Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Newly-minted Democrat accepts nearly $900 in gifts from Trial Attorneys' lobbyist

Chris Koster, the leading fundraiser in the race to replace Jay Nixon as Missouri's attorney general, accepted $891.23 in gifts from the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys over a three-day period in June, according to documents just posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.
Koster has received $1,993.96 in lobbyists' gifts during the first six months of 2007.
The gifts from Trial Attorneys lobbyist and executive director Sara Schuett came June 22-24, according to the documents. On June 22, he received "meals, food, and beverage" worth $117.53, followed by $298.70 for two nights' lodging on June 23, and $475 for "continuing education credits" on June 24.
Koster also received a $69.68 meal from Rodney Boyd, lobbyist for Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal on June 13, increasing his month's total to $959.91.
The Harrisonville senator is expected to announce today that he is leaving the Republican party and becoming a Democrat.

Top lobbyist Blunt continues streak

And now for our monthly report on lobbyist (and first brother) Andrew Blunt's continuing streak. While other lobbyists have to wine and dine (or pop and whop if it's non-alcoholic) legislators, Blunt filed another no-expenditure report with the Missouri Ethics Commission for June.
Commission records show Blunt has not spent a cent to lobby for his powerful clients since his brother became governor. Nice work if you can get it.

Stevenson tops area representatives in lobbyists' gifts for June

Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, topped Joplin-area representatives in the amount of lobbyists gifts' for June, according to documents just posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.
Stevenson received $358.70, with all of it coming from lobbyist Sara Schuett, executive director of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. The disclosure documents indicate Stevenson received all of the gifts on June 23, $298.70 for two nights' lodging and $60 for a meal. Ms. Schuett's report indicates she also bought a $60 meal for Stevenson's wife, Regina, on the same day.
Coming in second for the month was perennial favorite Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, who continued his march toward the $3,000 mark, with $62.63 in June. Hunter made a big deal a few weeks back about dropping his part-time job as a recruiter for Associated Industries of Missouri, but three of the four meals, two lunches and a dinner, he received from lobbyists in June, came from former Rep. Gary Marble, R-Neosho, president and lobbyist for AIM. The other meal was paid for by Jim Kistler, lobbyist for Associated Builders and Contractors...and coincidentally, a former lobbyist for Associated Industries. Hunter has received $2,834.76 in lobbyists' gifts during the first half of 2007.
Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, each received one meal during June, Richard's costing $10 and Emery's $21.16.
Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, did not accept any gifts in June.
For the year, trailing Hunter are: Richard $911.72, Stevenson $897.17, Emery $673.06, Ms. Ruestman $556.32, and Wilson $399.13.

Former Department of Revenue employee admits to role in identity theft scheme

The Jan. 23 admission by a former employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue's Division of Taxation of her part in an identity theft scheme helped to bring that scheme to a close, according to documents filed last week in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The lawyers for Krystal Stephens, 22, are trying to have that handwritten statement, which was given to United States postal inspectors L. George Callas and Randy Wilkins, an investigator with the Missouri attorney general's office, thrown out, saying she was not given her Miranda rights, and that her statement was involuntary and "was the result of mental and/or physical coercision, duress, and threats." In her statement, Ms. Stephens wrote:

"I worked for the Department of Revenue for the Truman Building doing taxation for the state. My sister, Anna Stephens, begged me for numbers for a long time 'til finally I gave in and gave her some Social Security numbers and a name, maybe 10 to 20, maybe, I'm not for sure. I wrote them on a time card sheet of paper and handed them off to Anna Stephens. Then I had nothing else to to do with them in the year of 2004 or 2005, not for sure, but pretty sure was 2004. She wanted the numbers so she could talk to Brandon Betts on the telephone. By using the numbers to get phones in other people's names because she was wanting to talk with her boyfriend, Brandon Betts. He was in Algoa Penitentiary State Prison. I'm very sorry. I should have been more strong-willed and not have done it to those people. She said she didn't use many, but she shouldn't have used any and it was partly my fault, but I don't work there anymore and don't plan to and would work there in that environment and put myself in my predicament any more. I want my high school diploma and to do hair. So I'm very sorry once again and hope you can please forgive me."

Ms. Stephens' statement was part of the evidence that led federal officials to indict seven people, including another former Department of Revenue employee and an employee of the Department of Social Services, Family Support Division, on charges of fraud and identity theft. The scheme resulted in a loss of at least $80,000 to telephone companies and an untold amount to credit card companies.

Two defendants pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Jefferson City.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Two defendants in identity theft scheme plead guilty

A former Missouri Department of Revenue employee, who used her access to personal records as part of an identity theft scheme, pleaded guilty today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Erica Daniece Kelley (pictured) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud during a nine-minute hearing in the federal courts building in Jefferson City.
Also pleading guilty to the same charge today was Brenda McKay Adams.
The plea agreements for both women described the scheme. According to the agreements, Ms. Kelley, Ms. Adams, Clayton Deardorff, Robin Deardorff, Angie Roark, Krystal Stephens, Anna Stephens, and others took personal identification, including names, Social Security numbers, and dates of births to commit fraud, theft, and other crimes. "In part, they stole and acquired personal information, and used this information to start phone service at homes as well as cellular service. The defendants would then pass the information through Robin Deardorff to persons already in prison, including Clayton Deardorff. The prisoners then would use the phone service without cost to them, or to the person they were calling, or to any of the defendants."

Robin Deardorff, according to the information in the plea agreement, "enlisted others," including Ms. Kelley, who is her cousin, and Ms. Adams, to steal personal information. Ms. Kelley was employed at the Department of Revenue during all of 2002 through Jan. 3, 2003, in the Driver's License Division. Ms. Deardorff recruited Ms. Kelley to provide personal information about drivers, to set up telephone service for prisoners. Ms. Kelley admits to providing information about at least 10 drivers to Ms. Deardorff, who gave it to her imprisoned husband who traded the information for "cash or something else of value."

The scheme cost the telephone companies more than $80,000, according to the plea agreements. "Additional losses were incurred by credit card companies when the defendants opened credit card accounts using the stolen identification information."

The scheme was in operation from 2002 to 2006.

Former Neosho police officer's lawyer asks for continuance

Neosho lawyer Charles Rhoades, citing a conflict on his schedule, filed a motion today asking for a continuance for the next hearing for his client, former Neosho police officer Justin Pickup.
A pre-trial conference for Pickup, who is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 27 in McDonald County Circuit Court, where it is being heard on a change of venue from Newton County.
Pickup allegedly supplied vodka to 16-year-old Kassie Schenck, Neosho, shortly before she died in a one-car accident Dec. 21. Pickup, whose case is being prosecuted by the Missouri attorney general's office, is free on $5,000 bond.

Blunt: Nothing wrong with Congressional pay increases

Some members of Congress are putting themselves on the record as opposing their upcoming $4,400 pay increases, but not Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt:

Defending the raise, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "Every member has some obligation to the institution for the compensation to, as much as possible, keep pace with inflation. I think this should be as good a job when I leave it as it was when I took it."

Other Missourians did not agree with that view:

This is the people's money, and we need to use it on their priorities," said Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, co-sponsor of a bill to prevent the raise. "Increasing the pay of members of Congress is not their priority."

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said she'd back a similar measure in the Senate.

"I don't think Congress should get a raise," she said. "I think it would be a nice thing to tell the American people that we could go a couple years without a raise."

The pay increase would lift salaries to $169,600 annually.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blunt: The surge hasn't failed

At a time when many Americans seem ready to write off any chances of the surge in Iraq leading to success, don't count Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt as one of them.
On CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer today, Blunt said, "I don't think the surge has failed. I think the surge has, frankly, just gotten to its full strength and sustainability, and we need to wait and see what happens as a result of the surge. There's been too many people willing to decide what was going to happen in the battlefield before the battlefield occurred. Certainly, one of the big disappointments in Iraq has been the inability of the Iraqis themselves to take responsibility for their own government, their own future.
"I do think the Iraqi military is coming along quicker than the Iraqi political situation, and that's not unusual. Probably what happened in our country at the revolution, the military was strong quicker than we were ready to be fully sustainable politically. And that's what's happening there."

Given an opportunity to stand up for beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Blunt indicated he was not thrilled with Gonzales, but everything is okay because President Bush is. "Well, in recent days, there hasn't been a lot to build confidence in the attorney general. But the president has confidence in him. That's what really matters. I know him. He's a decent guy. He's someone who has taken on a heavy responsibility. And I wish him well. But, ultimately, it's up to the president to decide who the attorney general should be. And the president shouldn't be beat into that decision by all these hyperbolic charges of whatever anybody can think of."

