Monday, July 31, 2006

Joplin Tri-State Business beefing up staff

Thanks to a reader for pointing out this information:

The Joplin Tri-State Business is about to add a full-time reporter to aid former Globe reporter Jeff Wells. This ad was placed on the website:

"Joplin Tri-State Business, a growing biweekly business newspaper in Joplin, Mo., and the sister publication of the Springfield Business Journal in Springfield, Mo., is seeking a full-time reporter for its Joplin newsroom. We are looking for a communicator with excellent reporting, writing, photography and proofreading skills. Knowledge of the region, the business community and the area economy is a plus.
The reporter will be responsible for gathering public records, writing business news, features and in-depth reports. The reporter will also contribute breaking news to, the Alliance of Area Business Publication's best Web site for 2006.
Send a cover letter, resume and clips to Jeff Wells, Joplin Tri-State Business, 407 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 204, Joplin Mo., 64804, or to The deadline to apply is Aug. 18, 2006."

Looks like the Globe is in for more competition.

Turner Report profiled on Snarling Marmot site

Thanks to The Snarling Marmot blog from Springfield for featuring The Turner Report as its latest profile of Southwest Missouri blogs and bloggers.
I have enjoyed reading about the varied group of bloggers we have in this area.

Jackson expenses include $258,000 to lobbyists for Saudi Arabia

89th District Rep. Col. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, has spared no expense in his efforts to win the state auditor position, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The Jackson campaign is half a million dollars in debt, having received a jumpstart when Jackson put $500,000 of his own money into it on March 20, according to the eight days before the election report and spent more than a quarter of a million dollars during the past month.
Jackson has paid $258,091 to the political consulting firm of Sandler-Innocenzi, based in Alexandria, Va., including $141,576 during the past month. The company, which is handling the advertising campaign and media buys for Jackson, has worked for the Republican National Committee, and made a bundle in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, helping the government of Saudi Arabia mount a public relations campaign to improve its image in the U. S., which include radio ads depicting Saudi Arabia as an ally to the U. S. in the war on terrorism.
Sandler-Innocenzi reportedly received $2.5 million for its work for Saudi Arabia. The firm is registered with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent for the country.
Saudi Arabia may not be the toughest client the firm has worked for. Also on its star-studded list have been such luminaries Tom DeLay and Enron.
Jackson's most recent report shows he received $16,145 in contributions in July and spent $270.958.93, leaving him with $230,849.35.

Champion, Harpool file eight-day reports

After only a mild increase in her campaign account during the last quarterly report, 30th District Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, has picked up the pace during the past month.
Her eight days before the election report, filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, shows $13,450 in contributions, giving her $125,692.39 in her account.
She reported spending $1,447.40 with $1,000 of that going to Thompson Communications, Marshfield.
Ms. Champion's largest contribution, $3,000 from the Seventh District Congressional Republican Committee. She received maximum $650 contributions (committees are allowed to donate more money) from the following:
Missourians for Mayer, Dexter; Bootheel Leadership, Dexter; District 5 Missouri Health Care Association PAC, Jefferson City; Crowell for Senate, Cape Girardeau; Missouri Hospital Association Central District PAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Time Sales Service, Inc., Jefferson City; Nodler Leadership PAC, Joplin; Missouri Bankers Association Truman Region PAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Bankers Association Gateway Region PAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Bankers Association Pony Express Region PAC, Jefferson City; and Missouri Bankers Association Mark Twain Region PAC, Jefferson City.
She also received $600 from the Missouri Energy Development Association Continuing Committee, Jefferson City; and $500 from Edison Schools, Inc., New York.
Challenger Doug Harpool, D-Springfield, a former state representative reported receiving $7,850 during the past month and spending $1,882.25, leaving him with $45,076.14.
Harpool received six maximum $650 contributions: Missouri AFL-CIO, Jefferson City; Pipefitters Voluntary PAC, St. Louis; Electrical Workers Voluntary PAC, St. Louis; United Transportation Union PAC, Jefferson City; Safer Families for Missouri,Jefferson City; Tolbert, Beadle, Musgrave, LLC, Springfield.

Blunt confederate signs new prison health client

The state of Missouri is in the bidding process for prison health care services and a Pittsburgh, Pa. company may have the inside track, if past events are any indication.
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, on July 28, lobbyist Jay Reichard added Wexford Health Services to his impressive list of clients. Those who read The Turner Report regularly will recognize Reichard's name.
Shortly before Governor Matt Blunt was sworn into office, Schreimann, Rackers, Francka & Blunt LLC, the law firm that includes the governor's brother, lobbyist Andrew Blunt, hired Reichard to lobby the executive branch, since, of course, it would be highly unethical, though not illegal, for Andrew Blunt to lobby his brother.
That was not the story put out by Andrew Blunt's firm. Reichard was hired to help him handle his major clients, Andrew Blunt told the St. Louis Business Journal:

"We didn't hire Jay to lobby the executive branch, but to assist with my clients. He does an excellent job serving our clients wherever they need to be serviced. Jay Reichard is not related to the governor and is free to lobby anybody he wants."

Among the clients Reichard picked up at that time were Ameren UE, AT&T, Burlington Northern, Kraft Foods, Missouri Hospital Association, and Phillip Morris.

Since that time, Jay Reichard has added at least two other clients, in addition to Wexford, that he does not share with Andrew Blunt, but which have reason to develop connections with the state's executive branch.
In the April 29 Turner Report, it was noted that Reichard registered on March 22 that Austin, Texas-based firm "BearingPoint," which provides voter identification photos and materials needed to comply with the federal Real ID Act.
On Jan. 27, 2006, Reichard registered with the Ethics Commission as a lobbyist for the McCarthy Group, a company that provides election systems and software.
One client Reichard does share with Andrew Blunt, as revealed in the Feb. 15, 2006, Turner Report, is AGP, an Omaha-based company which will open an ethanol production plant this fall.
As I noted in that entry:

AGP has been a major player in Missouri politics for quite some time, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Over the past four years the company's political action committee has contributed $12,000 to Senator Jim Talent, $6,000 to Senator Kit Bond, $10,000 to Congressman Sam Graves, and $10,500 to Rep. Kenny Hulshof.
Governor Blunt's campaign contribution disclosure forms do not include any donations from AG Processing, but he has received $2,200 over the past two election cycles from the Omaha offices of the national law firm Kutak Rock. According to Kutak Rock's website, the law firm serves as counsel "for the acquisition, construction and financing of ethanol plants."

Reichard and Blunt added another client in December, the Friedman Foundation, started by noted economist Milton Friedman. The foundation fights for educational vouchers, an idea first formulated by Friedman in the 1950s.

More PAC money added to Wilson war chest

On the same day that his general election opponent John Felder filed a "limited activity" statement indicating he had received no money during the past month, 130th District State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, filed a form showing he has $28,405.58 in the bank.
Wilson collected $2,900 in July, including contributions from seven PACs. He received the maximum $325 from the MPTA PAC of Missouri, Missouri Medical, Missouri Bankers Association Ozark Region, Missouri Physicians Mutual, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri. He also received $300 from Motor Carriers Public Affairs and $125 from Edison Schools, Inc.
Wilson also had three maximum contributions from non-PAC sources, Gary Wasson of Anderson, Barbara Hicklin of Joplin, and Brian Mitchell of Seneca.
Note: No link to Felder's statement was possible because it has not been scanned into the Ethics Commission website. Wilson's statement was filed electronically.

Special prosecutor to decide charges against Surface

A special prosecutor will determine what charges are filed against Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface in connection with his stop Friday night by a Jasper County deputy.
Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Dally appointed Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Robert E. George to take charge of the case. The request for a special prosecutor was made by Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson in a motion filed earlier today.
Surface told the Joplin Daily and Joplin Globe he expected to face DWI charges in connection with his stop, which took place after he left the Joplin Elks Club, according to published reports.

Smithfield Foods buys Carthage ConAgra plant

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission today, ConAgra announced it has sold its refrigerated meats business, including the Butterball Turkey plant at Carthage, to Smithfield Foods.
ConAgra will receive $475 million plus $100 million worth of Smithfield stock, according to the filing. The sale includes the Butterball, Eckrich, Armour, LunchMakers, Margherita, and Longmont brands.

