worked with Hacker during his two stints at The Carthage Press, I had the opportunity, on several occasions, to see just how good he is at handling breaking news. He was at the top of the game on the Mayflower fire.
Hacker also covered the annual Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet Thursday night, and had a complete story, as well as photos from the event. The Daily's competitor, the Joplin Globe, ran one photo from the event, which was barely larger than a postage stamp, plus five mugshots, while Hacker ran a number of photos from the banquet.
The website also featured a host of other Joplin stories. The headline to this story is a bit obvious. After all, the whole mission of the Daily is to play up Joplin stories, but with the Globe's mishandling of the same stories and the utter failure of the Globe's weekly, the Joplin Herald, it appears Liberty might just have carved out a place for itself in the local journalistic scene.

The truth behind the dancing Dowe Quick

It was too good to be true.
It was obvious from the many spelling and grammatical errors on the alleged myspace.com website for Dowe Quick that it was not the longtime KOAM anchor who was the mastermind behind the project.
Still, Quick's expose' on Thursday's newscasts of how easy it is for someone to assume someone else's identity on the internet took away that last glimmer of hope from those of us who were keeping our fingers crossed that there really was a dancing Dowe Quick.
Quick's piece was amusing, but also frightening, as interviews with MSSU President Julio Leon and Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr, as well as the anchor's own experiences showed how little security people have on the world wide web.

Joplin apparently not the Globe's most important market

Big news happened in Joplin Thursday and it made page one of the Joplin Globe, purportedly the city's newspaper.
Five residents had to be taken to the hospital and two firemen were treated for dehydration after a fire at the Mayflower Apartments. Thursday night's news was less urgent, but an important part of Joplin life nonetheless...businessman Hal Roper was named Citizen of the Year by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, other businesses were honored and four top teachers received the Golden Apple Awards.
The way the stories were played give no doubt that the Globe considers itself a regional paper and has no particular interest in playing up important stories in the community in which the greatest number of its subscribers live.
Both of the top stories in this morning's edition were from Neosho. Admittedly, both were important stories. Staff writer Linda Greer covered the civil trial of a family which is suing the Neosho R-5 School District for wrongful death after a six-year-old boy was run over by a school bus. The other story, written by Andy Ostmeyer, concerned a visit to the federal fish hatchery in Neosho by federal officials.
The fire story was placed beneath the lawsuit, barely above the fold, while the Chamber story is at the bottom of the page, running beneath the other stories I have mentioned, plus a Cherokee County, Kan., article.
Again, as I have pointed out numerous times on this blog, the placement of stories is the way a newspaper shows what it considers to be important. Close to half of today's page one is devoted to the fish hatchery story and photos. When it comes to Joplin, apparently it's not such a big deal to the Joplin Globe.
Is it any wonder the Joplin Daily, even with its numerous flaws, has been so readily accepted by the local community? Joplin readers want to know that their newspaper considers them to be their number one priority. Clearly, the Globe has different priorities.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pregnant skydiver to marry on Sunday


Shayna Richardson, Joplin, who became famous (or infamous) seven months ago as the pregnant skydiver whose chute wouldn't open, is going to get married Sunday, according to KSFM-TV, Fort Smith, Ark. The baby is due June 22, according to the report.
***
Update: A more complete article has been posted by Associated Press.

Empire District Electric announces quarterly results

Empire District Electric Company's revenues were up $8.4 million this quarter, company officials reported in a press release today.

Nelson named Jasper mayor

Paul "Dusty" Nelson, who served as Jasper mayor from 2001-2005 was appointed mayor Thursday night after John Rodebush officially resigned.

KC Star breaks big story: Phone Sex Grandma actress dropping out of House race

Today's Kansas City Star carried a big scoop, Opal Dockery, Lamar, writer and star of the independent movie, "Phone Sex Grandma" has dropped out of the Sixth District U. S. Congressional race. Ms. Dockery had filed as a Democratic candidate.
Of course, that's old news to Turner Report readers since that story was carried on this blog March 31, four weeks ago.
Someone should probably tell the Star that Orville and Wilbur's machine was able to get off the ground at Kitty Hawk.

Consulting firms continue to make big bucks off O'Sullivan bankruptcy

Three bills totaling nearly $700,000 were submitted today by three companies hired by O'Sullivan Industries officials to help them through their Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Between March 1 and April 12, when the company emerged from bankruptcy, it was billed for $509,474.93 by Dechert LLP, $114,057.06 by FTI Consulting, and $48,122.61 by Lamberth, Cifelli, Stokes and Stout PA, according to documents filed today in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

White supremacist says he's not looking for money

In a letter filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller said he will not seek money from Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in the lawsuit he filed after he was denied a place on the Aug. 8 Democratic primary ballot.
"I apologize to this court for claiming damages in my original complaint," Frazier, an Aurora resident, wrote. "I do not seek money. I seek only to be a candidate for U. S. Congress in the Seventh Congressional District of Missouri, and that my name be placed on the Aug. 8, 2006, primary election ballot on the Democratic ticket."
Miller noted, "Defendant Carnahan clearly stated in her letter to me dated March 13, 2006, that my name will not be placed on the primary elections ballot, even though she admits in the same letter that I did, in fact, pay the required filing fee."
Miller said he just wants his name on the ballot as a Democrat. After he was rejected by the Democratic party, Miller's fledgling candidacy was also rejected by the Republican and Libertarian parties.
In a motion filed today, Miller asked the judge to deny Ms. Carnahan's motion to dismiss. Miller, who is representing himself, wrote, "My complaint stands solely on the grounds of the U. S. Constitution and on the premise that all qualified U. S. citizens should be allowed to run for U. S. Congress on whichever of the two major political party tickets he or she so chooses."
Miller said that on March 6, he drove the 300-mile round trip from Aurora to Jefferson City to file and his $100 filing fee was accepted by the clerk. Miller provided a copy of the receipt as part of the court filing.
"If defendant Carnahan can point to any law or to any U. S. Constitutional provision which allows her to refuse to print my name on said ballot, or if this honorable court will point to any, I will immediately drop my complaint. Is this request not a reasonable one coming from a U. S. Army master sergeant who served our country for over 20 years in the U. S. Army, including two tours of duty in Vietnam?" Miller wrote.
Miller asks for a special hearing to be held as soon as possible. "Time is running out," he said. "The primary elections will be held on Aug. 8 and I must know as soon as possible if I'm free to campaign for the office of U. S. Congress."