60 Minutes report: The pernicious effect of lobbying

One of the recurring themes of this blog has been the pernicious effect lobbyists have on our government. While lobbying is necessary and is protected by the First Amendment's right to petition, I doubt seriously that our founding fathers were able to foresee a time when lobbyists would write critically important bills, pour millions into political campaigns, and consist in large part of former politicians or their aides.
Those factors, especially the revolving door between those who go from being elected representatives to working for special interests was explored tonight in a previously broadcast 60 Minutes segment:

Scully was the administration's lead negotiator on the prescription drug bill, and at the time was also negotiating a job for himself with a high-powered Washington law firm, where he became a lobbyist with the pharmaceutical industry.

"He was negotiating for his job at the same time that the Medicare legislation was being considered. He wound up taking this job 10 days after the president signed this legislation," says Pollack.

It is but one example of the incestuous relationship between Congress and the industry, and just one of the reasons the pharmaceutical lobby almost never loses a political battle that affects its bottom line.

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin, who helped push the prescription drug bill through the House, didn't disagree.

Has the bill been good for the drug industry?

"It's been good for the patients whom the drug industry represents …" Tauzin says. "In terms of profits — [for the drug companies] and volumes, yes."

Says Kroft: "Your old friend, John Dingell, says that of the 1,500 bills over the last eight years dealing with pharmaceutical issues, the drug companies almost, without exception, have gotten what they wanted."

"Yeah … I would think he's correct. They've done fairly well," replies Tauzin.

Why has this lobby been so successful? The former congressman says he believes it's because they stood for the right things.

If Tauzin sounds a lot like a lobbyist for the drug industry, that's because now he is.

It would not be hard to find multiple examples of this incestuous relationship in Washington or in Missouri.

KSN site attacked by spam pornographers

Just when you think people have stooped as low as they possibly can go, someone has to go and prove you wrong.
Case in point- an item placed on KSNF's website concerning the death of a teenage girl in an auto accident:

16 years old Cherish Vaughn died yesterday of her injuries. Missouri State Troopers say Vaughn was a passenger in a car driven by 17 year old Trevor Nease. Investigators say Nease passed another vehicle on the right shoulder then crossed over the center line. The vehicle then ran off the roadway into a field and overturned several times ejecting the driver along with Vaughn and another passenger 16-year-old Dustin Watkins. Nease and Watkins are being treated for injuries in a local hospital. Troopers say none of the occupants were wearing their seatbelts. Funeral services for Vaughn will be held Sunday afternoon at two o'clock at the abundant life Christian center on east Newman road in Joplin.

By putting the information on its website, KSN was providing a public service. Not only did the station tell those visiting the site what had happened, but it gave information about when services were going to be held for those who wished to pay their final respects.

KSN also allows visitors to the site to post comments, providing a link at the bottom of the news stories. Unfortunately, those who considered posting comments about the death of a teenager were immediately greeted with about a dozen vile, pornographic posts.

While KSN should be commended for providing its readers/viewers with the opportunity to voice their opinions, it is an unfortunate byproduct of this internet age that there has to be some method employed to stop spammers, especially those of the pornographic variety, from completely trashing the site.

Perhaps KSN should consider installing something to require commenters to type in random letters and numbers to prevent these automated spammers from unleashing their sickness on the unsuspecting.

Rumors don't pan out, Hunter not chosen for position

Those rumors that Pat Secrist was fired from her position as director of the Division of Workers Compensation to make room for Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, did not pan out.
Associated Press reports Jeff Buker has been appointed to the position.The following information was featured in the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Labor News:

Rod Chapel, director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations today announced the appointment of Jeff Buker to serve as the Director of the Division of Workers' Compensation.

"Jeff has been a tremendous asset to the Division of Workers’ Compensation," said Chapel. "He has a depth of knowledge and understanding of the workers' compensation system and I look forward to working with him in this position."

Buker holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master's in business administration from Lincoln University. He has worked on various division projects over the past year and a half involving self insurance and the second injury fund.

"I'm looking forward to addressing the challenges that face the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the second injury fund,” said Jeff Buker. "I've been working closely with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP to fulfill Governor Blunt’s request for an actuarial study of the second injury fund. PricewaterhouseCoopers is researching the boost in expenditures, including cases that receive immediate payouts and how that has contributed to the increase from $18 to $63 million in total benefits paid since 1994."

Governor Blunt requested an actuarial study be completed after his disappointment in the scope and lack of recommendations with the Missouri State Auditor's report. Governor Blunt specifically requested solid facts and numbers to show the dramatic growth in expenditures, the affect of the Schoemehl case and administration costs. PricewaterhouseCoopers final report will be available next week.

None of the articles seem to be mentioning Buker's previous position as Missouri GOP chief of operations.

Razorbacks announcer, Carthage native, dead at 56

Carthage native Larry Shank, the longtime public address announcer for the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team, died Saturday at age 56:

Shank not only announced but sang and entertained between innings. Recalling Shank's renditions at Baum Stadium of the national anthem and seventh-inning sing-a-longs of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and between innings announcements and patter, DeBriyn said, "You don't replace a guy like that. Not only a PA announcer with a great voice but a singer, an entertainer."

Dave Van Horn, both a Razorback player and then Razorback assistant coach during the 1980s before returning to Arkansas as head coach after being head coach at Nebraska, said, "I thought we had it going pretty good at Nebraska ... but Larry blew them all away, from announcing the lineup on the field to singing the national anthem to his PA voice. For everyone who has ever been to Baum Stadium, it's a great loss. We never are going to be able to replace him."

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church, located at 206 W. Johnson in Springdale. The family will receive visitors at the church from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday.

Mr. Shank was a 1969 graduate of Carthage Senior High School.

Joplin real estate agent gave up Hall-of-Famer's 3000th hit

As San Diego Padre great Tony Gwynn in inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y. today, his career is being reviewed in publications across the United States.
In the hometown San Diego Union, Joplin realtor Dan Smith, a Girard, Kan. High School graduate, talks about giving up Gwynn's historic 3,000th hit in August 1999:

It wasn't a fair fight. The Expos were starting a rookie, Dan Smith, and a right-hander at that. Smith did well to get a 1-2 count.

Smith, now a real-estate broker in Joplin, Mo.: "I'm from Southwest Missouri, so I knew what an electric atmosphere there would be in St. Louis for Tony and how well those fans would treat him (at Busch Stadium). We were on the flight from New York to Montreal when somebody said he'd gotten No. 2,999 in St. Louis and he'd be going for 3,000 against us. I thought, 'That stinks for him, having to come to Montreal for such a big milestone.' So unfortunate. One of the best hitters in the game – arguably the best of all time – has played his entire career in an overlooked place like San Diego. And now he's going for 3,000 in Montreal. I really wanted to get him out and be the one who didn't give it up. I was 23 years old and had delusions of going seven innings and getting him out four times. In hindsight, I'm glad he got it off me. It's as close to the Hall of Fame as I'll ever get without having to buy a ticket ... I threw him a slider, down and in, and he punched it over second base, a typical Tony Gwynn hit. The coolest experience happened the next day. I'm taking pitcher's batting practice and he came out and pulled me aside. I was just thrilled by that. When I was a kid, Tony Gwynn was one of the guys I pretended to be in the back yard, hitting Wiffle balls. Now he's talking to me. He said, 'Whether you like it or not, you're a big part of a special day for me and my family. I hope it doesn't offend you, but I want you to have some stuff as mementos.' He gave me a jersey and bats and baseballs. How cool is that? A few weeks later, we were in San Diego, and it just happened that that was 'Tony Gwynn 3,000 Hit Poster Night.' Tony sent me over a signed poster that said 'To Dan, It was a good pitch, Tony Gwynn.' Such a classy guy. Such a gentleman."

Republicans, including Blunt ready to overhaul No Child Left Behind

A host of Republicans are starting to stray from the party line on the well-meaning, but vastly unsuccessful No Child Left Behind.
According to a Gannett News Service article, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, who earlier this year made noises about the problems with the law, is continuing to push for more local control:

"What I want is more flexibility for the states," Blunt said. "I don't think that has to eliminate No Child Left Behind. But I think you are better off having decisions made about secondary and elementary education closer to where kids are. I think we now have to change our approach."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blunt scheduled for CNN appearance

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt will discuss the problems surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during an appearance on Late Edition with Wolf Blizer, 10 a.m. Sunday on CNN.
Also scheduled to take part are Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y. and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Globe: Lamar hanging on after O'Sullivan shutdown

The Joplin Globe just posted an article on how Lamar is coping with the shutdown of its bigger employer, O'Sullivan Industries.
Based on what I read in Melissa Dunson's article, it appears Lamar residents are hanging in there, which is what I expected:

(City Administrator Lynn) Calton said there are other Lamar businesses that plan to expand and the city will find out next month if it has been chosen as a DREAM city to help with downtown revitalization.

"It's not like we're going to roll up the sidewalks and disappear," Calton said. "We're not going anywhere."