Former KSPR sports anchor to be host for reality program

Mark Steines, co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, and a former sports anchor at KSPR in Springfield, will be the host of the reality series "Gold Rush," which is about $2 million worth of gold hidden across the country.
The series comes from Mark Burnett, executive producer of "Survivor."
Steines was at KSPR from 1988 to 1991.

Denison: Thank God for lobbyists

I missed the story this morning when I was scanning through the Springfield News-Leader, but thanks to Ron Davis at Chatter, I just picked up on Rep. Charlie Denison's take on the importance of lobbyists:

"Do I take some lobbyist money? You betcha," Denison said. "Because there is a world of information that comes from lobbyists. When we term-limited, we cut ourselves off from information about what happened 10 years ago. You get that from lobbyists, and if you are going to get it straight you don't talk to just one, you talk to both sides."

Now what makes the Springfield Republican think he can't listen to lobbyists without accepting their money? Apparently, that never occurred to him.
Granny Geek offers a take on Denison's comment in this blog entry.

Leggett & Platt announces hirings, promotions

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt announced a number of hirings and promotions today.
Some of the changes became necessary after the recent promotions of David Haffner to CEO and Karl Glassman to chief operating officer.

Another tale of lobbying corruption

One of the worst-kept secrets in both Washington and Jefferson City is that many public servants, both of the elected variety and those who sign on to work for them, eventually cash in on the connections they have made by entering the lucrative field of lobbying.
The uproar over lobbying corruption and excesses that began with the Jack Abramoff situation appears to have died down and Congress doesn't seem anxious to do anything other than make a few cosmetic changes to the current system.
That system has produced many an example of legalized corruption, including one included in an article in this morning's Washington Post. A former staffer for Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., is cashing in to the tune of $670,000.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hunter quarterly disclosure failed to note $15,000 in contributions

Somebody in the Grassroots for Hunter campaign forgot to check the laundry. The Monroe Street Laundry, that is.
In his initial quarterly campaign disclosure form, filed July 15 with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, reported that he received no contributions in April, May, and June.
An amended report, filed Saturday, indicates he received $15,000 from 10 legislative committees on May 8. Hunter's campaign treasurer is his wife, Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter.
Hunter received $1,600 apiece from the 14th Legislative Republican District Committee,the Republican 18th Legislative Committee, the 15th Legislative District Republican Committee, the 12th District Legislative Committee, the 16th Legislative Republican Committee, the 17th Legislative Republican Committee,the 23rd Senatorial Republican Committee, and the 2nd Senatorial Republican Committee.
Contributing $1,200 was the 19th District Legislative Republican Committee, while the 89th District Legislative Republican Committee gave $1,000.
All of those committees have the same mailing address: 320 Monroe, St. Charles, Mo. 63301.
The report was filed on the same day as the Hunter campaign filed its eight days before the election disclosure form, which showed $2,650 in contributions, including maximum $325 donations from:
Missouri Medical PAC, Missouri Bankers Association River Heritage PAC, Missouri Bankers Association Pony Express PAC, Missouri Bankers Association Truman PAC, Missouri Bankers Association Gateway Region PAC, and Bank of America PAC.
He received $300 from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing of America and Motor Carriers Association Public Affairs, and $100 from Edison Schools.

Surface DWI arrest covered in Globe

The Joplin Globe put two of its veteran reporters, Susan Redden and Andy Ostmeyer, on the story of the DWI arrest of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface.
The article not only explores the arrest with comments from Surface, but also puts the question to his challengers, Carthage attorney Jim Spradling and businessman John Bartosh about whether they have drunk driving incidents in their past. (Spradling said he did not, while Bartosh said he had one several years ago when he was going through a divorce.)
What purpose did the questions to Bartosh and Spradling serve? Neither of them was stopped for drunk driving; Surface was. It appears the Globe is scrambling to catch up to its competition, the Joplin Daily, which had this story first and, so far, has done a better job with it.

Nixa superintendent decries educational vouchers

You are unlikely to read a more impassioned (or accurate) criticism of public vouchers than that offered by Nixa Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith in a letter to the editor in today's Springfield News-Leader.
Kleinsmith points out exactly why educational vouchers are poison for America:

Voucher schools don't have to let anyone in their doors. The CEO and staff can pick and choose whomever they want to attend. Voucher schools don't have to show the public how well their students are performing. And I can assure you, when the potion of NCLB does what it's designed to do, private schools funded by tax dollars will not have to abide by the same unattainable regulations as the public schools are required to play by.

They don't and won't have to give standardized tests, like the ones Congress and the president just required for every child, grades three through eight, in every public school. And don't forget that by 2014 our federal law requires that ALL public school children must be reading, writing and doing math at or above the "proficient" level (which in some states like Missouri equates to "above grade level") regardless of what language they speak or what disability they have.

And you'll seldom see a voucher school's board meeting on the local cable channel, because voucher schools don't have to abide by the open meetings law. All their decisions can be kept secret. I know, I used to work for private schools in the past. I didn't believe in vouchers then, nor do I now, mostly because I love this country of ours and because vouchers are bad for America!

Branson schools to begin drug testing

Kris Kristofferson had it wrong in his classic song "Me and Bobby McGhee," when he wrote "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
When we wave red flags in front of the public like "war on terror" or "drug epidemic" the phrase becomes "freedom's just another word."
And apparently, it is one that has lost its meaning for many of our public officials. As far as the war on terror is concerned, at least we have a national debate on just how far we should intrude on personal freedom in the name of rooting out terrorists.
When we comes to the drug issue, people are becoming more and more willing to roll over and kiss away what personal freedoms they have. The Fourth Amendment has always been a keystone of American democracy. The schools, the very places that are designed to teach us about our freedoms, are rapidly becoming a place where students have no freedoms as far as their own bodies are concerned.
The Branson School District has become the latest to institute drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities, joining a host of schools across the country. Officials at many schools have made it clear they would like to be able to test all students, but so far the courts have only permitted testing of those who play sports or who are involved in school clubs or organizations. Branson has carried it a step further. The district will also test those who apply for parking privileges at the school. This will increase the number of students to be tested to about 60 percent.
The scariest thing about the new program is there has been little or no opposition to it. It is amazing how easily people can just toss away freedoms that have been so hard earned throughout our nation's history.
The rush toward drug testing is understandable. There is a problem among the nation's youth and school officials, just like everyone else in society, have felt helpless to deal with it. They want to do something and this is the best idea they could come up with. I can't fault their motives.
What I can fault is a program that not only violates student freedoms, but also takes the risk of keeping some students from involvement in the very activities that might keep them on the straight and narrow.
Drug testing is a band-aid approach that does not take into consideration the problems that addresses a symptom but not the root cause of the problem. When many students come from homes in which drug use is a fact of life, we have two strikes against us before we start. Isolating these children from the very activities that could save them from this environment could very well be a prescription for increasing the drug epidemic.

Lieberman: a party of one

Today's Boston Globe features an examination of the problems facing Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. in his reelection effort.
This thoughtful study offers a look not only at Lieberman but at the changes that have taken place in American politics.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Globe posts breaking stories on website

The Globe now has stories on its website about the possible murder-suicide and the stop of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface. The stamp indicates the stories were posted at 3:53 a.m.
The Daily's Surface story was posted at 12:53 p.m., while the story on the two deaths was posted at 1:39 p.m.

Hacker 2, Globe 0

After beating the Joplin Globe on the story of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface's traffic stop, Joplin Daily Editor John Hacker didn't rest on his laurels.
The Daily has posted a Hacker article concerning a possible murder-suicide being investigated by the Jasper County Sheriff's Department. So far, no mention of the deaths is featured on the websites of the Globe or the local television stations.

Ruestman has over $60,000 in campaign account

The month of July was a good one for Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, who picked up $5,650 in contributions to give her $60,531.23 in the bank.
Her 131st District opponent, Ben Carnahan, has $899.60, according to his disclosure report. Carnahan received $675 in contributions, with $650 coming from unions. He reported spending $1,543.65, with most of the money going for signs.
Ms. Ruestman's most recent disclosure report, filed Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission, shows at least $1,900 from health care interests and $1,275 from banking interests.