Representatives protest Hunter anti-union bill


Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, who moonlights as a paid employee of the business lobbying Associated Industries of Missouri, is once again attempting to ram through anti-union legislation that would make Missouri a right-to-work state.
A hearing on Hunter's bill was scheduled for Wednesday, but according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, it was boycotted by five Democrats and two Republicans.
A quick examination of the makeup of the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, of which Hunter is the chairman, indicates that seven of 12 members (not counting Hunter) did not bother to show up for the hearing. Hopefully, this is a sign that Hunter's annual crusade is going to meet the same fate it has met in previous years.

Nexstar stock continues to move upward

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, continued its upward spiral in the stock market Wednesday, closing at $5.67 up 64 cents from the previous day. The stock has been moving steadily upward for the past few weeks after reaching a low of about $4.

No one happy with national lobbying reform

An article in this morning's Houston Chronicle indicates no one is particularly happy with the lobbying reform bill passed by the U. S. House of Representatives. The only major change is the requirement that lobbyists file reports quarterly instead of twice a year.
Some Congressmen are complaining because of the bill's temporary ban on lobbyist-funded travel. The bill is a weak response to a growing problem.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

House lobbying bill designed to please lobbyists

The U. S. House of Representatives is debating a lobbying reform bill that appears to have been written by the lobbyists, according to an editorial in today's New York Times.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Naming the accused

The names of five teenagers charged in connection with the alleged Columbine-style plot at Riverton High School were featured prominently in articles in today's Joplin Globe and Kansas City Star.
The names are also featured on the KSNF website.
At the same time, KOAM is only naming the 18-year-old, citing a policy of not naming juveniles in these cases.
This is another one of those knotty problems that face newsrooms When should you name juveniles who are accused of crimes? One simple solution is not name them unless they are charged as adults, but is that truly serving your readers or viewers?
It usually comes down to a newsroom decision as to whether the crime is heinous enough to merit naming juveniles.
In the Riverton case, those favoring naming names have a number of solid reasons on their side:
-We are talking about a Columbine-type plan, even though there appears to be some doubt as to whether these five teens planned to follow through on their threats. (And Riverton school officials did not help by failing to contact the authorities the second they had an inkling of what had been posted on myspace.com. That certainly would give the appearance they did not take the threat seriously. According to Globe reporter Jeff Lehr's weekend story and other reports I have read and heard, the authorities did not become aware of this plot until they were told by a myspace participant in North Carolina.) The gravity of this plot, in an era in which we have been traumatized by Columbine, Santee, Jonesboro, and other school shootings certainly would make this seem like a case that would merit naming the juveniles.
-The public definitely has a right to know. We are talking about a situation in which lives were threatened. This has an effect on everyone in the community, from parents and students to all of the taxpayers who foot the bill for the school.
-Felony charges were filed. This is not a situation in which teens are being charged with vandalism or disturbing the peace. Though the charges fell short of the conspiracy to commit murder originally mentioned, they are nothing to laugh at.
Those who favor not printing or broadcasting the names appear to be relying more on tradition than anything else. There was a time when public policy invariably came down on the side of keeping young people's names a secret. However, with the gravity of some of the crimes that have been committed by teens over the past several years, that thinking is appearing to be more and more out of date.
It is hard to believe that anyone in this day and age, no matter how young that person may be, does not know that there is something horribly wrong in plotting a mass murder.
While I commend KOAM for sticking to its principles, those principles are outdated. The names of the five alleged plotters, Charles New, Robby Hunt, Caleb Byrd, James Tillman and Andrew Jaeger should be mentioned every time new developments occur in this story.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Lobbyists battling new reporting requirements

As you might expect, Missouri lobbyists are not taking new reporting requirements lying down. A lawsuit has filed by a lobbyist against the new requirements, which would stop the dodge of paying for meals and drinks for committees and caucuses without the individual members having the gifts listed on their records. The Associated Press ran an article on the subject today.

Talent campaign examined in national magazine


The Hill, a Washington-based political magazine, looks at Senator Jim Talent's reelection campaign in its latest edition.

Nodler opposes tuition cap for students


Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, indicated in an article in today's Columbia Missourian that he opposes a bill that would put a cap on college students' tuition.
The article says Nodler is troubled by provisions in the bill that would also limit the amount of money higher education institutions could receive from the state, though the amount would be still be considerably higher than it has been.

"I think that it (the bill) really impedes the ability of the governing boards to do their jobs," Nodler said. "I’m not in favor of that level of micro management by the legislature."
The bill, as you might imagine, is opposed by the state's colleges and universities.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Messenger era to begin Monday


Tony Messenger, whose columns and lively blog have made thought-provoking reading for the Columbia Tribune, will take over as editorial page editor of the Springfield News-Leader Monday.
I am looking forward to seeing what changes he makes and how he stirs things up in the Queen City.

Business Journal: Two carriers vying for Joplin routes

Two carriers, Mesa/Air Midwest and RegionsAir, are vying to do business with the Joplin airport, according to an article in the Springfield Business Journal.

Four-headed monster strikes again

The incredible four-headed writer who emerged after The Turner Report began ripping into local legislators for plagiarizing their capitol reports, reared its heads again today with yet another item on the Joplin Daily's editorial page.
While I can only recall criticizing Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, for apparently not being totally original with their writing, the two have joined forces with Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, and Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, to issue these self-serving press releases.
The latest one has to do with legislation which would exempt those over 65 from the new requirements to provide proof of citizenship, including birth certificates and photo I. D. to obtain or renew a driver's license.
While I agree with the representatives that those over 65 should not have to go through this nonsense, I still cannot understand why anyone has to. I went through this process a few weeks ago. It was only a minor hassle, but I did not prove to anyone that I had the legal right to have a driver's license. I had my original birth certificate, which I received by sending $15 to the Department of Health. No one at the license bureau had any way of knowing if that was really me.
I lost my Social Security card three decades ago. I had no problem getting a replacement, but no one at the license bureau had any way of knowing whether that was my Social Security card I used to prove my citizenship.
The fact that I have had a legal driver's license in Missouri for nearly 34 years should have been all of the proof anyone needed...and the state already had that information in its system.
The hydra-like writing team managed to make sure each legislator was quoted:

"This requirement is seen as an undue burden to certain segments of the population by many legislators, me included," said Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-128).

Rep. Marilyn Ruestman (R-131) added, "I have helped many seniors that have had great difficulties with the current process, and although the department of Revenue and Licensing Bureau has handled these issues very well, this legislation will help to remove the burden on our seniors."

The bill was voted out of the Rules Committee unanimously, "which shows the concern both sides of the aisle have for the difficulty placed on our senior citizens," said Rep. Ron Richard (R-129).