Civil suit filed against Lamar Feed and Grain

Who knows what good, if any, it will do now that the company has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but Producers Grain of El Dorado Springs filed a lawsuit against Lamar Feed and Grain today in Barton County Circuit Court.
A hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 28, according to court records. Though the online records do not indicate the content of the lawsuit, bankruptcy records indicate Lamar Feed and Grain owes Producers Grain grain, $21,344.84.

More information about the bankruptcy can be found in the July 20 Turner Report.

My new favorite Barry Bonds story

One of the joys of going through my e-mail each day is when I receive a KOM League Flash Report from John Hall, the Carthage native whose books on the old KOM League and Mickey Mantle have made him a favorite of those interested in old-time baseball.

But as the nation watches despondently as San Francisco Giant slugger (and Frankenstein experiment) Barry Bonds edges closer to becoming the all-time home run king, leave it to John Hall to provide my favorite Bonds-related story I have heard so far.

In his latest Flash Report, Hall writes:

During yesterday's game at San Francisco, Atlanta rightfielder Jeff Francouer hit a screaming line drive to left field. Now, for the $10,000 prize winning question--who caught the ball?

If you said Barry Bonds, you aren't even close.

Around 2:00 P. M. CDT, on Thursday, I had a cellphone call from my grandson, Vince Pescaglia. He informed me he was outside the Giants ballpark (they change names so often I still call it Candlestick) awaiting entry. I told him I'd be watching the game on TBS (Turner Broadcasting) and expected to see him, his dad, mom and brothers during the game.

In the third inning Francouer blasted Linecum's fast ball and it went directly into the lap of oldest grandson, Tony Pescaglia. I dialed him up very quickly and congratulated him on a good catch. My wife was sorry she missed the play. In the sixth inning another Brave hit a shot to the same spot, but a couple of feet lower. This time Barry Bonds grabbed the ball. But,in view above Bonds, on his right was son-in-law, Bucky and on Bonds left was grandson Vince.

The vacation continues but there will be no more watching Bonds chase his steroid induced home run record. I told them if they caught the record breaking homer to throw the ball back. When Tony caught the home run ball, yesterday, the fans chanted "Throw it back." He responded with "No way, we're Cardinal fans."

Devil's Messenger signing set for Saturday

What will likely be the final Joplin signing for my novel Devil's Messenger will be held tomorrow (Saturday, July 28) 1 to 5 p.m. at Hastings Books, Music and Video.
And for those of you who have asked (and thank you for the interest), I am closing in on the end of the first draft of the new book, which will be my first non-fiction effort. The book will include my recollections of some of the stories I worked on as a reporter, as well as some of the work that has been featured in The Turner Report, including a considerable amount of information that has never before been printed or posted anywhere.
I hope to see some of you at Hastings tomorrow.

End of the line may be near for Rod Smith

A columnist for The Denver Post reports that former Missouri Southern State College standout Rod Smith may be near the end of his All-Pro NFL career:

Age has robbed Smith of most everything except his pride. Anyone with a heart admires his warrior spirit, but that fine appreciation doesn't make it any easier to watch Smith hobble in a race against the clock on one bad leg, knowing he is weeks from being anywhere near ready to play football again.

Here's betting the Broncos have a better chance of making it to the Super Bowl this season than Smith has of making a meaningful contribution to the team.

Now, I sincerely hope the old, graying receiver proves me 100 percent wrong. Why?

For a moment, forget how much that Smith grabbing a pass in traffic on third down could help young quarterback Jay Cutler and the Broncos. Just seeing him strut around the Denver locker room, calling out the skeptics, would be priceless, because Smith performs the cranky act as endearingly as anybody since Redd Foxx portrayed Fred Sanford on television.

There are names on Denver jerseys from those Super Bowl years that are better known across the country, and I could argue a stronger case that linebacker Randy Gradishar, tight end Shannon Sharpe and maybe half a dozen other former Broncos should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame ahead of Smith.

But, in a city where football is religion, Smith is one of the few Denver players who loves this team even more than Broncomaniacs do.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ethics Commission: Have candidates return excess contributions

The Missouri Ethics Commission filed documents with the Missouri Supreme Court Wednesday recommending that candidates be required to return all contributions in excess of the reinstituted limits:

The Supreme Court is expected to rule within weeks whether candidates have to refund money.

The commission's request was crafted by the staff of Attorney General Jay Nixon, a candidate for governor who would be affected by the court's decision.

Nixon plans to challenge Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican who would be forced to return at least $3.5 million in donations — the most of any Missouri candidate — if the high court sides with the commission.

Nixon would have to return just over $1 million, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis of campaign donations since Jan. 1. Blunt has collected far more money overall, and now has more than twice as much as Nixon in the bank.

The request from the commission, as the overseer of the state's campaign finance rules, could influence the Supreme Court's decision.

Curless not among state Supreme Court finalists

The three finalists for a vacant Missouri Supreme Court seat have been chosen, and Barton County Circuit Court Judge Charles Curless is not among the list.
Former Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Breckinridge, currently on the Western District Court of Appeals, is on the list, as are Ronald Holliger, also on the Western District Court of Appeals, and Nannette Baker, a judge on the Eastern District Court of Appeals. The three were chosen by a judicial selection panel, according to Associated Press.
The name of Curless, as well as those of approximately 30 finalists were released by the blog, The Source, run by Republican activist Jeff Roe.

Dow Jones sale to Murdoch may provide more newspapers for GateHouse Media or CNHI

The fate of Ottaway Newspapers, the newspaper arm of Dow Jones & Co., is uncertain as parent company Dow Jones prepares to cell to Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
According to an article in today's Boston Globe, the newspapers do not fit in with Murdoch's plans, which mainly concern Dow Jones' flagship publication, the Wall Street Journal, and there is a good chance the 27 newspapers will be sold.
Likely buyers, according to the article, are Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI), owner of the Joplin Globe, which used to be in the Ottaway chain, and GateHouse Media, owners of The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, and Greenfield Vedette in southwest Missouri.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Creditors meeting set in Lamar Feed and Grain bankruptcy

A 9 a.m. Sept. 7 meeting has been scheduled for creditors of Lamar Feed and Grain, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy July 20, according to a U. S. Bankruptcy Court filing.
The meeting will be held in the Jasper County Courthouse Annex 1 at 105 N. Lincoln in Carthage.
More information about the bankruptcy can be found in the July 20 Turner Report.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sinquefield poured late money into effort to oust Lampe

Compared to the millions he has been pumping into state and national political contests, $6,400 may not seem like much, but that's the amount billionaire Rex Sinquefield of the educational voucher-supporting Show-Me Institute dropped into Republican Steve Helms' unsuccessful effort to unseat Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, as 138th District State Representative.

The money came during the last week of the campaign in the same roundabout way special interests were using before campaign contribution limits were lifted. (And, of course, now they are back in place again.)

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show the Helms campaign received $3,200 on Oct. 30, 2006, from the 140th District Legislative Committee. Six days earlier, the 140th District Committee received $9,600 contribution from Sinquefield. It contributed $6,400 to the 12th District Legislative Committee, with the other $3,200 going to the Helms campaign.

The 12th District turned around and gave $3,200 to the Helms campaign, with the other $3,200 going to Rep. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles' re-election campaign. Helms may have received even more money from Sinquefield, since he also picked up the same amount, $3,200 from the 23rd District Legislative Committee, which received money from the Missouri Republican Party, which had received an $80,000 contribution from Sinquefield, and the Senate Majority Fund,which received $50,000 from Sinquefield in September and $100,000 during 2006.

With that money, Helms paid Feather, Larson, and Synhorst (FLI), a Phoenix, Arizona firm headed by Sarcoxie native Tony Feather, to make automated phone calls. The company has a reputation for creating phony groups to boost its causes. Feather also serves as a lobbyist for Advocates for School Choice.

Just after the Helms campaign received the Sinquefield money, a fictitious group called Missouri Citizens for Ethics began making automated phone calls in the 138th District accusing Ms. Lampe of accepting illegal campaign contributions, a specious claim based on a complaint filed with the Ethics Commission on Oct. 23, 2006.

The group claims to be interested in revealing ethics violations against any candidate who makes them, but the only case mentioned on its website is the one Lampe violation. That case, by the way was dismissed by the Ethics Commission on Nov. 21, after it was found to be unsubstantiated.

Helms' disclosure report also indicates he spent $9,066.43 on last-minute advertising with the Springfield News-Leader.

Bearden joins the ranks of registered lobbyists

Former House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, has joined the ranks of registered lobbyists.
According to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, Bearden is registered to lobby for Pelopidas, the firm he is beginning with lobbyists Travis Brown and Rachel Keller Brown to advocate for issues, with the issue at the top of the list being educational vouchers.
For more information on Pelopidas and the push for educational vouchers in Missouri, check the July 18 Turner Report.
And so the revolving door between the legislature and lobbying continues.