Bankers pony up for Nodler

We still have campaign contribution limits in place, but the legislative district committees we have heard so much about are not the only way to get around them.
The Missouri Bankers Association has a novel approach.
The MBA simply established a political action committee for each region of the state, then each of those PACS contributes to its favored candidates. One of those favored candidates is 32nd District Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.
In his eight days before the primary disclosure report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Nodler reported receiving $3,975. Of that total, $2,500 came from MBA PACs in five $500 increments. Nodler received contributions from the MBA's Truman Region, Pony Express Region, Mark Twain Region, Gateway Region, and of course, the Ozark Region. All have the same mailing address 207 E.Capital, Jefferson City.
Nodler had $97,176.88 in his account at the beginning of the reporting period and spent $3,132.90, leaving him with $98,018.90.
His expenditures include $262.50 for registration at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Washington, D. C. As I have pointed out in numerous earlier posts, ALEC is one of the nation's leading proponents of educational vouchers.
Nodler also spent $511.40 for air travel and $118 for Rotary Club of Joplin dues.
The Nodler campaign contributed the maximum $650 to three senatorial candidates, including incumbent Sen. Delbert Scott of Lowry City.

So far, no KOAM follow-up on Surface story

KOAM broke the story of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface's being stopped by a Jasper County deputy, a stop which appears headed for a DWI citation, then did nothing to build on its scoop.
The story has not appeared on the KOAM website and because of the timing (it came at the end of the 10 p.m. newscast, the station has to wait until today's 6 p.m. newscast to follow up on it.
So far, only the Joplin Daily has followed up on the story. A link to John Hacker's article is included with the last post. The Globe does not have anything and neither do KOAM's competitors or KOAM's sister station, KFJX.

Daily: Surface expects DWI citation

While the Joplin Globe still hasn't been heard from, the upstart Joplin Daily's John Hacker not only has the story of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface being stopped by a county deputy, but it also has comments from Surface.

"I had had some drinks and should have had breakfast and lunch, but it was such a busy day, I didn't take the time to eat," Surface said. "I had dropped by the Elks Lodge to talk with friends and I probably hung around there a half-hour too long. I should have known better, it was a silly, stupid mistake and I'll have to bear the consequences."

In the Globe's behalf, it should be mentioned that the Globe staff was at a disadvantage since Surface was stopped in unfamiliar territory for Globe Joplin. If he had been stopped in Kansas or Neosho, it undoubtedly would already be on the Globe website.

White supremacist Congressional candidate strikes Jefferson City

White supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, a write-in candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Roy Blunt, stopped by Jefferson City to drop off some paperwork, with the secretary of state's office and left some paperwork across the city while he was there.
Copies of Miller's newspaper, The White Patriot Leader, were distributed in a couple of Jefferson City neighborhoods. Recently, he distributed at least 600 copies of the newspaper in Joplin.
Miller was rebuffed by the courts in his efforts to run for Congress on the Democratic ticket. He was also turned down by the Republican and Libertarian parties.

Blunt's Gaming Commission appointments come under fire

The Missouri Democratic Party Friday attacked Governor Matt Blunt's appointment of two major campaign contributors to the Gaming Commission.
"Governor Blunt is using government to reward his friends and family and to trade campaign contributions for gubernatorial appointments," Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti, was quoted as saying by the Kansas City Star.
Republican spokesman Paul Sloca naturally said that wasn't the case and noted that the contributions made by Sam Hais and Noel Shull were a matter of public record and nothing was being done to hide them.
That argument points out the major flaw in the law recently signed by Governor Blunt that eliminates all campaign contribution limits in favor of more open disclosure. It doesn't matter if it's all in the records if no one is paying any attention and for the most part, the media does not pay enough attention to the influence of special interests on politics.
This is the first mention I can find in the traditional media of contributions made by Hais and Shull. These contributions were first brought to light in this blog. In the June 9 Turner Report...a full seven weeks ago...I wrote about the campaign contributions made by Hais, his family, and colleagues to Governor Blunt's election campaign. The AP article indicates those ties are deeper than I reported, since Hais also contributed $45,000 to the National Republican Governors Association.
The Turner Report also was the first to note Shull's contributions in a post on April 26, more than three months ago.
The newly appointed Gaming Commission head, former St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary also made a $1,075 contribution to the governor's campaign.

Former Libertarian Senate candidate embroiled in Alabama controversy

A former Springfield resident, who is now involved in running the reelection campaign of Alabama's Republican Governor Bob Riley, has come under fire for stances he took when he ran for U. S. Senate in Missouri on the Libertarian ticket in 1994.
Bill Johnson told Associated Press he was only touting the Libertarian party line when he advocated the legalization of prostitution and marijuana during his Senate campaign.
Before taking the position on the Riley campaign, Johnson was acting director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, a cabinet position.

Minimum wage hike coupled with estate tax elimination

In another shining example of why people are disillusioned with politics, the U. S. House Friday voted to boost the minimum wage, but the only way Republicans would agree to this was if it was linked to a permanent elimination of the estate tax, a tax which only affected a small percentage of the richest people in the U. S.
The bill is expected to run into fierce opposition in the Senate.

Auditor candidate pays over $21,000 to firm with ties to license fee scandal

Sandra Thomas, the state auditor candidate favored by many of the GOP's bigwigs, including Gov. Matt Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves, paid more than $21,000 to a firm created by the same attorney responsible for organizing the license fee office management companies that are under investigation by the FBI.
Documents filed July 17 with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate Ms. Thomas, who is Platte County auditor, paid the money to Axiom Strategies, LLC, for campaign staffing, envelopes, business cards, letterhead, and miscellaneous items. Axiom is a campaign consulting firm run by former Graves chief of staff Jeff Roe, who is also the author of the Republican blog, The Source.
Axiom was organized Dec. 6, 2005, according to documents on file with the Missouri Secretary of State's office, by Jamison Shipman, an attorney for the powerful Kansas City law firm of Lathrop & Gage. Shipman is the lawyer who was responsible for organizing the management firms that were created to run license fee offices. The same AP article cited earlier in this paragraph indicated that lobbyist and former state representative Jewell Patek was shopping Highridge Services, a management firm to Republicans who were awarded the lucrative fee offices. Patek also runs a campaign consulting firm, Election Day Enterprises, which has employed Roe in the past.
Ms. Thomas left no doubts about the type of scrutiny she would give to license fee office management during a recent interview with the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, in which she was more concerned about whether the offices saved money rather than about any problems that were uncovered in State Auditor Claire McCaskill's recent audit of newly privatized license fee offices.
Ms. Thomas' campaign treasurer is CPA Nick Myers, who was awarded the license fee office in Joplin by Governor Blunt.
Among the campaign contributions she lists are $1,275 from Myers, $1,275 from Roe, and $524.50 from Neosho fee agent David Jerome.

Friday, July 28, 2006

KOAM reports Surface pulled over, may have been driving while impaired

KOAM just reported that Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface was stopped and appeared to be driving while impaired.
The case has been turned over to the Highway Patrol to investigate, according to KOAM.
Surface is in the middle of a three-way primary race with Carthage attorney Jim Spradling and businessman John Bartosh.

Wright rips governor's 'Pay for Play" strategy

Rep. Mark Wright's maverick campaign for the Republican nomination for state auditor continued to take him down a much different road than that of his competitors. In an article in today's Kansas City Star, the Springfield legislator accused Governor Matt Blunt of cronyism and of having a "pay to play mentality."
He promised if elected to audit every lease the state has entered into make sure it is in the best interests of the taxpayers. If you remember, Wright was one of a group of Republicans who recently proposed a reform plan for the awarding of license fee offices. The plan includes awarding the offices to not-for-profit organizations and making sure the operation of the offices is audited on a regular basis.
If you recall, the governor asked the group to delay announcement of the plan, then refused to meet with the representatives.
Naturally, the governor's pit bull press spokesman Spence Jackson is saying that Wright is making his comments about the governor's cronyism because he is desperate.
Just looking through the past several months of Turner Report posts about the Blunt administration would seem to indicate the Springfield Republican is Wright on the money. This blog has run dozens of posts regarding the governor's tendencies toward building his administration around his contributors and the special interests they represent.
Consider these examples:
-Gaming Commission appointment is big Blunt contributor
-Banker to head Missouri Gaming Commission
-Joplin surgeon appointed to Head Injury Advisory Council
-Blunt promotes ethanol proposal
-Blunt appointment rolled in health care dough

-Family values spur Blunt contributions
-National lobbyists pouring money into Blunt campaign
-Missouri lobbyists also contributed money to Blunt campaign
-The best task force money can buy
-Blunt campaign receives timely contributions from Moark officials
-MHA funnels thousands into Blunt campaign chest

Webb City businessman receives five-year sentence

Webb City businessman Keith McBride was sentenced today to five years in prison for arson, in connection with the Aug. 14, 2005, fire that destroyed his business Coin-Op.
He also will have to pay $231,773 restitution to the insurance company that covered the hospitalization of three firefighters who were injured while fighting the blaze.
More information about the case can be found in the March 10 Turner Report.