Fortunately, the bill is also equipped with an emergency clause. "Our seniors shouldn't have to wait until August for this to take effect," said Rep. Steve Hunter (R-127). If passed, the bill will immediately become law upon signature by the Governor.
***
Forgive me for being cynical, but would the rush to get this legislation passed also have something to do with the fact that a much higher percentage of senior citizens go to the polls than any other age group?
Our legislators have told us time and again that this law was passed because the federal regulations required it and we would have to do it eventually. Other states are fighting the requirement because of the additional cost. Perhaps it would have been wiser for our legislators to wait and see what happened rather than to rush things in an apparent attempt to kiss up to the Bush Administration.

Globe throws resources into Riverton story

When news of an alleged school shooting plot emerged from sleepy little Riverton, Kan., earlier this week, it did not take long for the Joplin Globe to throw its resources at the story.
Since the story broke, the Globe has had bylines from Roger McKinney, Nammi Bhagvandoss, Linda Greer, Jeff Lehr, and Andy Ostmeyer, covering everything from the law enforcement viewpoint to students, to the connection between this incident and the Columbine high school shooting of April 1999.
This use of manpower might be questioned, but it is definitely the right decision. This is close to home and people who have children in other area school districts are rightfully worried when a plot like this is uncovered so close to home.
The Riverton arrests have also been the major topic of watercooler talk around the area and plus, there is a mystery to this case, which came to light with Jeff Lehr's article.
There appears to be a wide disconnect between the time school officials first had an inkling about this plot and when law enforcement officials were contacted. In fact, every news account I have read or watched indicates the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department became involved, not as a result of receiving word from school administrators, but from a North Carolina student who had picked up the rumor during a conversation on myspace.com
One of my eighth grade students at South has a close friend who attends Riverton High School, who told her that members of the softball team had told school officials well before April 20 (the purported shooting date), but all news reports are saying the law became involved the evening of April 19.
Reading through Jeff Lehr's story, the message becomes even more disturbing. Students did what they were supposed to do and told school officials. At least one teacher did his job and passed the word along that something serious might be going down. Administrators were checking out the myspace.com postings, according to the article, but it took someone from North Carolina to think of picking up the phone and calling the law.
Perhaps school officials thought that word of a Columbine-like plan would bring unfavorable publicity on Riverton. Maybe they should have thought of the publicity that would have come with an actual massacre.

Local TV reporters, anchors appear on national news




Local television personalities have been making the rounds of the cable news shows since this week's arrest of five Riverton High School teenagers for allegedly planning a Columbine-style shooting rampage.
While I understand others have been interviewed from all of the stations, the only one I happened to catch was KSNF anchor Tiffany Alaniz, who was being interviewed by MSNBC Saturday morning.
Ms. Alaniz was professional throughout her appearance, which was more than I can say for the MSNBC interviewer, who did not take the time to even learn how to pronounce her last name.
I have been told that KODE reporter Dan Tordjman and anchor Tara Brown were interviewed by CNN at different times.
It is an unfortunate thing when our area becomes the focus of the national media, but it is nice to know when it does that they are able to step up to the plate and hit it out of the park.

The problem with determining who could be a school shooter

In the wake of school shootings at Columbine, Jonesboro, Santee High School, and at other venues, the FBI developed a checklist of signs to look for to determine jut who might potentially take a gun and shoot up a school.
I thought about that checklist following this week's arrest of five Riverton High School students who allegedly were planning to shoot up their school.
When I was teaching at Diamond Middle School, I administered the FBI test to my classes. What we found is that nearly 90 percent of the students (and the teacher) fit the mode of a school shooter. The guidelines included everything from people who had had dramatic upheavals in their lives (and at that time, I had forged ahead with a decision to leave journalism after 22 years and go into education), to enjoying heavy metal music. I had numerous students who had a fascination with Hitler, none of them worshipping him that I know of, but merely caught up in World War II, just as people in all walks of life have been since the war ended in 1945.
Ultimately, the FBI test was an exercise of futility, and that is the scariest problem that faces school and law enforcement officials. While there are warning signals when students might cause problems, unfortunately, there is no surefire way of seeing into a person's soul.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Kinder piling up lobbyist contributions


He's not running for anything this year, but that has not stopped Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's campaign finance machinery.
Kinder collected $7,875 during the past three months, according to the quarterly disclosure statement filed earlier this month with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Remarkably, $5,339 of that total came from registered lobbyists...though, of course, not one of them is listed as a lobbyist on the disclosure forms.
The biggest contribution, $1,200, came from Datra Herzog, lobbyist for MOHELA, with $1,000 coming from The Swain Group, the lobbying firm headed by Scott Swain, which represents Verizon, Centurytel and Missouri Energy Group, among others.
Kinder received $539 from J. R. Moody & Associates, the lobbying firm led by James R. Moody. The firm represents the Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools and President Casinos, among others.
A $500 contribution was given by Bill Shoehigh, Lee's Summit, described on the form as self-employed. During his self-employment, he lobbies for Microsoft and the Apollo Group/University of Phoenix.
Most of the donations came in $300 chunks, from the following lobbyists:
-Brent Hemphill, Alliance for School Choice, AT&T
-Harness and Associates, Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association, St. Luke Hospital System
-Burch and Associates- Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri State University, Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
-Clarkston Consultants- Heath Clarkston, Aquila, Home Builders Association
-Cozad Group, John Cozad, Platte City, Advocates of Missouri State University, Jackson County
-Governmental Service Group, Missouri Dealers Association
-Joseph Thompson Consulting, AT&T, Missouri Gas Energy

Nexstar sale of Fort Smith station should be examined

I have been surprised that there has not been more scrutiny of this week's announcement that Nexstar Broadcasting is selling KFTA to Mission Broadcasting. After all, Nexstar officials have acknowledged in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that they effectively have controlling interest in Mission stations, including KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.
As The Turner Report noted in May 2005, Nexstar's duopoly arrangements with Mission have brought up questions over whether Mission Broadcasting is an actual company or if it not a cover to allow Nexstar to own more than one station in a number of small markets.
Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of a national non-profit public interest law firm, Media Access Project, told the Texas Tech University Daily that there were serious questions about Mission, dating back to SEC filings, plus information featured in numerous sources, including The Turner Report.
The Akron Ohio Beacon Journal said in an article printed two years ago that Mission's CEO, David Smith, is generally out of the loop, allegedly operates the company out of a "tidy white house on a quiet street" with no transmission towers. It looks like an ordinary house, the newspaper said, because it is an ordinary house.
Smith, the pastor of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Akron, has nothing to do with the actual operation of any of Mission's stations, the article said. He enters into agreements with Nexstar to run Mission's TV stations, such as KODE and KOLR. Despite his $330,000 a year salary, Smith told the newspaper, he has no day-to-day responsibilities. He didn't know what his company's business plan was or how many employees it had.