Globe posts story on Memorial Middle School shooter decision

Debby Woodin's article on Judge David Mouton's decision to keep the Memorial Middle School shooter case in adult court has been posted on the Joplin Globe website, complete with comments from the Juveniles for Justice group that has been pushing for the case to be remanded to juvenile court:

Norma White, the mother of Thomas White, said Tuesday that she was disappointed in the ruling.

"I am hoping at some point along the way someone will see that these kids who get in trouble like this need to go through the juvenile system first," she said. "That's the whole reason we have a juvenile system."

She said that her son, who was 13 at the time of the shooting, would get more counseling and education, and the focus would be on rehabilitation if he were treated as a juvenile.

Authorities said the boy tried to fire the gun at the principal several times, but it jammed.

Cari Barichello, administrator of the group Justice for Juveniles, which wanted White tried as juvenile, said White was a "bullied kid. Some of these kids just need help. They need to be listened to."

A flaw in our judicial system

(Note: The following post appeared as my column in last week's Newton County News.)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the taxpayers are footing the bill so Edward Meerwald, the drunk driver who killed James Dodson, 68, of Neosho, and Dodson's eight-year-old granddaughter Jessica Mann, can appeal his sentence. While I have no problem with indigent defendants being represented by court-appointed attorneys, Meerwald pleaded guilty and received a seven-year sentence. After he discovered he did not like prison, he decided to appeal his own choice and we are the ones who have to pay for it.
I would like to be able to tell you that the Meerwald case is an aberration, but cases like his are scattered all over our judicial system.
A particularly galling one is an appeal from McDonald County Circuit Court, on a case that started in Newton County. On Jan. 27, 2005, Gary Reed Blankenship, 57, Neosho, was arrested following one of Diamond Police Department officer Jim Murray's internet sex stings. Murray entered a chat room pretending to be an underaged girl. Blankenship propositioned the "teen," arranged for a meeting with her to have sex, then was arrested when he arrived and was charged with eight counts of possession of child pornography, one count of enticing a child, and one count of promoting obscene material to a minor.
At the time of his arrest, Blankenship was a highly paid official with O'Sullivan Industries in Lamar, and reportedly was doing some of his trolling on company computers. His first lawyer was Dee Wampler, Springfield, probably the best criminal defense lawyer in southwest Missouri.
Probably the best advice Blankenship could have been given was to stay off the computer, but if he was given that advice, he did not follow it. He e-mailed his co-workers at O'Sullivan, claiming to be innocent and asking them to help him by serving as character references.
A portion of the e-mail read:
"I pray that each of you know me well enough to realize that I am not guilty of the charges that have been made. Of the 10 counts made against me, I will officially be arraigned on only one count - the other nine will be dropped.
"Last, I am sending this to each of you requesting your help. Most of you have either been contacted by, or have a message from Betty Jackson, secretary to my lawyer, Dee Wampler. I had to put together a list of character references and I could think of none better than the people I have spent a lot of time with for the past several years.The decision is up to you as to whether you wish to provide any comment regarding my character but I would appreciate your comments.
"I hope things are going well for all of you and the new O'Sullivan is beginning to shape up. I wish all of you health and happiness, and hope to talk with you soon.
"Thanks again for your support."
Apparently, those character references were not forthcoming. The charges Blankenship said would be dropped were never dropped until he entered his guilty plea.
On Oct. 19, 2006, Blankenship pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and promoting obscenity. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. Five months later, despite the fact that Blankenship was the one who entered the guilty plea, he filed an appeal.
Judge Kevin Selby ruled on March 29 that Blankenship, a former high-powered executive, could proceed as a pauper, meaning the taxpayers will pay for a public defender to represent him.
And this week, we learned that not only are we paying for public defenders to file appeals for people who pleaded guilty of their own free will, but we are also using taxpayer dollars to pay for a lawyer for someone who does not even want one.

McDonald County Circuit Court Judge John LePage, the latest in the merry-go-round of judges who have heard Granby resident Martin Lindstedt's case, rejected Lindstedt's request to represent himself, instead appointing a public defender. The decision was made even though Lindstedt does not want a public defender, and it has already been determined that he has more than enough assets to pay for his own lawyer.
What should be particularly worrisome is a comparison to the recent murder trial of Gary Black in Jasper County. Black, who was already being tried for a second time for the 1998 murder of Missouri Southern State College student-athlete Jason Johnson, will have to be convicted a third time...because the judge refused to allow Black to act as his own attorney.
Is this any way to run a judicial system?

Local TV stations catch up on Memorial Middle School shooter ruling

KODE, KOAM, and KSNF led their six o'clock newscasts with the news that Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White will be tried as an adult.
The ruling was made Monday, but apparently was not posted on case.net until today, since I checked the site last night. I will have the reaction to the decision as it soon as it is available.

Memorial Middle School shooter to be tried in adult court

Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 14, will be tried in adult court.
The ruling was issued Monday by Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Mouton following two hearings in which White's public defenders presented evidence to show why his case should be remanded to juvenile court.
White had also received the support of more than 100 letters written on his behalf, thanks to a campaign by the national group Justice for Juveniles.
In the end, Mouton said Judge William Carl Crawford, who made the initial decision last year to certify White as an adult, did not err in his judgment:

"Defense counsel have asserted that there were various inadequacies in the juvenile court hearing in which the juvenile was certified to stand trial as an adult, that additional relevant evidence on numerous topics should have been admitted, and defense counsel have submitted in great detail what they believe the evidence should have been. This Court has carefully considered that additional evidence and is not convinced that the result in this case would have been any different had that evidence been introduced."

In his decision, Judge Mouton said White had been given due process. "The Honorable Judge William C. Crawford acted well within the Court's discretion under Section 211.070.1 and did not err in any respect in issuing the orders allowing Defendant to be prosecuted under the general law."

The case had originally been scheduled for an Aug. 6 trial, but that will be delayed until at least Aug. 20, according to Mouton.

White was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial Middle School when he entered the school on Oct. 9 armed with an assault rifle, fired the weapon into the ceiling,and then allegedly attempted to shoot Principal Steve Gilbreth. Authorities say that failed when the weapon jammed. White is charged with two counts of assault, and one count each of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

(The photo accompanying this post was taken by Ron Graber.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Appeals court upholds verdict in Lamar Heights murder

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals today upheld the first degree murder verdict in the case of Jim Edward Ryan, 44, Lamar, who murdered his brother-in-law, John Kullie, with a tire jack on May 25, 2005, in Lamar Heights. The original trial was held in Cedar County Circuit Court on a change of venue from Barton County.

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals has scheduled a June 13 hearing in Springfield for Jim Edward Ryan, 44, Lamar, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year after being a Cedar County jury found him guilty of first degree murder.
Ryan was convicted to murdering his brother-in-law, John Kullie, with a tire jack on May 25, 2005, in Lamar Heights. The case was heard in Cedar County on a change of venue from Barton County.

The court opinion gives the following account of the murder:

Rebecca Kullie ("Rebecca" and her husband, John Kullie ("Victim") lived with her brother Johnny Ryan and his girlfriend Pattie Coy in a mobile home in Lamar, Missouri. Defendant, who was Rebecca's adopted brother, did not live at the mobile home, but would stay there on occasion with his wife, Oleta, and his girlfriend, Evette Noe ("Evette").

On May 25, 2005, Victim was resting in the back bedroom of the mobile home after an evening of "partying" at a neighbor's house, where he had consumed alcohol and Xanax.(FN3) Rebecca was in the kitchen of the mobile home, while Defendant, Oleta, Evette, Michael Wilkinson ("Michael"), and Zachary Dominguez ("Zachary") were in the living room. At some point during the evening, a small dog went into the room where Victim was resting, and Rebecca heard the dog growling. Oleta went to the bedroom, retrieved the dog, and came out cursing.

At some point thereafter, Defendant went outside and returned carrying a bumper jack.(FN4) As he was walking toward the back bedroom where Victim was located, Defendant looked at Rebecca and smirked. Rebecca heard a thump and heard Victim say "No. Don't. Stop. Why?" When she ran into the bedroom, she saw Defendant swinging the jack at Victim, and saw that Victim was gurgling blood and had an open cut on the side of his neck. When Rebecca tried to stop Defendant he threatened to kill her, so Rebecca ran next door and called 911. Michael and Zachary also heard three or four loud blows from the bedroom after they had seen Defendant go back there with the jack. Victim died as a result of his injuries.