Joplin man named to Fire Safety Advisory Board

Governor Matt Blunt announced four appointments today, including that of Andrew Nimmo, 32, Joplin, Redings Mill Fire Protection District chief, to the Missouri Fire Safety Advisory Board. Nimmo's appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Other appointments announced were:

-Garry E. Taylor, 62, Jefferson City, owner of GETCo Consulting Service to the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System Board of Trustees.
- Cassville attorney David A. Cole, 42, to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education. Cole received his bachelor's degree from Missouri Southern State University. His position is subject to Senate confirmation.
- Cathy Smith, 59, Trenton, vice president of L.E.T. Inc, to the Missouri State University Board of Governors. Ms. Smith has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Missouri State and a masters of education in curriculum and instruction from William Woods University, according to the news release. The position is subject to Senate confirmation.

St. Louis jury awards Joplin couple's relatives $11 million

A St. Louis jury awarded $11 million to relatives of Lois and Randy Anderson, Joplin, who were killed at Lake of the Ozarks June 1, 1999, by carbon monoxide from their boat.
This is the second time the family has won the lawsuit. In 2003, a different St. Louis jury awarded $500,000 in damages and $25 million in punitive damages, but a judge tossed out the verdict.

Blunt says House will pass minimum wage increase

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt says the House will likely pass a minimum wage increase this year, according to the Boston Globe. It is obvious from Blunt's quote that he doesn't see the necessity of a increase:

"We're at the point where that vote is coming. I'm not sure that it's a `must-pass,' but it will probably be a `will-pass."

Analyst: Nexstar needs to be selling, not buying

The news that Nexstar Broadcasting bought a television station in Pennsylvania did not sit well with a Bear Stearns financial analyst.
According to Radio & Television Business Report, analyst Victor Miller said the purchase was "sending the wrong signal," since Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said several months ago the company plans to sell some of its stations, but has not followed through.
Miller has lowered his rating on Nexstar to "underperform," according to the article.
Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and manages KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, stations owned by Mission Broadcasting.
Nexstar's stock fell 41 cents yesterday, slipping below the $4 level for the first time at $3.99.

Turner Report reaches 3,000 posts

This post marks number 3,000 for The Turner Report. Thanks to those of you who have been reading this blog from the first few posts and to all of those who joined along the way.
It was only about 18 months ago, that the blog averaged between 35 and 50 readers a day. Thanks to all of you spreading the word, we now have many days when more than 500 readers check in.
If you like what you read, keep spreading the word. If you can't stand The Turner Report, tell your friends you hate it, and maybe they'll stop by to see what the problem is.
The blog started in earnest in late 2004 when I told my eighth grade communication arts students at South Middle School in Joplin that if I were going to require them to write every day (and I do) that I would do the same.
At first, I did not know exactly what to write and it took awhile for the blog to develop into what it is now (which may be good or bad depending on your viewpoint).
These are the things I try to put into The Turner Report:
-News and information that may not be available from other news sources
-My observations on events in the news, based on my experiences as a reporter and a teacher. (I have noticed that every time my viewpoint is at odds with a few readers, they begin to talk about what a terrible reporter I am. This blog has always been news and commentary and the readers are smart enough to know which is which.)
-Information and commentary about the print and broadcast media in southwest Missouri
-Information mined from public documents. Despite the fact that records are far more easily accessible than they were during the years I was a member of the working press, they still are woefully underused by the traditional media.
-Links to articles that interest me and which I feel will be of interest to you.
-Coverage of Missouri politics, centering on those who represent us in Jefferson City and in Washington.
-Anything else that I want to write about.
As always, anyone with information or tips for The Turner Report can e-mail me at
Thanks again for your support.

Lobbyists happy with so-called "reform"

There can be no better indication that Congress is using smoke and mirrors on the lobby reform issue than the fact that lobbyists are thrilled with what is happening.
Consider this passage from an article in today's Washington Post:

Lobbyists are gleeful that the bill might be dead. "We went from people wanting to eliminate lobbying, to bans, and members taking a step back and thinking about what is realistic," said Paul A. Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists. "I'm happy where things are right now."

What Miller thinks is realistic is doing nothing that would make his job any more difficult. In the immediate aftermath of the revelation of the Jack Abramoff scandal, reforms mentioned including targeting meals and travel paid for by lobbyists. Those ideas are no longer on the table.
Whenever such suggestions are made, either in Washington or in Jefferson City, legislators cry that they can't be bought for a sandwich and a drink. Maybe not, but that sandwich and that drink do buy access, and that's more than most of us ever get.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Good old boy network must still write Globe headlines

The Joplin Globe's coverage of independent candidate Kim Wright's challenge to incumbent 32nd District State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, hasn't been exactly comprehensive to begin with, but the handling of the apparent success of her petition drive to get on the November ballot was poor, even by Globe standards.
Susan Redden's story on page 6A of the July 20 print edition was balanced and well written; it was the good old boy network in the headline writers that gummed up the works.
The headline read "Woman submits petition to challenge Sen. Nodler"
First, why list Sen. Nodler's name and not Kim Wright's.
Second, would the Globe have even thought of writing a headline that said, "Man submits petitions to challenge Sen. Nodler?" In this day and age, even stodgy old Joplin Globe editors should not be surprised when a woman runs for office.

Another Democratic House candidate falling short in campaign fundraising

It would be an understatement to say that Democratic challenger Rich Meyer is a little behind in fundraising in his challenge to incumbent Ed Emery, R-Lamar, in the 126h District House of Representatives.
According to his quarterly financial disclosure statement, Meyer received $759 in contributions and spent $477.40, leaving him with $281.60.
The only sizable individual contribution listed on the statement was $200 from the Mel Carnahan Democratic PAC. That contribution should come as no surprise since Meyer is the chairman of that PAC.
Meyer's biggest expenditure, $345, went to Full House Signs & Printing for campaign ads.
Emery's campaign reported receiving $491.25 during the last quarter, all coming from a loan from Emery himself. Despite that lack of activity, the Lamar Republican still has $6,231.52 in his account.
Emery reported spending $1,674.87, including $269.25 to, Aberdeen, N. J. for campaign gifts, $619.70 to Central Travel, Jefferson City, for United Airlines travel, and $250 to the American Legislative Exchange Council, Washington, D. C. for its annual meeting.
The American Legislative Exchange Council has been a leading proponent of school vouchers, and registration for that meeting was also cited in the quarterly campaign disclosure report of 127th District State Representative Steve Hunter, R-Joplin.

Felder disclosure report finally filed

The Neosho Daily News broke the news Wednesday that Steve Felder, D-Neosho, a candidate for the 130th District State Representative position currently held by Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, had not filed his quarterly campaign disclosure report by the July 18 deadline.
Felder has now filed that report and it doesn't show much. Felder received $320 during the three-month period and spent $277.43, leaving him with $42.53.
The report, in addition to its lateness, has other problems. Felder lists three $100 contributions, but one of them is handwritten and is illegible, while the other two list no names or addresses. He also did not file any information on how he spent the campaign money.
Felder's $42.53 falls a bit short of the $26,539.12 Wilson reports having in his account. Further details on Wilson's financial disclosure statement can be found in the July 22 Turner Report.

Empire District Electric reports $.7.1 million in earnings for third quarter

Joplin-based Empire District Electric Company reported earnings of $7.1 million during the third quarter, according to a company news release issued today.
Earnings for the past year were $29.6 million, up from $21.1 million the previous year.

Nexstar buys Pennsylvania station

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, has added another station to its stable.
According to published reports, the company will close on its purchase of WTAJ Channel 10, the CBS affiliate in Altoona/Johnstown, Pennsylvania, sometime in the fourth quarter. The sales price was reported at $56 million.