Nexstar to pursue new revenue sources

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield (and, of course, de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield) has created the new position of senior vice president of new media and hired Rajiv Lulla, formerly of CBS and Viacom, for the job, according to an article in Media Week.

Preliminary hearing set for Jobst

A 9 a.m. July 13 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Grove, Okla., family dentist Karl Jobst, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the June 14, 2003, accident in which his girlfriend, Helen Chandler, was killed. Authorities believe Jobst, a former Lamar resident, was driving while intoxicated.

Accounting firm wants nothing to do with O'Sullivan Industries

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the accounting firm that has been handling O'Sullivan Industries' business told O'Sullivan officials Monday that it will not seek to be reappointed. The information was revealed during documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
PwC's commitment to O'Sullivan will end after it completes the company's quarterly statement. O'Sullivan is looking for a new accounting firm, according to the filing.

Boundaries established for Bucher deposition

Attorneys for Glenna McKitterick will be allowed to ask retired Branson priest Philip Bucher about sexual relationships with staff or church employees and about sexual harassment complaints. The same types of questions will be permitted when Bishop John J. Liebrecht about his knowledge of Bucher's activities, according to an order issued by U. S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr Friday.
No questions will be allowed about any relationships Bucher might have had outside the church, the order said. Bucher's deposition will remain sealed until a further order is issued by the court, the document said.
Bucher is scheduled to be deposed Friday, April 28, in Albuquerque, N. M. Ms.
McKitterick is suing Bucher for sexual harassment, claiming she was fired from her job with the church after she refused to submit to Bucher's sexual advances. She is suing Bucher, the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese,Liebrecht, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church.

Miller drops request for court-appointed attorney

Avowed white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, Aurora, will represent himself in his lawsuit against Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, according to a document filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Miller previously had asked for a court-appointed attorney, but withdrew the motion. He is attempting to be placed on the ballot as a Democrat for the August primary for the Seventh District Congressional seat. Miller was rejected by the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties, all of whom wanted to distance themselves from his long, documented past as a white supremacist.

Governor appoints two to Ethics Commission

Governor Matt Blunt appointed two new members to the Missouri Ethics Commission Friday. The press release is reprinted below:

JEFFERSON CITY-Gov. Matt Blunt yesterday nominated two individuals to serve on the Missouri Ethics Commission. Blunt recommended Brad Mitchell a Democrat from the 9th Congressional District and John King a Republican from the 3rd Congressional District.
Mitchell, 35, is currently employed as the vice president of the Bank of Washington in Washington, MO. Mitchell is a graduate of Westminster University. He is president/chairman of Immanuel Lutheran Church, president of the Washington Lions Club and coaches little league baseball and works as a high school basketball referee.
King, 69, is an attorney at the law firm of Blumfeld, Kaplan and Sandweiss in St. Louis. His practice is focused in the areas of land use zoning and planning with special emphasis in the fields of residential and commercial development and communication law. King serves on the Board of Police Commissioners for the City of Shrewsbury and is Chairman of the Board of Christian Brothers High School. He earned his bachelor's degree from St.Benedict's College and his law degree from St. Louis University.
"Brad Mitchell and John King will make tremendous additions to the Missouri Ethics Commission," Blunt said. "Both bring exceptional, professional and educational backgrounds to these important positions and a passion for their local communities as evidenced by their involvement in civic groups and activities. I am pleased they are willing to serve our state in this capacity."
If confirmed by the Senate, Mitchell and King will fill two of the three current vacancies on the six-member ethics commission giving them the quorum they need to fulfill their statutory duties.
Unlike other state boards and commissions, state law prescribes a complex process for filling vacancies on the state ethics commission. Major political party congressional organizations must be consulted and given time to submit names of individuals they would like to serve on the commission.In the absence of those recommendations the governor may nominate individuals based on the vacancies that exist with Missouri's nine congressional districts. Blunt's office sent two letters, the second via certified mail, to odd numbered congressional districts as prescribed by state law. Most of the party congressional committees did not properly comply with provisions governing the process. The law requires nominees to submit financial disclosure statements and four-year histories of campaign contributions in order to be eligible for consideration. Upon receipt of the required filings, the Governor's Office will make an appointment to fill the final vacancy on the commission. The ethics commission receives and reviews complaints alleging violations of the conflict of interest and lobbying statutes and the campaign finance disclosure statute. They also review and audit campaign finance disclosure reports and provide information and assistance to lobbyists, elected and appointed officials and the general public.

Friday, April 21, 2006

No safety net for small communities

It was another of those days that schoolteachers across the United States have come to dread.
The national and regional media were leading with tales of a plot by Riverton High School students to commmit a massacre to commemorate Adolf Hitler's birthday and the seventh anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Society is full of disturbed people. Columbine proved those people could be situated among the affluent. The Riverton arrests showed that it can just as easily happen in a rural setting. In other words, no one can feel really comfortable.
Of course, statistics show that violence in schools across the United States is on the downswing. They were even down in 1999 when the Columbine shootings took place. Statistics, though, are not designed to make people feel safe and protected.
As the beginning of the school day nears, I wonder if the Riverton murder plan will be on the minds of my students. Many of them take great pains to avoid anything that smacks of news. At the same time, however, the students always seem to know when something like this happens.
My teaching career began a few short months after Columbine. I remember the subject was on the minds of the Diamond Middle School students that year when school started even though Columbine had occurred more than four months earlier. During those times, it seemed there was some school shooting incident or some rumor of one every other night on the news, although that simply could be the fact that every aspect of Columbine was covered for months.
The odds of something of that nature taking place at any Southwest Missouri school are remote, but then, the same thing could have been said about Riverton before yesterday. It's not something you can dwell on, but unfortunately, in this day and age, every school has to be prepared for the mayhem that can be caused by these twisted souls who somehow have slipped through society's cracks.
***
As usual, the media blanketed the Riverton situation, with the local television stations all doing a solid job, and none leaving the others behind.
The most worrisome part of the coverage, especially to those with children at school, or for those of us who work in a school system, was the news that many students stayed at home, having heard that something horrible might be taking place, but apparently they didn't contact the authorities.
The police were led to the murderous plot by a woman in North Carolina who communicated with one of the suspects through MySpace.com That students would be so willing to save themselves and not take a simple step that could have saved dozens, maybe hundreds of lives, may be the scariest information to come out of this situation.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nickolaisen unveils new blog


My favorite blogger and former student Michelle Nickolaisen unveiled her new blog, Unwise and Untimely this week and it promises to be a thoughtful one. Michelle, who is completing her junior year at Diamond High School, is hoping her new blog can attract young readers and interest them in issues that are important to her.
I wish her luck with her endeavor and naturally, her blog is being added to my links list on the side of this page. You will also notice a few other changes in the links list, including the removal of a couple of dead links and the addition of Room 210 News, the blog site started a few weeks ago by the South Middle School Journalism Club.