After attacking Victim, Defendant and Evette went to a neighbor's house and Defendant asked the neighbor if she could "put [him] up." After Evette informed the neighbor that Defendant had killed somebody, the neighbor said she could not hide Defendant and that she would have to turn him in. Defendant then hid in the brush near Victim's home, where he was later discovered and arrested. When Defendant was arrested, he told officers, "I wasn't going to let him beat me." After Defendant was given the Miranda warnings, he spoke with police, but told them he could not remember what had happened.

Dr. Keith Norton performed an autopsy on Victim and determined the following: Victim died of multiple blunt injuries to his head and neck; he had fourteen lacerations on his body caused by five to fourteen blows; he had defensive wounds on his arms; and he had large amounts of alcohol and Xanax in his bloodstream, a combination that would have sedated a person and impeded his ability to respond quickly to an emergency.

Ryan testified on his own behalf at the trial, according to the appellate decision:

He saw Victim choking a little dog and he told him to stop, to which Victim responded, "[y]ou want some of it?"; Defendant got the women out of the house because Victim appeared angry and he thought he was going to wreck the place; when Defendant stepped outside he saw the jack, and brought it inside to get Victim to "turn loose of the . . . dog"; when Defendant went into the bedroom, Victim threw the dog at him and pressed down on the jack which was resting on Defendant's foot; Defendant fell on top of Victim and the two exchanged blows; as Defendant was trying to get up Victim kicked him in the groin area knocking him against the wall; as Victim was grabbing Defendant's foot, Defendant swung the jack at Victim hitting him in the face or throat area; he hit Victim with the jack a total of three times; Defendant thought that he was fighting for his life.

Ryan was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for the murder and 10 years for armed criminal action.
The appellate court rejected Ryan's contention that evidence of his previous violent acts should not have been admitted. Also rejected were defense claims that Ryan's case was prejudiced by the failure to give directions for conviction for a lesser offense and failure to admit evidence that might have cast doubt on the verdict.

Aug. 27 hearing set for former Neosho police officer

A 10 a.m. Aug. 27 pre-trial hearing is scheduled in McDonald County Circuit Court for former Neosho police officer Justin Pickup,who faces a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. The case is being heard in McDonald County on a change of venue from Newton County.
Pickup allegedly supplied vodka to 16-year-old Kassie Schenck, Neosho, shortly before she died in a one-car accident Dec. 21. Pickup, whose case is being prosecuted by the Missouri attorney general's office, is free on $5,000 bond.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Graham: Supreme Court decision won't limit Sinquefield's influence

The Missouri Supreme Court's decision to reinstate campaign contribution limits could limit the influence of billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield, according to Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia.
In an interview with Jason Rosenbaum of the Columbia Tribune Political Blog, Graham says money will find a way in politics:

The biggest winner of the day will be Jay Nixon and Jeff Harris. Because Jay will be within $400,000 of Matt and Jeff Harris will be the money leader in the A.G.'s race,” Graham said. "And it will limit people like Rex Sinquefield to come in here and drop huge amounts of money and try to buy races. But Rex Sinquefield, he's a businessman. He's also savvy enough to where he'll put money in those district committees or do they'll do independent expenditures where the candidate doesn't even get to control their own message. Money will always find its way into a system. The presidential system, I don’t know what the limits are… that didn't really stop Barack Obama from raising $38.5 million."

Press gets it right with Krusekopf story

The Carthage Press hit the right note with today's feature on former Jasper Mayor Fred "Doc" Krusekopf, who died Wednesday. As I have noted in two earlier posts, the Joplin Globe ran only the paid obituary, continuing its company tradition of taking advantage of death to make a profit. Of course, The Press also ran a paid obituary of Krusekopf, but they also recognized the news value of Dr. Krusekopf's death.

Hancock: Restrictions needed on legislators becoming lobbyists

In an interview with Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger, former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock continued to sound on the theme expressed in a letter to the editor earlier this week: It is time to get rid of term limits and the revolving door between the legislature and high-paying lobbying positions:

Hancock looks at the recent resignation of House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, who's giving up the office the people of his district elected him to, so he can become a lobbyist. The thought is revolting to him.

"They are lobbying from the instant they get out," he says of far too many outgoing elected officials. "I think some of them are lobbying for these jobs before they leave."

The culprit, and the reason Hancock has changed his mind about term limits, is the same old target he's had from the beginning of his political career. Big government.

"What I didn't recognize is how big government had grown," Hancock says. He thumbs through his paperback version of the Federalist Papers and recalls the founding fathers' vision. "They didn't envision that government would overwhelm a free society and that's what's going on."

Part of the solution — at least at the state level — Hancock now believes, is to get rid of the term limits that help encourage the flow of government officials into cushy jobs where they work to make government even bigger. He'd like to see a few more mavericks, elected officials who can establish a sense of independence, men and women of maturity, who can avoid the temptations so widespread in the capital city and the D.C. Beltway.

"There are a lot of good people in government," Hancock says. "But the good people leave."

In the column, Hancock says he would like to see legislators required to wait two years after leaving office to take lobbying jobs and he would like to have a study commissioned to see what the effect of term limits has been and see what jobs legislators have taken upon leaving office.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Icet bids for support in speaker battle

Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, is taking the case for his election to Speaker of the House to the media, according to an article in today's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian.
Icet, of course, is opposed by Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, in a race that will be settled this fall, more than a year before current Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, relinquishes the post:

The Republican-led legislature has enacted strong measures in recent years to deal with civil lawsuits, education funding, Medicaid and workers' compensation, Icet said. He wants to continue that record.

One area that has stymied lawmakers is the state tax code. A major economic development bill loaded with tax breaks was vetoed by Gov. Matt Blunt as too large and lawmakers passed a tax cut for senior citizens that will be phased in over the next five years.

But no comprehensive effort has been undertaken to overhaul all taxes, Icet said. But he also said he's not sure what he'd like to see happen with taxes. "I don't have specific goals on taxes," he said.

He said he likes the idea of a flat tax for the state or perhaps a move to eliminate the state income tax over a number of years.

Full obits for Krusekopf appear in Globe, Democrat

Full obituaries for former Jasper Mayor Fred "Doc" Krusekopf appear in today's Joplin Globe and Lamar Democrat. Both appear to be of the paid variety and are nearly identical.
So far, I have seen no indication that either publication has done a staff-written article about Dr. Krusekopf (though I will not see the print edition of today's Democrat until Monday or Tuesday).
If there is any doubt of the news value of such an article, this passage from his obituary should put that to rest:

In 1995, Dr. Krusekopf was honored by the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate with a personal Declaration of Achievement. This public recognition was for his fourteen years of service as Mayor of Jasper, six years service as City Councilman, President of Jasper Chamber of Commerce, Commander of American Legion Post 612, active member of the VFW, and his many hours of service on local, state, and federal committees.
He was active in the Jasper United Methodist Church and was currently serving as Chairman of the Administrative Board.

From what I understand, the Sunday Carthage Press will feature an article on Doc Krusekopf. While I still deplore the mentality of let's rip the people off for a few bucks when they die, there are two, far more important reasons, to keep providing free news stories on those who die, whether they be prominent citizens like Fred Krusekopf or people whose names have not graced the front pages of any publication.
First, it simply is a means to recognize the value of all life, but just as importantly, if newspapers are to survive they have to stop doing things that further limit their readership. When the only people to matter are the ones who are willing to pay for the privilege, newspaper circulation will continue to shrink. The good news for the newspaper industry, however, is that if it ever puts itself out of business by making such shortsighted decisions, there will probably be media outlets who will provide its obituary free of charge.

Blunt: Fairness Doctrine is anything but fair

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt hits the nail right on the head when he decries the recent attempts to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.
The Doctrine, which at one time purported to make sure television and radio stations provided equal time to opposing points of views, has been off the books for the past two decades:

Luckily, there's a good number of us in the House who believe strongly in the free flow of opinion and the fundamental right of speech — and, led by my friend and colleague Mike Pence of Indiana (a former radio man himself), we were able to pass an amendment last month to make sure not a single penny of taxpayer money would be used to enforce the so-called fairness doctrine in the future.

The provision ended up cruising through with more than 300 members in support. But though the final tally was overwhelming, the fact we didn't get the entire chamber on our side reminds us that, at least among 115 members of the House and more than a few members of the Senate, the restoration of the un-fairness doctrine isn't only a serious possibility — it's a real priority.

Thankfully, the latest attempt to resurrect the doctrine didn't need a ruling from the Supreme Court or a veto from the president to be brought to heel. But that's not to say they won't be needed in the future, especially as powerful interests line up with the objective of having government regulators control the content of opinion and the terms of public debate.

The Fairness Doctrine was a nightmare when it was in place, that never lived up to its lofty purpose. Instead of being exposed to both sides (which is already a flawed concept since many times there are far more than two sides to an issue), we were often exposed to neither side by broadcasters who simply did not want to go the trouble.
We live in an era in which the internet has given rise to voices from all corners of the spectrum. The last thing we need to do is to return to an era in which the public was kept blissfully unaware of what they needed to know to participate in our government.