Blunt chief of staff resigns to take MSU post

Ken McClure, chief of staff for Governor Matt Blunt, has resigned to become associate vice president for administrative services at Missouri State University, according to a news release issued by the governor's office today. The release said:

"Ken has played an invaluable role in our efforts to get Missouri back on the right track and I am grateful for his service to the people of our state, his friendship and wise counsel," Blunt said. "I know he will excel in his new position at Missouri State and that he looks forward to the opportunity to return to Springfield to work for his alma mater."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

McKinney spotlighted in today's Globe

One of the things I enjoyed the most about my two decades plus as a newspaper reporter was having the opportunity to cover many different kinds of stories.
One of the examples I always use was the day in October 1992 when I covered three events in a five-hour time period: Vice President Dan Quayle's visit to Carthage, Carthage High School's match in the district volleyball tournament at Joplin and the Webb City Council meeting. I'm sure any reporter who has worked at a smaller newspaper has had the same kind of experience.
It doesn't happen as often with the Joplin Globe (especially since John Hacker left), but today's page one did shine the spotlight on reporter Roger McKinney.
McKinney had the lead story about an EPA proposal to clean up Treece, Kan, but the story that dominated page one was McKinney's coverage of the funeral of Girard football coach Craig Crespino.
This is one of those times when the Globe's obsession with page-one regional coverage made sense. While I might argue with the placement of the Treece story, McKinney's story on the Crespino funeral, coupled with the powerful David Stonner photo of a football player hugging a fellow Girard student after the mass is the kind of reporting that made me proud to be a member of the fraternity of a good portion of my adult life.

Branson blog supports Nodler position

A Branson blogger agrees with Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, on his stance concerning later school starts.
The Branson, Missouri blog says the special interest who poured their money into Nodler's campaign coffers during the last quarter are on the right track and insists that a later school start will help small schools without air conditioning and help students learn responsibility while they are working for minimum wage for the big-money interests who contributed to Nodler and the man who proposed a bill in the 2006 legislative session mandating a later school start, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon.

Misleading readers by using "from staff reports"

Those who have read this blog for the past several months know that one thing that bothers me a great deal is the way newspapers indiscriminately use the term "from staff reports" to cover something that the staff had nothing to do with reporting.
"From staff reports' is the euthemism editors use to keep from saying they accepted something someone else handed to them and put it into the newspaper verbatim or with minor changes or additions.
I have always said, if it is a news release, call it a news release, or say "according to the news release," or something of that nature.
Today, I discovered there is a second use for "from staff reports" and it appears this time the usage is even worse...although it is completely accurate.
For the past several weeks, the Joplin Globe has put its unnecessary product, The Joplin Herald (you remember, the weekly newspaper dedicated to putting Joplin news in because there isn't enough room in the Globe for Joplin news) in the mail each week. I glanced through this week's edition and noticed two things.
One, it appears that the sports writing of Ryan Malashock, a talented young reporter who deserves better than this, will be spotlighted in the newspaper.
Two, one sports article, obviously a feature written by a professional, had no byline except "From staff reports." Unless I miss my guess, this feature, which profiled Joplin High School graduate Brad Secrist's hopes to play baseball at the University of Arkansas, was written by Michael Davison, who was fired last week.
Apparently, the Globe's editors like Davison's work enough to use it, but lack the professionalism to give him credit.

Columnist: Stem cell stand makes Talent vulnerable

Senator Jim Talent may be the official who is most affected by the stem cell issue, according to Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop:

"The career most threatened by the stem-cell issue is that of Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican who voted against the expanded funding. Polls show him neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, now Missouri's auditor. McCaskill rarely misses an opportunity to talk up stem-cell research, and she does it in conservative farm country, as well as in urban Kansas City and St. Louis.

Adding to the drama, Missouri is home to the Stowers Institute, which wants to go full bore on embryonic stem-cell research. A world-class research center, Stowers has warned that it will not build a second campus in Kansas City if Missouri lawmakers make therapeutic cloning of embryos a felony -- which some have repeatedly tried to do. A ballot referendum this November gives Missouri voters a chance to end the threats against this research."

Post columnist: Gonzales is making Ashcroft look good

I had to blink twice to make sure I was seeing what was on the computer screen- Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is making his predecessor, former Missouri governor and U. S. Senator John Ashcroft, look good.
She says that while Gonzales might be the kind of guy you want to spend time with, Ashcroft was ahead of him as far as competence is concerned.

As usual, Stossel tortures facts to make his point

I didn't expect it would take long for syndicated columnist and host of ABC's 20/20 John Stossel to attack the Department of Education study which indicated that the superiority of private schools is a myth.
Stossel, who has done 20/20 reports and written columns concerning his belief in the power of school choice and the failure of the public schools, is hitting the same themes in his latest column.
On his programs, Stossel has used the New York city public schools and their problems with union regulations as a whipping boy for the failure of all public schools. Public schools in Missouri and in most of the nation are not like public schools in New York.
Stossel notes that the scores of private school students on the most recent study were higher but that the data was "tortured" to take into account other factors, such as "race, ethnicity, income and parents' educational background." At that point, the public schools did just as well, and in some cases better than private schools.
He then admits that this is a "valid statistical tool," but quickly adds "it's prone to research bias." Perhaps so, but how does that explain why the study was kept on the shelf for more than a year while the Bush Administration looked for ways to disprove its findings, then released it with little or no fanfare? And let's face it, even though it was published in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, this has not been as widely publicized in the broadcast media as you might expect.
Another criticism made by Stossel is that the study takes in only fourth and eighth graders. He writes, "That's just the beginning of a student's education. American 4th graders do pretty well in international competitions. It's by 12th grade that Americans are so far behind. The longer they spend in America's bureaucratic schools, the worse they do. I'd like to see The Times publish results of 12th grade comparisons, but I won't hold my breath."
Nowhere in his column does Stossel mention the four-word reason that explains why the study focused on those classes: No Child Left Behind. This federal act calls for testing of third through eighth graders. While a study of 12th graders would have enormous value, as Stossel suggests, this study appears to have been commissioned to show the alleged superiority of private schools in teaching the students who are targeted by No Child Left Behind.
And then Stossel resorts to an old tactic: when all else fails, cite studies without providing any information about those studies. He writes:

"On international tests, Americans now lag behind students from less developed nations like Poland and Korea that spend a fraction as much money on education.
The people who run the international tests told us, 'the biggest predictor of student success is choice.' Nations that 'attach the money to the kids' and thereby allow parents to choose between different public and private schools have higher test scores. This should be no surprise; competition makes us better."

What international tests? Who are these people who run them? While Stossel admittedly has only a limited amount of space for his column, at least one specific would have been nice.
Finally, Stossel brings the reader back to what has become a cottage industry for him: selling his theme that the media backs the educational establishment and that only he can see the real truth, that the free market and big business are better for America every time. It helps sell his books and brings him big bucks to talk at business meetings and seminars.

"Why are the mainstream media so eager to defend a unionized government monopoly?" he writes. "Maybe The Times gave the 'adjusted' test data (and an earlier version of it published in January) so much play partly because of the editors' dislike of 'conservative Christian' schools (which did poorly in the study) and the Bush administration (which has talked about bringing market competition to education). But I suspect the biggest reason is that the editors just don't like capitalism and free markets."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Egg prices continue to bring woes for Moark

Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes posted $1.7 billion in sales and net earnings of $34.8 million in its quarterly earnings released today, but the overall picture could have been even better if not for its Moark layer egg division. In a news release filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, company officials said:

"While shell volume was improved versus last year, depressed egg prices continued to have an adverse impact on earnings. For the second quarter, the company recorded $105 million in sales and a $5.8 million pretax loss in this business, as compared to $86 million in sales and a $16.1 million pretax loss in the second quarter of 2005. First-half sales in eggs totaled $213 million, with a pretax loss through June of $12.1 million. This compares to sales of $192 million and a pretax loss of $22.4 million through June of 2005. Financial results in the Layers/Eggs segment included an $8 million pretax gain on the sale of MoArk’s liquid egg processing business.
Year-to-date, shell egg volume was up 3 percent, led by branded and specialty eggs,
where volumes were up 24 percent versus the first two quarters of 2005."

Moark is based in Neosho.