O'Sullivan news release makes no mention of million-dollar CEO

The removal of Bob Parker as O'Sullivan Industries CEO does not appear to be an amicable one, based on the news release issued Wednesday by the company to announce the permanent elevation of Rick Allan Walters to the top spot.
Parker's name was not mentioned once.
The news release reads:

ROSWELL, Ga., April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- O'Sullivan Industries, Inc., a leading designer, marketer and manufacturer of office, home, storage and organizational products, today announced that Rick Walters was named President and Chief Executive Officer by the company's board of directors.

"Naming Rick to lead O'Sullivan positions the company to continue the execution of the strategy and plans designed to turn O'Sullivan into a stronger company for the future," stated Tom Shandell, who was named chairman of the O'Sullivan board of directors.

Mr. Walters joined O'Sullivan as CFO in June 2004 from Newell Rubbermaid, where he served as group vice president and CFO of the company's Sharpie/Calphalon group. He has served as interim CEO of O'Sullivan since November 2005.

The company also announced the promotion of Russ Steinhorst to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, succeeding Mr. Walters.

Mr. Steinhorst joined O'Sullivan as Corporate Controller in August, 2004 from Newell Rubbermaid, where he held progressively increasing responsibility in various accounting and finance roles, with his last position as Vice President - Finance for the Sharpie group.

"Russ has done an outstanding job helping to guide O'Sullivan through our recently completed restructuring," commented Rick Walters. "He is a solid financial and business leader and we look forward to his continued contributions to O'Sullivan's successes into the future."

KOAM owner's CEO receives $400,000 bonus

Edward K. Christian, CEO of Saga Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX television stations in the Joplin/Pittsburg market, received a $530,438 salary and a $400,000 bonus during 2005, according to a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The bonus was based on Christian's meeting goals set by the Executive Compensation Committee, according to the proxy statement.
"Of the bonus awarded Mr. Christian, $225,000 was awarded based on the Company achieving net revenue and free cash flow goals for fiscal year 2005. An additional $175,000 was awarded by the Committee, in its discretion, based on market conditions and a subjective evaluation of Mr. Christian’s performance."

Jarden annual stockholders' meeting scheduled

The annual stockholders' meeting for the Jarden Corporation is set for 10 a.m. Friday, May 19, at the Four Seasons Hotel, 57 E. 57th Street, New York.
Agenda items include electing two directors and ratifying appointment of Ernst & Young as the company's accounting firm.
The proxy was filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Leggett & Platt reports record earnings

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt reported record first quarter earnings today in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sales were up to $5.9 billion, up 5.9 percent from the first quarter of 2005.

Priest's deposition to be taken in New Mexico

Philip Bucher, the former Branson priest at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit, will be questioned by lawyers for his accuser Friday, April 28, in Albuquerque, N. M., according to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Also scheduled to be deposed is a woman named Carol Giannini, whose name has been linked with Bucher in news accounts. Initially, the deposition had been scheduled for this week in Springfield, but Bucher's attorneys asked to the New Mexico deposition since that is where he lives since he retired from his position in Branson.
Glenna McKitterick is suing Bucher for sexual harassment, claiming she was fired from her job with the church after she refused to submit to Bucher's sexual advances. She is suing Bucher, the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, Bishop John J. Liebrecht, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church.

Rural Republicans may kill voucher proposal

HB1783, which would open the door to educational vouchers in this state is teetering on the brink of defeat, according to Jo Mannies' column in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The cause, according to Ms. Mannies, is a split among the GOP's urban and rural divisions, with the rural legislators opposing the proposal. That split apparently does not apply to this area, where thus far, only Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, has come out against the bill.
As mentioned in the March 31 Turner Report, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, and is co-sponsored by a host of his colleagues, including Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, and Steve Hunter, R-Joplin.

Globe losing Jefferson City reporter


Sadie Gurman, who has provided statehouse coverage for the Joplin Globe during this legislative session, will leave the newspaper once the session is completed, according to her blog, Life Under the Dome.
Ms. Gurman does not specify the new job she will have, only that is in the "free north."

Settlement reached in wrongful death lawsuit

Documents filed this week in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri indicate a settlement has been reached between parties in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Brandie McLean, mother of Braxton Wooden, the eight-year-old who was shot to death by his foster brother in Alba last June.
Joplin attorney Karl Blanchard filed documents Tuesday indicating foster parents Mark and Treva Gordon of Alba, and Ethan Gordon, who was sent to a juvenile facility after shooting Braxton Wooden, have settled with Braxton's survivors. "The necessary settlement documents required for the approval of the wrongful death settlement are being prepared and will be submitted to the Court at the earliest possible date," Buchanan said. No other information was given about the settlement.
Ms. McLean and her children, through their next friend, Braxton's great-aunt, Rhonda Stone, are still suing the Missouri Division of Family Services and two of its caseworkers. An amended complaint was filed earlier this week in district court.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Drunk driving essay wins annual South contest


Judging on the third annual South Middle School Essay Contest was completed this week and eighth grader Fox Navarre captured first place with an essay on the effect drunk driving has on those who are left behind.
This year, we left the contest open for students in grades six through eight to write about any subject that was important to them. Subjects chosen by the students ranged from abortion to school financing, the danger posed by North Korea, gay marriage, cruelty to animals, obesity, and starvation.
Anyone who thinks that today's teens are totally self-centered and have no interest in the world around them is mistaken.
Miss Navarre's winning essay is printed below:

THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK AND DRIVE
By FOX NAVARRE