News Leader: Court decision restored sanity to state politics

In an editorial in today's edition, the Springfield News-Leader praised the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court to strike down the law that allowed unlimited campaign contributions:

The fix now is simple. While Sen. Charlie Shields, who backed the measure, laments the loss of transparency the bill's supporters claim to have sought, he continues to mix apples and oranges. Stopping the party committees from serving as money launderers was a wonderful idea, and it brought transparency. But there was no appropriate reason to get rid of individual donation limits, and it surely had nothing to do with transparency. The irony is that when we criticized the Republicans who run the House and Senate for getting rid of the limits, they blamed a Democrat for proposing the amendment. That was a convenient excuse, but voters shouldn't stand for it this time.

If lawmakers truly want to defend unlimited giving, let them make the argument. Let them point to the $100,000 donations some of them have been receiving and tell voters why that's good. But don't let them compare the unlimited giving with the rule to keep party committees from serving as middle men. One has nothing to do with the other. Never did.

Missouri's brief window into the world of unlimited campaign spending showed us clearly that big money — make that huge money — is destroying any possibility that the individual still has a voice in how our government is run.

There will be those who continue to claim that any restriction of campaign contributions is an unconstitutional limit on free speech. That has always been nonsense. The people who gave $100,000 still have the right to back whatever candidate they want. They can write letters to the editor, call in on radio programs, put signs in their yards, show support for their candidate in hundreds of way, but the idea that the speech of the wealthy should be worth more than that of the rest of us, is a concept that goes against the principle of equality that has made this country great.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mouton takes Memorial Middle School shooter case under advisement

Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Mouton listened to public defenders Friday as they tried one last time to get the case of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White remanded to juvenile court:

Circuit Judge David Mouton said he needed some time to read depositions newly submitted by the 14-year-old boy’s public defenders and to review arguments of both sides before ruling on the motion. He indicated his decision could come sometime next week or later since he has a civil court trial scheduled next week.

White was certified in December to stand trial as an adult on five felony charges stemming from a shooting incident in October at Memorial Middle School in Joplin. He is accused of discharging an assault rifle into the ceiling of a hallway of the school and repeatedly attempting to shoot the school's principal while he was ushering him out of the building.

Lamar Feed and Grain files for bankruptcy

Just a little over three weeks after the state of Missouri took control of Lamar Feed and Grain, the company has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
In documents filed today with U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri, the company's president, Ron Ellis, listed to close to a half million in debts, and a raftload of unfulfilled contracts.
On June 27, Attorney General Jay Nixon today took legal action for the Missouri Department of Agriculture to be appointed trustee and receiver of Lamar Grain and Feed, after an investigation revealed the defunct business had grain payables in excess of $100,000 when it closed on May 31.

According to the news release issued by the attorney general's office, "Nixon obtained an order from Barton County Circuit Court for the state to be appointed trustee and receiver for the sole purpose of liquidating grain-related assets, determining the validity of grain-related claims, and disbursing, after an administrative hearing, grain-related assets and proceeds for the benefit of claimants with valid claims within the parameters of the Missouri Grain Dealer Law."

The bankruptcy court documents indicate the company owed the Missouri Department of Revenue $2,888.20 in unpaid taxes.

Creditors included:
-ADM, grain ingredients, $1,682.87
-Baja Enterprises, Cedar Falls, Iowa, freight, $12,394.11
-Bartlett Grain, Kansas City, feed ingredients, $19,635.80
-Batesel TKG, Willow Springs, freight, $392.67
-Beisley Grain, Nevada, corn, $3,400
-Cargill Ag Horizons, Kansas City, Kan. grain, $194,525
-Commodity Specialist Co., Minneapolis, Minn. feed ingredients, $23,431.14
-Compton Farms, Lamar, grain, $21,000
Dell Financial, Carol Stream, Ill. computers, $4,556.35
-Dwain Francis, Richards, grain, $50,841.18
-Emerick & Co. Kansas City, accounting, $2,467.50
-Grain Inspection & Warehousing, Jefferson City, grain inspection, $335.91
-Hartog Elevator, Sanborn, Kan., freight, $325.38
-HCI, LLC, Springfield, freight, $899.07
-HTC Express, Metairie, La. freight, $1,619.11
-J. D. Heiskell & Co. Elk Horn, Neb. grain ingredients, $1,506
-Johnson Feed, Inc., Canton, S. D. freight, $602
-Lamar Feed and Grain, loan, $26,555.50
-Lockwood Farmers Exchange, freight contract cancellation, $4,392.96
-Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad, freight, $9,790
-Missouri Department of Agriculture, Jefferson City, inspection, $330.95
-Orrick Farms, Orrick, corn, grain, $50,278.24
-Pence Trucking, Grain Valley, freight, $1,063.66
-Pitney Bowes, Louisville, Ky. postage meter, $1,224.30
-Producers Grain Co., El Dorado Springs, grain, $21,344.84
-Roquette America Inc., Keokuk,Iowa, feed ingredients, $9,243.95
-Steven Brewer Trucking, Arlington, Neb. freight, $513.68
-Thorstenson Trucking, Selby, S. D. freight, S$358
-Union Pacific, Omaha, Neb. freight, $17,729.68
-Valley Grain Serv, Inc. Casselton, freight, $522.
-Total debts, $482,961.85

The bankruptcy documents indicate Lamar Feed & Grain had contracts to buy corn from a number of local farmers, including:

Bill Griffitt, Sheldon, Carl Compton, Lamar, Dwain Francis, Richards, Lincoln Hughes, Walker, Mark Patterson, Liberal; Russell Johnson, Deerfield, and Walters Tri-Bar, South Greenfield.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows a company to liquidate its assets after it is decided that it is not capable of paying its debts. Once the company's assets have been sold and the funds have been distributed to creditors, the company is free from liability.

Alabama law firm targets Carthage business

A Montgomery, Ala., law firm with a long history of multi-million dollar victories in lawsuits against major companies, is representing a Carthage woman in a class action lawsuit against Renewable Environmental Services (RES), the company that has come under fire because of continuing odor problems in the city. Plant manager Don Sanders is also named as a defendant.

In a three-count lawsuit moved today at RES' request from Jasper County Circuit Court to federal court, Ms. Sundy claims RES has created a continuing nuisance and has been negligent in the operation of its plant, which converts turkey waste material from the nearby Butterball plant into fuel.

Ms. Sundy is being represented by Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, which has recorded the following victories, according to its website:

-A record $11.8 billion punitive damage jury verdict against Exxon for fraud and breach of contract
-A $150 million verdict against GM for a defective door latch which left an Alabama man a paraplegic
-A $51 million verdict against the pharmaceutical company Merck for problems with its Vioxx product

In the RES lawsuit, Ms. Sundy's lawyers list the checkered history of the company in Carthage:

Since the RES plant began operation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has received hundreds of odor complaints against RES, including over 500 in 2004 and 2005 alone. DNR receives far more complaints against RES than any other entity in the entire state of Missouri. From Nov. 1, 2005 through Nov. 30, 2005, there were 75 odor complaints to DNR in all of Missouri. Of these 75 complaints, over 40 were made against RES for odor emissions. From March 1, 2007 through March 15, 2007, there were 52 odor complaints statewide. Over 37 of these complaints were levied against RES for odor emissions. The location of these complaints also indicates that the offensive and noxious odor reaches most of the northern one-half of the city of Carthage.
THe RES plant has repeatedly been cited by the Missouri Air Conservation Commission and Missouri Department of Natural Resources for violating the Missouri Air Conservation Laws.

The lawyers make their case for allowing the lawsuit to proceed as a class action, noting how many people in Carthage are affected by the odor.

In the first count, nuisance, Ms. Sundy claims RES' "negligent, reckless, wanton, intentional, unreasonable emission and release of offensive and noxious odors into the air has resulted in an interference with the use and enjoyment of the properties" of those in the class.

Ms. Sundy says RES violated "a public right to pure air."

In the second count, negligence, Ms. Sundy claims RES failed to "employ safe, prudent, and technologically current techniques to prevent the discharge or emanation or the offensive and noxious odors into the surrounding air." She claims RES failed to warn residents about the odors, and misrepresented to Carthage that no odor would come from the plant's operation.

In the third count, negligence per se, Ms. Sundy says RES had "a duty to ensure the plant did not cause or permit any air pollution."

The lawsuit asks for compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, attorneys' fees, injunctive relief and costs in bringing the action.