Sexual harassment suit to continue

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against a former Stone County deputy sheriff will be allowed to continue, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge.
Judge Fernando Gaitan, in a ruling filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, denied former deputy Michael Blumenthal's request to have the case tossed out of court, saying "genuine issues of material fact remain." Blumenthal, who was found not guilty by a Dade County jury earlier this year in charges related to the same incident, said "no reasonable juror would find
in favor of plaintiff (Michelle Davis) because she has no witnesses who can corroborate her claims of sexual harassment."
More information about the case can be found in the Dec. 26, 2005, Turner Report.

Star business columnist: Gaming commission being politicized

Missouri's Gaming Commission has been widely praised for its independent makeup and its efficiency, but that praise may vanish thanks to recent appointments by Governor Matt Blunt.
Today's Kansas City Star features a business column by Rick Alm exploring the recent appointments of Gene McNary, who has no experience with the industry, to be the commission's executive director, and the appointments of Noel Shull and Sam Hais, both big-time contributors to Governor Matt Blunt's campaigns, to commission posts.
The Turner Report was the first media source to trace the financial contributions made by Shull and Hais. In the April 14, 2006, Turner Report, I noted that Shull and his wife made maximum contributions to Blunt for the past two years, totaling $4,750, while in the June 9 Turner Report I pointed out that Hais, his family, and members of his law firm donated $16,575 to Blunt between 2003 and 2005.
That report, as noted earlier today, brought a response from Hais' daughter, Jessica Hais, who referred to the author of this blog as a moron.

Carthage native relives Route 66 memories

Carthage native Gene Hodkin relives 90 years of Route 66 memories in this nostalgic story from the Desert Dispatch of Barstow, Calif.

Daughter of Blunt's Gaming Commission choice says Turner is a moron

Jessica Hais, daughter of Sam Hais, who was appointed to the Missouri Gaming Commission last month by Governor Matt Blunt, says the author of this blog is a moron.
Miss Hais took exception to the June 9 Turner Report which detailed how much money Hais and his family, including his wife and daughters Jessica and Jamie, contributed to Missourians for Matt Blunt, the governor's campaign committee.
In a response posted Monday, Miss Hais said:

"Wow. Who would have ever though Sam Hais would be the next Tom Delay? By the way, masterful neglection of the fact that both daughters are, in fact, financially autonomous and solvent. Moron."

While I am happy to know the Hais girls are autonomous and solvent, I find nothing in my original post that indicates they are subservient and destitute.

What I noted was the amount of money that poured into Blunt's campaign from those connected to Hais, including his family and members of his law firm. "Ethics Commission disclosure forms," I wrote, "indicate that between Hais, his family, and his law firm, Hais, Hais & Kallen, the governor received at least $16,575 between 2003 and 2005.

Had he not contributed that amount, would he still have been considered for the post? While I feel bad about offending Miss Hais, and appreciate her comment, that question remains unanswered.

Hunter challenger reports $1,000 in bank

Democrat Steve Daniels, who will face incumbent Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, for 127th District state representative, had $1,038.60 in the bank at the end of the last quarter, according to his disclosure report, filed July 17 with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Daniels received $1,075 in contributions and spent $36.40, the report said.
Contributing to the campaign were: Carpenters Local 311 PAC $325, Local 95 Voluntary Political Fund $325, and Laborers' Local No. 264 PAC $325. The other $100 was listed as coming from those contributing $100 or less.
Hunter's disclosure report indicates he has $1,102.21 in the bank.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Local lobbyists chip in for Surface

The Joplin Globe's examination of the Jasper County presiding commissioner case Sunday featured an accompanying box with a list of campaign donors for each of the three candidates, incumbent Chuck Surface, Carthage attorney Jim Spradling, and businessman John Bartosh.
Spradling appears to have the Carthage money behind him, as well as the city's artistic community, largely due, I am certain, to the work of former Presiding Commissioner Danny Hensley.
Bartosh is the handpicked candidate of Sheriff Archie Dunn, who has had a number of confrontations with Surface and the Commission.
Surface has reached back into his roots as a former state representative, receiving the maximum $650 from the campaign committee of his successor, Ron Richard, and $500 apiece from local lobbyists Gary Burton and Roy Cagle, both of whom served in the Missouri House.
That combination reminded of the 1998 32nd District Senate campaign pitting incumbent Marvin Singleton against Cagle. I covered a press conference at the Holiday Inn in Joplin in which Surface, Burton, and their fellow state representative T. Mark Elliott, joined with Missouri Right to Life to endorse Cagle's candidacy.
At that point, it appeared that Cagle had the momentum and couldn't be stopped. That was early in the campaign and I never heard from Cagle again. Apparently, he thought endorsements from these powerful people and the right-to-life group would be enough to clinch the victory for him. Meanwhile Singleton, using the same approach he used in two previous elections to eke out narrow wins, easily defeated Cagle.
I don't see the same thing happening this time. Surface has been working hard, as have his opponents, but it was just interesting to see that combination again.

Former Carthage Press sports editor calls it quits

Tucson Citizen sports columnist Corky Simpson, who got his start in journalism at The Carthage Press in the 1960s, announced last week he will retire in December.
Corky called it leaving the toy department in someone else's hands, explaining succinctly:

"What a job, the toy department!
You get to pontificate on home runs, touchdowns and overtime victories ... managers and coaches getting hired and fired ... trades and tirades and twisted ankles as if they really were important.
You get to work with colleagues and competitors who actually believe all this stuff is important, too."

By the end of the column, however, Corky did a slight about-face:

"The numbers don't really count. It's the individual in his or her arena, dealing neither with competition nor composition ... but himself, or herself. To be the best.
That's what has inspired me the most over the years. Watching young people reach down inside themselves for just a little magic to overcome a challenge.
Did I say toy department?
Shoot, this is the real world, folks. And I've enjoyed every inning."

Former KSN/KOLR sports anchor takes job at Comcast SportsNet

Former KSNF sports anchor John Boruk has joined Comcast SportsNet in the Philadelphia area, leaving his longtime position with a Detroit television station.
In his addition to his stint at KSN, the three-time Emmy winner, also worked at KOLR in Springfield.

Steelman raises more than $50,000 during last quarter

How much money does a state treasurer need in her campaign fund when her office isn't even up for election this year?
Sarah Steelman, rumored to be a possible primary opponent for Governor Matt Blunt two years from now, had a healthy fundraising quarter, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
During the past three months, Ms. Steelman received $50,695 in contributions, raising her total to $60,070. You won't see many contributions from this area of the state, but she has done remarkably well in the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City areas. While that's a far cry from the hundreds of thousands being raked in by the governor's campaign, it does show there is quite a bit of interest in Ms. Steelman, who has done quite a bit to raise her profile during the last several months, with everything from news releases to public service announcements.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ruestman column on ethics bill leaves out removal of contribution limits

Lately as a public service, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, has been explaining legislation that was passed during the 2006 session.
In this week's column, which I just read in the Newton County News, she explained HB 1900, the so-called "Ethics Reform Bill."
She explained each part of the bill thoroughly so her constituents could understand it. According to Ms. Ruestman, the bill calls for the following things:

1. Politicians, campaign committees and lobbyists will reveal where funding comes from and who it goes to. Lobbyists will include in their reports any money spent for staff, employees, spouses and children of elected officials.

2. (The law) requires out-of-state travel by lawmakers paid for by lobbyists to be pre-approved by the accounts committee.

3. (The law) prohibits fundraising during the legislative session

4. (The law) prohibits felons from running for office.

5. (The law) prohibits many legislative caucuses from receiving gifts from lobbyists.

6. (The law) holds those who file frivolous complaints with the state ethics commission accountable.

7. (The law) requires the ethics commission to post third party expenditures supporting or opposing a candidate for office on its website.