Have you ever looked back on memories of your childhood and finally realized what your parents were talking about; what you didn't understand then? It clicks in your mind and you think, "Oh, that's what they meant!" Most memories like these are fond to most people, but as I think back on my eight or nine-year-old self, the recollections aren't exactly full of sunshine and smiles.
It was during the summer that Allen, one of my father's employees, came to him asking for a place to stay when his mother had kicked him out. I remember being angry at his mother for being so cruel. It never occurred to me, then, that maybe there was a reason for it. In my eyes was a young man, wounded by a horrible parent, not a drunken 22-year-old working for my father, a restaurant manager. Naive as I was, I was open and eager to the possibility of adding a member to our family. I was even a bit depressed when they said he'd only stay for a week or two until he could get back on his feet. They graciously allowed him into our home.
Now that I sit and think about it, I quite clearly remember disliking him with a passion after the first week. He was a slob and having to share my bathroom with him, I found this out immediately. He was impersonal, indifferent and I never saw him out of his room or in the house at all for that matter. On the rare occasions that I did he was drinking a beer or eating our cereal. I was angry over the cereal, my fondest breakfast food at the time. I wished he was gone every day he was there. Those days grew into weeks and into months and every day I complained and whined. My parents used to think that I was extremely messy, but I was the neatest person in the world compared to him. I wanted him gone. Seven or eight months passed before the incident that scarred me...left haunting images pressed into my mind to this very day. It was yet another thing for me to blame on myself.
I'd had a bad dream one night nearing Christmas break and was asleep between my parents in their bed when the phone rang. My mother's movement was what woke me up but it was the phone ringing that caused me to stay alert. It's a habit of mine to listen in on conversations, or the side of it that I can hear.
I didn't know what had happened, but I'd managed to get back to bed, and snuggle against my father by the time Mom came back in to wake him.
"Allen's dead." The words were too much for me to handle. I wanted him gone, not dead. I wished him to leave our home, not his life. I cried. I remember the long drawn out sobs as the words repeated in my mind. "Allen's dead."
Allen had borrowed my dad's white truck (all the better to see the blood) claiming that he was going to visit his grandfather in the hospital. He had liked. He somehow managed to cram seven other people into a five-person cab of the truck, one of whom was a pregnant female. He had a lot to drink that night and passed out at the wheel. The truck swerved and slammed against the median where it slid along before spinning out into the middle of the road. By the time it was over, Allen was no longer in the truck. The seven others were unharmed other than a few scratches from the broken glass.
I didn't know the details of Allen's physical appearance afterward until I sat my mother down one day and said, "It can't be bad. It's not like his head came off." My mother had to regretfully inform me that it did, and so did his left arm, which had been hanging out of the window as he drove. This information is probably why I cringe every time my father rests his arm out of our open window when we travel. I yelled at him once for it. For a year afterward, images of Allen's mangled body and face haunted my dreams and I even developed a fear of closed doors, always amusing myself with thoughts of what was left of Allen hanging just on the other side. All because of a few beers and a set of wheels wrapped in a lie or two.
Before you get in a car with someone who has been drinking, think about a lot of the lives you could affect. I doubt that I was even on the list of who Allen would hurt when he died if he were to create that list. Even the most insignificant person to you cares, even if they want you gone. Care about them, too.

Leggett & Platt gay discrimination shareholder proposal discussed in Business Journal

A shareholder proposal designed to ban alleged discrimination against gays at Leggett & Platt, the Carthage-based Fortune 500 company, is the subject of a Springfield Business Journal article.
The shareholder proposal was first revealed in the March 31 Turner Report.

Fee office operation explored in Post-Dispatch story

The operation of newly-privatized Missouri license fee offices is explored in an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Million-dollar CEO is out at O'Sullivan Industries

Bob Parker,the first million-dollar CEO in O'Sullivan Industries history and the man who led the charge from Lamar to Atlanta, is out as O'Sullivan Industries CEO, according to a company news release.
Parker, who has been out on medical leave since last year, will be replaced by Rick Allan Walters, who has been serving as interim CEO. Walters will also serve as company president. Parker and Walters both came to O'Sullivan from Newell Rubbermaid, as did Russ Steinhorst, who will take over Walters' duties as chief financial officer.

Nexstar selling Fort Smith station

It sounds more like an accounting move, but Nexstar Broadcasting is selling its Fort Smith, Ark., station, KFTA, to Mission Broadcasting, according to Arkansas Business. Nexstar, of course, will have an agreement with Mission to provide sales and news services to KFTA.
Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and manages (supposedly) KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, both owned by Mission Broadcasting.

$10m LaBarge deal to bring work to Joplin plant

The St. Louis Business Journal reports LaBarge, Inc., has signed a $10 million deal to provide equipment for Eclipse Aviation. Production will begin immediately at the Joplin plant.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Feb. 21 a banner day for Blunt campaign


Those who are looking for a quick tutorial in how to raise campaign financing need look no further than one day in the reelection campaign for incumbent Governor Matt Blunt.
That was the day the big shakedown occurred at Thompson Coburn, the St. Louis law firm, that coincidentally, of course, had been hired to represent the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) as it fights Attorney General Jay Nixon's attempt to keep its assets from being sold.
On that day, Thompson Coburn worked its way around that pesky old $1,275 campaign spending limit by having more than 60 people donate to the governor, raking in slightly over $15,000. Among those donating was the state's former Director of Revenue Janette Lohman, now in the tax practice division of the law firm. Only three of the Thompson Coburn-related contributions came on days other than Feb. 21, according to the April quarterly disclosure report, filed Monday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Thompson Coburn wasn't the only place where the money was shaking like the leaves on the trees. The Ethics Commission documents show the national engineering firm HNTB, which has received many lucrative contracts from the Missouri Department of Transportation since Governor Blunt came into office last year (and which donated $40,000 to his first campaign), also had contributions raining in from across the country on Feb. 21 including:
Kenneth Graham, Caledonia, Wash., $1,275; Gary Link, Mission, Kan., $500; Edward McSpedon, VisWest Hills, Calif., $1,275; C. Patrick McLarney, Kansas City, $250; Terry Miller, Overland Park, Kan., $1,275; Scott Smith, Prairie Village, Kan., $1,275; Paul Yarossi, Ringwood, N. J., $1,275; James Anglin, Longwood, Fla., $1,000; Harry Axtell, Kansas City, $500; Terry Campbell, Kansas City, $500; Charles Dulic, East Lansing, Mich., $500; Robert Fogle, Overland Park, Kan., $500; HNTB lobbyist James Farrell $500.
Farrell was not the only lobbyist to appear on the Blunt contribution list. He collected at least $15,000 from registered lobbyists during the past three months, including $1,000 from his father, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's former senior legislative assistant Samantha Poole, who was recently described in a Washington Post article as being "at the top" of the national Republican leadership's K Street lobbying operation.
Ms. Poole was not listed on the disclosure forms as a lobbyist. Of the 17 registered lobbyists, spouses or those with close connections to lobbyists who contributed to the Blunt campaign this time around, only two were listed as lobbyists, Farrell, and Jim Russell, Jefferson City, whose clients include MFA, American Express, Eli Lilly and Company, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and Hallmark Cards. Russell donated $1,000.
Even perhaps the state's best known lobbyist, the governor's younger brother, Andrew Blunt, who contributed $1,275, is not listed as a lobbyist. His workplace, the law firm of Schreiman, Rackers, Francka & Blunt is listed, but strangely as "Schreiman, Rackers, Francka et al" The law/lobbying firm donated $1,275, as did firm member Brian Francka.
Other lobbyists contributing during the past three months included:
Steven Ahrens, Missouri Propane Gas Association, $1,275; Christopher Byrd, $250; Sherry Doctorian, Armstrong Teasdale, $675; Melanie Musick-Foley, SBC, $250; Richard C. Wiles, Aquila, Mastercard, Missouri Cable Telecommunication Association, Missouri Insurance Coalition, Pfizer, Boeing, Waste Management, Inc., $250; Ann Tettlebaum, wife of lobbyist Harvey Tettlebaum, Missouri Health Care Association, Missouri Republican State Committee, Logisticare Solutions, LLC, $1,275; Tom Rackers, the city of Jefferson City, Genesis Group, Ltd., National Strategies, Inc., $1,275; Harry Otto, Missouri Society of CPAs, $250; Harry Gallagher, Golden Rule Insurance, Mortgage Bankers Association, R. J. Reynolds, The Poultry Federation, $1,275; Tony Feather, Advocates for School Choice, AT&T, $1,275; Samuel Licklider, Licklider and Associates, Empire District Electric Company, $250; Janette Lohman, $625.
***
The Blunt campaign received $307,118.33 in contributions during the last quarter, according to the Ethics Commission documents, and spent $220,124.70. leaving it with $1,722,021.50.