The case was originally filed June 5 in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Hancock: I was wrong about term limits

One of the biggest proponents of term limits when the issue came before Missouri voters in the early 1990s, former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock, now says he was wrong.
In a letter to the editor in the Springfield News-Leader, Hancock wrote:

My erroneous conclusion was that term limited representatives would have to return to the private sector. They would then have to live with the laws they passed while they held public office. I failed to consider one major fault that was an unintended consequence. Due to the rapid increase in the number of government jobs, term limits created an atmosphere whereby elected representatives can pass laws arranging for their personal future income both in government and the private sector. They can create government jobs for after they leave office by passing special interest legislation, with a job in mind, while holding public office. They can even lobby for jobs as lobbyists. This is not only unethical but also dangerous to the welfare of the taxpayers.

Hancock is absolutely right. Term limits have not worked and it is the time to eliminate them.

Former Jasper mayor Krusekopf dead at 82

There is always the possibility that a full obituary will be included in a later edition of the Joplin Globe, but judging by the Globe website, there is only a brief mention of the death of Dr. Fred Krusekopf Wednesday at age 82. These are the only words Globe readers were greeted with this morning:

Frederick Franklin Krusekopf D.V.M., 82, a veterinarian, passed away Wednesday, July 18, 2007. Services will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Jasper United Methodist Church, Jasper. Burial will be in Osborne Memorial Cemetery, Joplin. Visitation will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Weng Funeral Chapel, Jasper.

But as Jasper residents can tell you, whether they liked Doc Krusekopf or not, he was a force in city government for decades, both as mayor and city councilman. His gruff mannerisms and lack of tolerance for some of those who disagreed with his views grated on some, but there was never a moment when he did not put the city of Jasper first.

When I returned to the Lamar Democrat as editor in 1982, one of my first jobs was to restore the newspaper's coverage of nearby cities, and Jasper was the first city I targeted. At that point, the newspaper had not been receiving much coverage from the Democrat, the Carthage Press, or the Joplin Globe. Despite the lack of local newspaper coverage, the citizenry was still informed about what was going on in city government and around the town.

Doc Krusekopf and the city clerk, Maryland Rice, published their own weekly "newspaper," a sheet which included not only city government, but school, church, and community news. It was a success right from the start.

I am hoping that today's Carthage Press and/or one of the weekend Joplin Globe issues carries a story on Doc Krusekopf. Once again, it is painfully obvious that the shortsighted policy on obituaries used by the Globe and so many other newspapers these days is increasing the publication's disconnect with the reading public and contributing to its dwindling circulation and influence.

Deaths are news, whether they be of prominent small-town leaders like Fred Krusekopf or the person who lives next door.

Black allowed to remain free on bond

Former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black will be allowed to remain free on bond as he appeals his conviction for fraud and obstruction of justice:

The restrictions included forbidding Mr. Black from returning to Canada, his home country, where Hollinger, now the Sun-Times Media Group, was once based. He is required to remain in Illinois or in Florida, where he has an estate. Mr. Black, who gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the House of Lords, has surrendered his British passport.

Hollinger International, at one time during the 1990s, owned The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News.

Post blog: Thompson's lobbying work may be a strike against him

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post politics blog notes that in these days of the Jack Abramoff scandal, prospective presidential candidate Fred Thompson's lobbying work may be a sore point with voters.
Thompson may also have problems with the lobbying work he did for a pro-abortion group, though Cillizza notes that the former senator's voting record on abortion is strictly conservative.

$27,400 in Blunt contributions linked to Moark

One of the enduring mysteries of the past couple of years has been how RES in Carthage keeps getting nailed for excessive odor, but Moark not only skates by without problems but gets its projects approved by the state despite a long history of being a polluter.
Perhaps the answer can be found in campaign finance reports. RES, as far as I can tell, has not contribute a cent to anyone who would stand up for its interests. Moark, on the other hand, has a considerable history of pouring big bucks into political campaigns.
The second quarter disclosure report for Missourians for Matt Blunt, the governor's campaign committee, showed that Moark executive Jerry Wells contributed $5,000 and has given $6,200 total this year, but a group called Consultant Associates, based in Carthage, contributed $20,000 during the last quarter, and has chipped in with $21,200 this year.
Consultant Associates' most recent annual report, filed May 3, 2006, with the Missouri Secretary of State's office lists one person, Jerry Wells, 18 Fox Hollow, Joplin, as president, secretary, and as the only member of the Board of Directors.
I have written numerous times about Moark's political contributions, but a perfect example of how the company has used them to improve its lot in Jefferson City can be seen from the Jan. 3, 2006 Turner Report.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sinquefields make maximum contributions to Romney

Apparently, educational vouchers is not one of the issues that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on.
If he had, he certainly would not have received maximum $2,300 contributions from Missouri's pre-eminent voucher supporter, retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield and Sinquefield's wife, Jeannie.
Federal Election Commission documents indicate the Sinquefields contributed to the Romney campaign April 18.
Though Romney has not addressed educational issues in his presidential campaign, during his time in Massachusetts he has made no secret that he favors vouchers. In the March 21, 2002, Boston Globe, a profile of Romney's educational beliefs included this passage:

In 1994, Romney, as a candidate for US Senate, pledged to vote to establish a means-tested school voucher program to allow students to attend the public or private school of their choice. He also supported abolishing the federal Department of education and favored keeping control of educational reform at the lowest level, closest to parents, teachers, and the community

Swift Boat Veterans' top contributors pump hundreds of thousands into Blunt campaign

The two biggest contributors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the organization that probably ended Sen. John Kerry's chances of being elected president in 2004, have pumped $350,000 into Gov. Matt Blunt's re-election campaign, according to the governor's second quarter disclosure report filed Monday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The documents indicate Blunt has received $300,000 from billionaire Houston, Texas, developer Bob Perry and his wife, Doylene. Perry was the largest contributor to the Swift Boat Campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission records, donating $4,450,000.
The Ethics Commission document also notes Blunt has received $50,000 from Harold Simmons, Coltran Corp., Dallas, Texas. Simmons was the second biggest contributor to the Swift Boat campaign at $3 million, according to the FEC documents.
It remains to be seen what will happen to these contributions following the decision issued Thursday by the Missouri Supreme Court restoring campaign contribution limits.

Blunt uncertain about appeal of Supreme Court ruling

Governor Matt Blunt will think it over before making a decision on whether to challenge today's Missouri Supreme Court ruling reinstating campaign contribution limits:

John Hancock, a spokesman for Gov. Matt Blunt's re-election campaign, said the campaign had made no decision on whether to file arguments with the court. But he suggested it would be unfair to force campaigns to return contributions accepted under the law.

"I would expect that legally raised contributions would be allowed," Hancock said.

Requiring the campaigns to refund contributions in excess of the limits would appear to hurt Blunt, a Republican, more than his probable opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Through June 30, Blunt had built a $4.3 million lead in fundraising. Since the contribution limits were removed Jan. 1, Blunt had raised more than twice as much – $4.7 million compared with $2.3 million for Nixon.

Blunt's contributions came in bigger chunks. Five private contributors and the Republican Governors Association provided $100,000 each, with one Texas couple donating $300,000. In the first quarter, $2.57 million, or 85 percent of Blunt's contributions, came in donations of $10,000 or more.

Nixon received one six-figure contribution. In the first quarter, he received $382,175 in donations of $10,000 or more, or about 29 percent of his total.

Those activist judges are at it again

It should not take long for Governor Matt Blunt to sound his old refrain about those activist judges, following the Missouri Supreme Court's ruling today reinstating campaign contribution limits.
For those of you unfamiliar with Missouri political terminology, an "activist judge" is anyone who dares disagree with Matt Blunt about anything.
Jason Rosenbaum at the Columbia Tribune Political Blog has a breakdown on how this decision affects different political candidates. Much of the governor's sizable campaign war chest came from supporters who chipped in with far more than the $1,275 limit.
It will also affect some of the wealthy power brokers who are controlling the discussion on every issue in the state with massive infusions of cash, such as billionaire Rex Sinquefield, who has contributed more than $300,000 to favored candidates in 2007, including $100,000 to Blunt.

While I applaud the decision, I worry about what is going to happen next. It almost goes without saying that the committee laundering system is back in business. That is something that should worry all of us.

Globe editorial: Memorial Middle School shooter should be tried as an adult

In an editorial just posted on the Joplin Globe website, the newspaper says that Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 14, should be tried as an adult:

Apparently, according to police, White's gun jammed after he fired into the ceiling. We think allegations that White continued to pull the trigger on the rifle while his principal walked him out of the school are the key in deciding how White should be tried.

We believe that decision should be to try White as an adult.

However, because of White's age, we would hope, if he were convicted, that a judge would use Missouri’s dual-jurisdiction program.

Under that system, a judge can suspend the adult portion of the sentence and send a juvenile to the Division of Youth Services at Montgomery City. The alternative gives a defendant the chance to complete the program and avoid state prison, yet treatment and education services provided there are considerably longer than for those tried as juveniles. If the juvenile is not successful in the program, the judge can invoke the adult sentencing.