8. Oh, wait a minute. There is no number eight. Apparently, Ms. Ruestman does not think her constituents need to know that the bill removes all limits on campaign contributions.
Quite possibly she is aware that a strong majority of her constituents voted for campaign contribution limits 12 years ago and are not happy about the self-serving vote by Missouri legislators to pad their campaign war chests.
If our newspapers are going to continue publishing these political columns, even when the candidates have opposition, the least they can do is demand the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Owner of Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho paper to go public

GateHouse Media, owner of the Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, and more than 300 other publications, is going public according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
An initial public offering of $200 million worth of shares of common stock is planned, according to the filing. GateHouse, formerly Liberty Group Publishing, owns 75 daily newspapers with paid circulation of 405,000, 231 weekly newspapers with 620,000 in paid circulation and 430,000 in free circulation, and 117 shoppers with a circulation of 1.5 million, as well as 230 "locally-flavored websites." The company has products in 285 markets in 17 states, the filing said.
The filing includes a listing of the company's strengths, which include maintaining dominance in local communities. "We seek to maintain our position as a leading provider of local content in the markets we serve and to leverage this position to strengthen our relationships with both readers and advertisers, thereby increasing penetration rates and market share. A critical aspect of this approach is to continue to provide local content that is not readily obtainable elsewhere in order to position our products as a 'must read' within their markets."
The company considers its "content driven internet strategy" to be one of its strengths, according to the filing. "We are well positioned to increase our online penetration and generate additional online revenues due to both our ability to deliver unique local content and our relationships with readers and advertisers. We believe our local brands and unique local content make our sites 'must visit' destinations for our local audience. This presents an opportunity to increase our audience penetration rates and advertising market share in each of the communities we serve."
The filing also includes a number of risk factors, such as the possibility of declining circulation, competition, the company's high level of debt, and the possibility of key company officials, including CEO Michael Reed and co-president and co-chief operating officer Randy Cope, formerly publisher of the Neosho Daily News, leaving. The company is dependent on their leadership, according to the filing.
GateHouse officials' salaries
GateHouse CEO Michael Reed, formerly CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings, owner of the Joplin Globe, makes a $500,000 a year base salary, according to the filing. Cope and his co-president and chief operating officer Scott Champion each receive $200,000 a year. All three are eligible for $200,000 annual bonuses based on production. The executives also receive shares of common stock, "vacation, sick time, participation in the company retirement plan (if any) and medical, dental and insurance programs, all in accordance with the terms of such plans and programs in effect from time to time."
Former Liberty CEO Ken Serota made a tidy profit off his departure from the company, receiving a $1 million payout, a $500,000 million bonus, and his debt on a $597,610 loan was forgiven. He also will receive $500,000 to act as a consultant for one year.

Term limits add to power of special interests

The subject of term limits for elected officials is being discussed again in California, a state in which limits were enacted a few years ago with exactly the same results as we have seen in Missouri.
When legislators are limited to eight years, as is the case in this state, they are out the door just as they are beginning to accumulate the expertise they need to be able to properly represent their constituents.
So what we have ended up with is a state in which the major decisions are made, and many of the laws are written by lobbyists and special interest groups. If the people of a district find a man or woman who is doing the job, they can't keep electing that legislator because term limits prevents it.
Where do these people go when their terms run out? The idea behind term limits was that they would go home and another group of legislators would replace them. That is not what has happened. Some move on from political position to another; others, like Gary Burton of Joplin and Gary Marble of Neosho simply become lobbyists or join lobbying organizations. Often their most experienced staff members also enter the lobbying field.
What we end up with are some elected officials who are more interested in securing their financial and political futures than they are in representing the people who voted them into office.
California is looking into the possibility of removing term limits. Missouri would be wise to do the same.

ACLU sues on behalf of funeral picketers

The American Civil Liberties Union will back Wichita minister Fred Phelps in his attempt to get Missouri's new funeral protest ban overturned.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in U. S. District Court in Jefferson City, the ACLU says the ban deprives Phelps from being able to exercise his First Amendment right of freedom of speech.
The ACLU is asking that the law be declared unconstitutional and for an injunction to keep it from being enforced.
This is one of those slippery slope questions. Yes, on the face of it how could anyone support a hateful bigot like Phelps? He and his band of demented followers protest at funerals because of what they perceive as the United States' support for gays and lesbians.
Why should the final goodbyes for soldiers who gave their lives for their country be marred by these people?
The answer is simple...they shouldn't be, but a law banning protest was never the proper approach; it was simply a heartfelt, sympathetic reaction on behalf of survivors and veterans. Unfortunately, the law has also served to keep Rev. Phelps in a limelight that should have been mercifully short-lived.
Enforcement of laws already on the books, including trespassing and disturbing the peace, as well as working with law enforcement and veterans groups to help shield the survivors from these lunatics would have been the better way to go.
Though I disagree with the ACLU on some issues, particularly those involving student-led school prayer, the organization sees clearly what its detractors often fail to see. It is a short road from halting speech that we all realize is hateful to simply halting speech with which we disagree.
When critics jump on the ACLU, they often refer to the organization's defense of the American Nazi Party when it asked for a permit to parade in Skokie, Ill., a community with a high proportion of Holocaust survivors in the late 1970s. A Supreme Court ruling gave the Nazis what they wanted...but the rally never took place.
Laws were already on the books to protect grieving family members from Rev. Phelps. The last thing we need is for this man's legacy to include the erosion of the very amendment that makes the U. S. a shining symbol of freedom.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Christian Health Care connection pays off for Wilson

Health care donors paid off handsomely for Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, according to his quarterly report filed July 14 with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Wilson received $5,215 in contributions during the three-month period ending June 30. Of that total, $2,600 came from the health care industry, with all but $325 of that amount coming from sources connected to Christian Health Care.
Wilson received the maximum $325 contributions from Christian Health Care Pharmacy, Christian Health Care Hospital, Christian Health Care Personnel Services, Larry Cole of Christian Health Care, and Jason Cole, who lists the same address as Larry Cole.
In addition, Wilson received maximum contributions from the District 7 Missouri Health Care Association and District 5 Missouri Health Care Association. The state treasurer for the Missouri Health Care Association is Pete Stayton of Christian Health Care.
Wilson also received $325 from the Freeman Physicians Group.
The disclosure report also showed Wilson receiving $165 from the 129th Republican Legislative District Committee,$325 from the Missouri State Teachers Association Legislative Improvement Committee and $325 from the Missouri Realtors PAC.
Wilson spent $4,480.59, leaving him with $26,539.12 in his campaign war chest.
His biggest expenditure was $1,834.10 to Willis Printing, Neosho, for campaign materials.

House candidate filed for bankruptcy in 2003

Fiscal accountability is the watchword on Springfield businessman and state representative candidate Steve Helms' website

"Steve Helms will strive to keep government fiscally accountable. Taxes should be as low as possible. Steve believes that you can spend your money better than the government."

Hopefully, you can spend your money better than Steve Helms, owner of RTW Business Consulting, who is running on the Republican ticket, against 138th District incumbent Democrat Sara Lampe. Helms' website does not appear to have any references to his background as a businessman.

According to U. S. Bankruptcy Court documents, Helms, former owner of Mello's Tree Service and Complete Mobile Home, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Feb. 7, 2003. He reported $767,079.32 in debt, including more than $113,000 in credit card debt from 10 providers. The creditors listed in the bankruptcy document include: Dade County, Webster County, Greene County, Polk County, the city of Greenfield, and Empire District Electric Company.
The list of creditors included financial institutions holding mortgages and second mortgages on Helms' rental property, as well as providing him loans for various pieces of equipment for his tree-trimming service.
Circumstances beyond the debtor's control often force a man into bankruptcy. It is no shame to have to file for it, but at the same time it is information that the public needs to know about someone who might make decisions on how taxpayers' money will be spent...especially when the candidate is stressing fiscal responsibility in his campaign.