FBI wants first crack at Jack Anderson's papers


The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that FBI officials want to be the first ones to plow through the 200 boxes of documents and papers the late investigative columnist Jack Anderson left to George Washington University.
According to the article, the FBI plan is to have its agents go through the papers even before academics take a look at them, remove any documents they deem sensitive, then leave the rest for posterity. As you can imagine, that idea is not receiving a positive reception from academics or from Mr. Anderson's family.
With recent revelations that the National Archives are classifying materials that have been declassified for decades, it appears freedom of information is truly under attack by the Bush administration.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Million-Dollar CEO no longer on O'Sullivan Board

O'Sullivan Industries officials today filed information about their departure from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Among the items filed was a list of those who were leaving the company's board of directors and those who were coming on board, so to speak.
Million-Dollar CEO Bob Parker, who has been on a medical leave of absence since last year, is no longer on the board. The interim CEO, Rick Walters, is.

Nodler sings praises of virtual school


In his weekly column, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, sings the praises of the proposed virtual school for Missouri.
On the face of it, a virtual school seems to have much to offer. Not all students succeed in a traditional school atmosphere, and it would obviously offer much to home-schooled students.
Nodler says all of the right things about the legislation; it will follow state law concerning the use of certified teachers (even though members of Nodler's party have been making every effort to water down that law); a portion of the money will go to the local school districts; in truth, the virtual school could be a great law.
But then again, during the same week in which Nodler wrote this column, the Nodler Leadership PAC filed its quarterly disclosure report with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Listed on that report was a $5,000 donation from K12, a McLean, Va.-based company which specializes in selling curriculum to...you guessed it, virtual schools.
As usual, it all comes back to money.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The coverage of teens' actions


When teenagers do stupid things, they create problems not only for themselves, but for the news media who cover those actions.
When I was a general assignment reporter at The Carthage Press; it was either in 1991 or 1992, I was covering a Carthage High School girls basketball game at Webb City when Coach Ron Wallace pulled his star player out of the game. The girl angrily walked off the court, and headed straight to the locker room, dressed, returned to the court and defiantly threw her uniform at her coach.
When my game account was written, I did not include a word about the girl's actions. I only considered writing about it for a flickering second, then put it out of my mind.
I did consider the negative ramifications of my decision:
-I was not providing a truthful and accurate account of what happened during that ballgame.
-A large crowd had witnessed the event and the people probably wanted to know the truth about what had happened.
-What if the girls' parents were to bring some kind of action against the coach? Wouldn't it be embarrassing for The Press to have to admit that it didn't even bother to write about an event that had turned into a major lawsuit?
-If I didn't write about it, how could people ever trust they were receiving an accurate account of events concerning anything that was written in The Carthage Press?
In retrospect, I probably should have talked to the sports editor Bill Denney or to managing editor Neil Campbell, but I based my decision on the 14 to 15 years of journalism experience I had at that time and on a bad experience I had in 1984 at the Lamar Democrat when I went against by better judgment and wrote about four LHS basketball players who had been kept out of a game for a quarter after being spotted drinking. I was never comfortable with that story, never could justify its running afterward, and I had vowed never to let it happen again.
The afternoon after my account of the Carthage-Webb City game appeared in The Press, sports editor Denney angrily approached me after lunch and said, "I want to talk to you in the conference room NOW!' I didn't argue since I never quite reached 5-9, weigh only about 170 pounds and Bill Denney, a former CHS basketball standout, was well over six foot (probably closer to seven feet) and outweighed me by plenty.
After we entered the conference room, Bill slammed his massive fist against the wooden table and shouted (his entire end of the conversation was a shout), "Why didn't you put anything in your story about --- quitting the team and throwing her jersey at the coach?"
I tried to keep my tone calm. "I'm not going to let that girl's family have to suffer any more embarrassment."
"But it's NEWS," he said.
And he was right, it was news. I tried to explain how I would have taken a different approach if the girl had returned with a gun or if her family had physically assaulted the coach. "I don't want that girls' children to look back some day and see what a stupid thing their mother did."
Bill just glared at me and continued yelling about how I had no right to make that decision. I pointed out to him that reporters and editors make those kinds of decisions all the time.
As the argument escalated, apparently the women at the front desk became concerned that Bill might be killing me, and the second Neil Campbell returned from lunch, he was steered directly to the conference room.
"Boys," Neil said, in his quiet manner, "What's the problem?"
Bill said, "Well, listen to this and you decide what we should have done. This girl quit the Carthage basketball team in the middle of the game, left the court, came back and threw her jersey at the coach. What would you have done?"
Neil looked directly at Bill and said precisely the right thing. "Well, Bill, I would have done exactly what you did. I wouldn't have used it in the story."
Bill stormed out of the room without saying another word. "I assume you were the one who left the incident out of the story," Neil said. I nodded. No further mention was ever made of it, as far as I can recall.
I thought about this incident as I followed the media's coverage of the kidnapping hoax story involving Independence, Kan., teen Kelsey Stelting. It's never easy to know just how far to go with these stories.
Obviously, there is a clear difference between Miss Stelting's actions and the actions of the Carthage High School basketball player. A considerable amount of taxpayer money was wasted as the authorities hunted for the girl and then had to break down her false kidnapping allegation. People raised money to help in the situation and the hoax affected everyone who had invested themselves in this story and in trying to help this young girl.
It was a legitimate story and undeniably should have been a top of page one story in the Globe and the lead story on every newscast, and for the most part, it was.
The TV people did their job, covering the story from every angle. That's what reporters should do. They gather information. But the moment, the authorities expressed doubt about her story, that might have been a time to have trimmed the time spent on recounting every detail of the girl's story. It was fairly obvious from that point on, this was going to be turn out to be a hoax. I also might have eliminated the overgratuitous clips of Independence townspeople who were upset about the incident. They had absolutely every right to be upset, and it made for good television. But as I watched the coverage, it reminded me of the same kind of local journalism feeding frenzy that I wrote about in my novel, Small Town News.
Perhaps, the worst offender was KOAM's decision to have a poll asking viewers what punishment Ms. Stelting should receive. The poll had no news value, whatsoever.
Kelsey Stelting does not deserve a free pass. No matter what problems led her to take these actions, she hurt a lot of people and she cost the taxpayers a lot of money. She deserves the scrutiny of the media and the public, but she did not kill anyone; she just made a stupid teenage mistake. For that to cover the first five minutes of nearly every newscast for two or three days was riveting television, but may not have served the interests of journalism.
As for the Joplin Globe, the revelation that Kelsey Stelting's kidnapping was a hoax, was in the dominant page-one position, the upper right-hand corner. Of course, the article was not written by a Globe reporter, but by The Associated Press.