Con-Way reports $47.1 million in net profits

Con-Way, Inc., the new owner of CFI Trucking of Joplin, filed its second quarter earnings report with the Securities and Exchange Commission today, listing a net revenue of $47.7 million, about $27 million less than last year.
Stotlar noted that the company's recently announced agreement to acquire
Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI), a respected, industry leading North America truckload carrier with more than 3,000 employees, and a fleet of 2,600 tractors and 7,000 trailers, was being well received. "I have been very encouraged with the positive feedback from the CFI team, as well as our customers, employees and the financial markets," Stotlar said. "We're excited about this acquisition and the strategic growth opportunities it presents. We expect the transaction to close in the third quarter."

News-Leader a day late on Mid-Missouri Bank story

About two hours ago, the Springfield News-Leader, a full day after the story broke in the Springfield Business Journal, filed a story on Mid-Missouri Bank's decision to close its secondary lending division.
While I realize, the breaking news designation in the web address for the story is one that is used with every story posted during the day, it hardly seems accurate for a story posted a day after the competition broke it.

Radical Republican blog bites the dust

It is always sad to see a blogging voice silenced, especially when it is one as thoughtful as Tim Hilton on "The Radical Republican." In his latest (and apparently final) post, Hilton announced he will not be blogging any more:

"For all those interested, I wanted to announce that I will no longer be blogging and that 'The Radical Republican' will be dormant for the foreseeable future.

"My brother started this blog a little over two years ago, and I took over posting last summer. John enjoyed doing the blog, and I enjoyed my year of posting. However, John and I have both moved on to other things."

I will leave the blog on the links list on the right hand side of this page for a few days for anyone who may want to catch up on some of the items Hilton has written about.

Curless among Missouri Supreme Court applicants

Barton County Circuit Court Judge Charles Curless is among 29 applicants for the vacant position on the Missouri Supreme Court, according to a post on The Source, the blog written by political operative Jeff Roe.
Others on the list include Brenda Talent, wife of former U. S. Senator Jim Talent, Samuel Hais, the big-time lawyer and Blunt contributor, who was appointed to the Missouri Gaming Commission, lawyer Lynn Ewing of Nevada, Judge Patricia Breckinridge, Kansas City (formerly of Nevada)and Missouri Senate Pro Tem Michael Gibbons.

Sale rumor sends Macy's stock soaring

The stock of the parent company of Macy's, one of the anchor stores at Joplin's Northpark Mall, is soaring after Women's Wear Daily reported Wednesday that the company was about to be sold to buyout specialists Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co:

Buyout king Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. is close to reaching a deal to buy Macy's Inc. for $24 billion, Women's Wear Daily reported Wednesday. Both sides declined to comment on the report, but investors greeted the news by bidding up Macy's shares $3.06, or 8%, to $43.09.

Retail industry analysts said the company's tepid performance of late has made it vulnerable to an acquisition. Revenue fell 0.2%, to $5.9 billion, for its fiscal first quarter that ended May 5. Sales at stores open at least a year have slipped for the last three months.

The giant chain, with more than 820 stores nationwide, was forged by Federated Department Stores' 2005 acquisition of May Department Stores. The combined company then converted regional chains — including Robinsons-May in Southern California and Marshall Field's in Chicago — to the Macy's name, with mixed results.

"They wanted to build a national brand, and it wasn't working," said Eli Portnoy, founder of Portnoy Group Inc., a brand marketing consulting firm.

Prayer vigil held for Memorial MIddle School shooter

Organizers of a prayer vigil for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White and his family appeared pleased with the turnout for the event, according to postings on the Juveniles for Justice message board.
Thirty more letters were signed to send to Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Mouton, who will decide whether the 14-year-old's case will be removed from the adult system and remanded to juvenile court. Eighteen letters had already arrived at the court earlier Wednesday, according to court records.
In a posting on the message board, Rosana Ladik, Joplin said:

Just wanted to let you know the Candlelight Vigil for Thomas was beautiful. I can't say for sure how many were there, because I was in the audience, but, unfortunately, we didn't make 100. Michelle (Pippin, former Joplin Daily reporter who is handling publicity) probably did a head count, but we did get about 30 signed letters and some folks took some saying they knew they could get them signed, so we're hoping for at least 50 signed letters to Judge Mouton by tomorrow afternoon. The water and ice arrived as promised and the music was perfect. The buttons were proudly displayed by everyone there - we did run a little short, but that's good! Everyone there also wore a white "Justice for Thomas White" ribbon.

Michelle did a fabulous job pulling this thing together and getting the details and facts out to the crowd and everyone left with information sheets, resource data and a Timeline Sheet. Hopefully, we now have a base group who actually know the facts and can put some rumors to bed.

White's hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Joplin Courts Building. White is charged with two counts of assault and one count each of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape. He was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial at the time of the incident. Authorities say White took an assault rifle into the school, fired a shot into the ceiling, then aimed the gun at Principal Steve Gilbreth and pulled the trigger, but the weapon jammed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Voucher proponents preparing for major push

Over a two-day period in April, lobbyist Travis Brown spent $2,872 entertaining and wining and dining some of the top pro-voucher politicians in the state of Missouri, including Governor Matt Blunt's chief of staff Ed Martin, Speaker Pro Tem (at the time) Carl Bearden, and St. Louis Democrats Theodore Hoskins and Rodney Hubbard.
Though the MIssouri Ethics Commission reports are not specific, they do indicate that Brown treated those politicians, as well as Rep. Kenny Jones, R-California, Rep. Dwight D. Scharnhorst, R-Manchester, Robert Knodell, an aide to Bearden, and Lucy LePage, an aide to Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, to baseball games on Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15.
The St. Louis Cardinals played the National League Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers that weekend, according to the information provided on Brown's April disclosure report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Cardinal party suites cost $82 per ticket, according to the baseball team's website. On Sunday, April 15, all of the politicians received $164 in entertainment from Brown- the price of two tickets to the Cardinals' party suites.
In those suites, according to the team's website, Budweiser and Bud Light are served starting at 30 minutes before the ballgame and ending in the middle of the eighth inning, meals are catered, and the social area is "climate-controlled."
According to Brown's disclosure report, the only ones who did not receive $164 for entertainment, and $150 for "meals, food, and beverage," were the two assistants and Hubbard. Knodell received $82 for entertainment, apparently, the price of a game ticket, while Ms. LePage received $75 for meals, food and beverage. Hubbard was the top recipient of Brown's gifts, on April 15, receiving $328 for entertainment, and $300 for meals, food, and beverage.
While all of those listed above received Sunday, April 15, contributions, Brown's disclosure form indicates Bearden, Kenny Jones, and the two assistants were the only ones who attended Saturday's game.

All of the gifts came courtesy of the recently-created Missourians for a Better Economy. As I noted in the July 13 Turner Report, despite a lengthy list of clients, during March, April, and May, Brown appeared to be doing most of his lobbying for Missourians for a Better Economy and the Brown Lobby Firm, and from all appearances, both are operated by Brown.

Things became a bit more clear last week when it was announced that Bearden was leaving the House to work with Brown at Pelopidas LLC, a firm which will advocate for issues, with the issue at the top of the list being educational vouchers. On the same day that Brown filed paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission to represent Pelopidas, he also officially became the lobbyist for retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield, the principal force behind the Show-Me Institute, which has made vouchers its top priority.
In addition to Brown and Bearden, Pelopidas will be led by Brown's wife, lobbyist Rachel Keller Brown, whose sole client is Advocates for School Choice, a Phoenix, Ariz., organization that does exactly what its name says. Advocates for School Choice is the lobbying arm of the Alliance for School Choice, also based in Phoenix. Before becoming Governor Blunt's chief of staff, Ed Martin was Missouri coordinator for the Alliance for School Choice, as well as being treasurer for the voucher-supporting All Children Matter.

The odd combination of Democrats and Republicans that Brown has been wining and dining over the past few months, has almost exclusively been politicians who have favored educational vouchers and efforts to fund scholarships for students to attend private schools. Many of those politicians have also been the beneficiaries of Sinquefield's generosity, according to Ethics Commission records, including:

-Governor Matt Blunt, $100,000
-Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-St. Louis, $40,000
-Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, $40,000
-Rep. Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis, $30,000
-Rep. Ted Hoskins, D-St. Louis $10,000
-Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, $7,500
-Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, $500
-Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, $5,000 (only her aide received gifts from Brown, according to the Ethics Commission documents)

With the forming of Pelopidas, the growing effort by people such as David Humphreys and Ethelmae Humphreys of TAMKO, Charles Norval Sharpe of CNS Corporation, All Children Matter, and Sinquefield, who appear willing to pay whatever amount it takes to make educational vouchers a reality in Missouri, public schools are in for a battle in 2008.