All Joplin, all the time

I just had my first opportunity to examine last Sunday's print edition of the Joplin Daily and the criticism that it inspired is well deserved.
Beneath the newspaper's slogan, "All Joplin...all the time" is a package on Northwest Arkansas, including a large photo and a story that continues well below the fold.
The Joplin stories are on the bottom half of the page. One is the response of Joplin Mayor Jon Tupper to media reports about his son buying property next to Joe Becker Stadium, and the other a profile of the Southwest Missouri Arthritis Association.
The last few print issues of the Daily have been disappointments, largely because a little more has been expected. When you have a sleeping giant like the Globe as the top dog in Joplin journalism, it should be rather easy to put a few dents into it. Every once in a while, the Daily does. Every few weeks, the upstart publication scoops the Globe, but otherwise it has done little to make its website the everyday stop its creators envisioned.
Part of the problems with last Sunday's paper involved the location of stories. Why put the Arkansas package at the top of your display page when you have a package of Joplin stories on page three? It appears the main thing the Arkansas package had going for it was that it had a photo accompanying it.
If that is the case, why not simply use one of the package of Fourth of July photos from page 8A, along with one or two of the page three Joplin stories and at least have a Joplin feel to page one?
It could be argued that the Fourth of July celebration took place five days earlier so it was old news. That argument doesn't wash when you consider that everything that is in the print edition is old news.
What is working for the Daily?
Judging from the people I hear talking about it (and there are not many), it's the school and sports coverage. They also like being able to read about a meeting shortly after it takes place and getting more details than what they are able to find in the Globe. The paper also has the advantage of an intense dislike that many have for the Globe. Unfortunately, after almost seven months of increasingly lowered expectations, that advantage may have already been squandered.
I am not privy to discussions about the goals of the Joplin Daily so I have no idea how much, if any, its ownership and publisher are affecting the publication. Is the Daily being told to totally emphasize good news and not do any digging into any of the problems that face Joplin?
Are there advertising-related features that are taking priority over news?
What the Daily needs to do
1. Scrap the GateHouse Media cookie-cutter website. It is not reader-friendly and it limits the Daily's ability to become interactive and useful to its readers.
2. Do not let the lack of manpower keep the Daily from becoming Joplin's information source. Use the advances in technology to help you and the answer is links, links, and more links. Offer links to everything Joplin, the school systems, the city offices, the public library, businesses, etc.
3. Keeping with the links: Since four people are limited in what they can cover, use links to increase your coverage. Link to Joplin-related stories in out-of-state newspapers, AP coverage, and yes, blogs and other websites. While I can understand the obvious aversion to providing a link to the Joplin Globe, why not link to every other site that remotely features Joplin news? That would include, but not be limited to, the Joplin Independent,, The Turner Report, and the Joplin television stations. The idea is to provide the links that will make the place to come for information. The more people who come, even if they do leave to go to the links after a few moments, the more who will see the advertising on which you are basing your very existence.
4. Continuing with links: Link to personal blogs in the Joplin area. I am not talking about The Turner Report, but ones in which the writers talk about their lives, their experiences, etc.
5. Provide links to legislation that affects the Joplin area, whether it be on the state or national level. When financial disclosure reports are filed on Joplin candidates, provide links to them. When the lobbyist reports are filed for each Joplin legislator at the end of the month, link to them.
6. Either eliminate the self-serving columns by local legislators, or even better, offer columns on the same frequency to their opposition. Adding voices adds readership.
7. Take major issues that hit the city and featurize them. Keep providing the nuts-and-bolts coverage, but blanket the website with information and features. A four-man staff can't be in as many places as the Globe, but if you pick and choose your stories and make sure your site is the top site for information on those stories, people will keep coming back.
8. Build a stable of columnists who actually have something to say, whether it be about Joplin, the region, the state or even every once in a while, the national scene (as long as the writer is from Joplin or has connections to Joplin). And please not these columnists who offer advice or health tips or that kind of drivel. If readers want that, there are better sites for it. Offer space to guest columnists or ask people to write about specific topics that are in the news. Find a political columnist or two. Find someone who can offer a historical perspective on things that are happening in Joplin now or simply write about the city's rich background. Find people who can actually write and turn them loose. Columnists are the lifesblood of a newspaper and so far, though excellent columns have been written (Michelle Pippin's patriotic columns come to mind), no one has stepped forward with columns that say, "Hey, I like what this guy is saying," or "hey, what is this idiot talking about?" Those are the kinds of columns that keep readers coming back.

I have no idea how the Joplin Daily is doing financially. I hope it is making at least enough money to keep it going. I have been there when newspapers have gone out of business and it is a sad thing. The community benefits whenever there are more voices striving to reveal the truth.

Globe sports writer fired

Michael Davison, whose sports writing and columns have been a fixture in the Joplin Globe and Joplin Herald has been fired.
Reportedly, he had been at odds with the Globe's new managing editor for sports, Lance Ogden, and has been axed to make room for someone Ogden has wanted to hire.
One of the things I always liked about Davison's work is that he broke away from the typical Joplin Globe mold of watch a game, talk to the coach, then toss in a few statistics, mix it up and write the story.
During the 22 years I covered area sports, I always found coaches were good sources for information, but rarely offered good usable quotes, much less ones you could center a story around. For most of the 1980s and early 1990s, I was about the only reporter in southwest Missouri who interviewed players on a regular basis, much less wrote features about them. (Out of my 1,000 plus Sports Talk columns, I would estimate about 50 or less centered around coaches. The rest were profiles of players.)
In the mid to late 1990s, the Globe and News-Leader began using more player interviews. Unfortunately, with the advent of cable television, sports radio, and wall-to-wall sports coverage, many of the players are giving quotes that are as cliched and lame as the ones the coaches used to give. That makes the sports reporters have to work that much harder.
Davison was one of those who put in the work. I'm sure before long he will be doing so again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Emery pleads guilty, placed on probation

Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, pleaded guilty Thursday in Lawrence County Circuit Court to a charge of driving on the wrong side of the roadway, causing an accident, a misdemeanor.
He was not sentenced, according to court records, but was placed on six months of unsupervised probation, with the requirements that he stay out of trouble and pay court costs. The records indicate he paid $68.50 Friday.
Thursday's hearing came after two delays. Hearings had been scheduled for April 3 and June 19, but both were postponed at Emery's request. According to court records, State Senator Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, acting on Emery's behalf, filed a request to delay the April 3 hearing because Emery was in Jefferson City with the state legislature.
The June 19 hearing was also postponed at Emery's request, the court file said.
Emery was not at Thursday's hearing either, the records indicate:

"State appears by APA Gary Troxell. Defendant appears in absentia and by waiver. Concerning the misd information: Defendant waives formal arraignment and reading of the information, and Defendant pleads guilty. Court accepts plea of guilty as voluntary and finds a factual basis for acceptance. At Def's request, Def found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based upon the file."

The charge was filed following a 2:20 p.m. Feb 3 two-car accident on Highway 96 two miles south of Miller. Emery and a woman in the other car suffered minor injuries, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol report.
The case will be reviewed on Jan. 18, 2007, according to the court file. Of course, the legislature will be in session at that time.

Schaaf continues to stand in the way of Medicaid reform

Talk about a conflict of interest.
Dr. Rob Schaaf, the Republican representative from St. Joseph, is again planting himself directly in the path of any effort to curb Medicaid fraud in Missouri.
According to the Associated Press, Schaaf says that doctors will simply stop taking Medicaid patients if the proposed reforms are passed. And he was the one who kept them from being passed during the 2006 legislative session.
Governor Matt Blunt has asked the General Assembly to deal with the issue during a special session:

"We have brought the issue of fraud in our social welfare system to the forefront of reform efforts. I have called on the Missouri House of Representatives previously to pass a tough Medicaid Provider Fraud Bill to combat Medicaid providers who cheat taxpayers. Today I am renewing that call."

You have to question the wisdom of putting a doctor in charge of this committee, even moreso when the doctor has received more than $10,000 in campaign contributions during the past six months from medical sources.
His contributions during the first three months of 2006 were outlined in the May 3 Turner Report.
The July disclosure form filed by "Friends of Rob Schaaf" with the Missouri Ethics Commission, shows the doctor received $6,300 in contributions, $5,150 of which came from medical sources, including $750 from three Joplin donors. Contributing $300 apiece were Hish Majzoub, physician, and Heart and Vascular Care, while Gary Randolph of St. John's chipped in with $150.
Dr. Schaaf was quick to support the governor on Medicaid cuts in the 2005 legislative session. Apparently, he is willing to everyone to sacrifice except those who can most afford to do so.

Southwest Missouri bloggers profiled

Those of you who have tried some of the links on the right hand side of this page have discovered a varied group of bloggers from southwest Missouri, with opinions that run the gamut from ultra-liberal to far right.
The Snarling Marmot began a series of profiles today of area bloggers with a look at Granny Geek.

Jarden schedules quarterly investor conference call

Jarden Corporation, owner of the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho, will broadcast the company's conference call to discuss second quarter results 8:45 a.m. CDT Thursday, July 27, according to a company news release.
Participating in the call will be Martin E. Franklin, chairman and chief executive officer, Ian Ashken, vice chairman and chief financial officer, and James E. Lillie, president and chief operating officer.