Wilson reports $925 in contributions


Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, reported receiving $925 in contributions during the past three months, and spending $2,029.50, leaving his campaign war chest with $25,804.71, according to documents filed this week with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Wilson received only two large contributions, getting the maximum $300 from the American Family Insurance PAC, St. Joseph; and from the Golden Rule Insurance Company, Lawrenceville, Ill.
Expenditures included $300 to the Citizens for Ed Groom, $300 from Citizens for Dwight Scharnhorst, $60 to the Newton County Republican Central Committee, and the maximum $1,200 to Missourians for Matt Blunt.

IRS says O'Sullivan Industries failed to pay 1999 taxes

O'Sullivan Industries officials failed to file income tax returns in 1999 and owe nearly $1 million, IRS officials say. The information was included in a document filed Monday in U. S. District Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
O'Sullivan officials dispute the claim, saying they filed a consolidated tax return on Sept. 15, 2000.
The claim was one of three O'Sullivan officials asked the bankruptcy judge to disallow, according to the documents. The others were from Ames Department Stores, Inc. for $2.6 million, and from Sentry Insurance for approximately $988,000.
O'Sullivan Industries emerged from bankruptcy the day after the documents were filed.

News-Leader profiles Blunt's transgender opponent

Midge Potts, the transsexual who is opposing Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt in the Republican primary, is profiled in today's Springfield News-Leader.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lobbying investigation needs to reach into both parties

I haven't found much to agree with the RightMissouri.com blog, but it makes a valid point in its response to the Kansas City Star's Thursday article about a federal investigation into lobbying practices in Missouri.
Any investigation should definitely include a look into malfeasance by Democrats, as well as Republicans. For those of us who recall the Bob Griffin years with less than fondness, and know that gubernatorial terms of Mel Carnahan and Bob Holden also had some problems, to focus strictly on one political party would be wrong.

Gag order placed on Bucher documents

A federal district court judge Friday issued a gag order relating to certain documents entered into evidence in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Glenna McKitterick against former Branson priest Philip Bucher.
In the documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Judge Richard E. Dorr wrote, "The parties, including their counsel, shall not give, show or otherwise divulge any documents, other materials or information, or any copies, prints, negatives or summaries thereof, or the contents thereof, produced in this action by defendants and marked as confidential, to any entity or person except their employees, experts and consultants employed and retained by them or their counsel in connection with the specific action."
All of those people will also be covered by the order, the document said, and the order will extend even after the case has concluded.
More information about the case can be found in earlier Turner Report postings.

Contributors pay Ruestman's NRA dues


It shouldn't surprise anyone that Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, the Joplin Republican who sponsored the frontier justice bill recently passed by the House, is a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.
According to the April quarterly campaign disclosure report filed earlier this week with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Ms. Ruestman's $35 one-year membership was paid for by Citizens for Ruestman.
The expenditure was part of $4,931.94 spent by the Ruestman campaign during the past three months. No contributions were reported, leaving the campaign with $50,624.12.
Among the expenditures listed were: $101.40 for a subscription to the Neosho Daily News, $300 for contract labor to Dustin Storm, Webb City; $204.27 to the Department of Natural Resources for advertising, $1,500 tot he 131st Legislative District Committee, $1,500 to the 127th District Legislative Committee; and $475 to the 129th District Legislative Committee (the committee expenditures were listed as reimbursements) and $548.57 to Dell Financial Services, Austin, Texas, for a new computer.

Home school proponents donate heavily to Nodler PAC



K12 Inc., a McLean, VA based provider of curriculum materials to homeschoolers, contributed $5,000 to the Nodler Leadership PAC in January, according to the quarterly statement filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission earlier today.
The company does not limit its curriculum services to homeschooled students, according to its website.
"K12 has created a nationally acclaimed learning program which includes thousands of lessons in traditional subjects, academic assessments, and planning and progress tools delivered through the innovative and powerful K12 Online School. The learning program also incorporates many traditional learning materials including books, workbooks, classical stories, K12 PhonicsWorks tile system, math and science supplies, maps, art books and tools, instruments, music CDs, and much more. More than 70,000 students nationwide are currently using the K12 learning program in a variety of learning environments, including traditional public school classrooms, virtual (online) public schools, and homeschools."
It appears K12, which is a heavy contributor to Republican legislators in Missouri, is getting its money's worth considering the success thus far of the virtual school program in Missouri, which has passed the Senate and has had its first reading in the House. It's almost a sure bet that legislators will find a way to get K12 involved in establishing the curriculum for the virtual school.
***
The Nodler Leadership PAC received $12,100 during the past three months and spent $11,450, leaving it with $7,554 in the bank at the end of the period.
In addition to the $5,000 from K12 Inc., the PAC received $2,500 from NutraBlend, Neosho, which is, of course, connected to Moark, $150 from Freeman Health System CEO Gary Duncan and his wife, Suzanne; $500 from UST, a pharmaceutical company, and $500 from QC Holdings, Overland Park, Kan., one of the nation's largest payday loan companies.
The Nodler Leadership PAC contributed $10,000 to the Senate Majority Fund, in $5,000 increments on March 9 and March 20 and $600 apiece to two Republican state senate campaigns.