In a ruling issued Tuesday, the Missouri Ethics Commission says Speaker-in-waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and 10 other candidates will be allowed to keep excess contributions received between January 2007 and July 19, 2007, when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the law which eliminated the limits was unconstitutional. A few candidates were required to repay the amount, but can hold on to the money until the legislature determines if it is going to abolish contribution limits again. If it does so, the candidates will be allowed to keep the contributions.
The eleven candidates pleaded to keep the money during closed-door sessions with the Ethics Commission, claiming having to give it back would cause a hardship for them.
The ruling allows any candidates who oppose the 11 to file complaints and receive hearings before the Commission if the ruling creates an unfair advantage in a race:
The Orders provided that the candidates shall return to contributors the amount of any contribution received after July 19, 2007 which exceeded the statutory limits, which may not have already been voluntarily returned to said contributors. Also the Commission entered the following orders in any case, the effect of which the candidate shall not be required to refund contributions received before July 19, 2007 which exceed the statutory limits: that if the candidate has an opponent in either the primary or general election in 2008, then unless the candidate chooses to return the amount of excess contributions, the Commission will convene another hearing in these cases and allow any other candidate for the same office to intervene and present evidence and present argument on how to deal with level-playing field issues as set out in the Trout decision.
The 11 candidates were all Republican legislators, except for St. Charles Mayor Patti York. Richard was the only candidate from the Joplin area who asked to keep the money. The Turner Report has noted in the past the actions of area candidates, including Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, who have returned excess contributions.
The largest amount any candidate was allowed to keep was the $117,400 for Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, a former representative who was elected to the Senate in a special election last year.
That victory was aided by the oversized contributions, including $50,000 from the Regional St. Charles Leadership Fund, $5000 from AT&T Missouri Employees PAC, $3,000 from the Missouri Hospital Association, and $2,000 from the Missouri Health Care Association.
Richard had the second biggest total, $82,981.39. Missouri Ethics Commission disclosure forms show Richard's excess contributions included the following:
-$11,275 from Empire District Electric Company
-$7,200 from the Missouri Bankers Association
-$11,500 from various Leggett & Platt sources, including $5,000 from the parent company
-$10,000 from the Missouri Independent Bankers Association
-$1,275 from Missouri Gaming Company, Riverside
-$1,275 from Harrah's Operating Company, Memphis, Tenn.
-$5,000 from David Humphreys of TAMKO
-$5,000 from Rudy Farber, Neosho
-$1,000 from R. J. Reynolds
-$1,000 from Security Finance Corporation of Spartanburg, S.C.
Richard also picked up eight excessive contributions from registered lobbyists, including $1,000 from Mark Rhoads, $500 from the Penman and Winton Consulting Group, $1,275 from John Bardgett, $1,275 from Bardgett's lobbying firm, $500 from Roy Cagle, $1,000 from the Giddens and Russell Group, $1,000 from James Harris, and $1,000 from Nathan Adams.
Richard's excess contributions, as noted in the Oct. 16, 2007, Turner Report, helped pave the way for him to be elected Sept. 12 as the potential successor to Rod Jetton as speaker of the house. As word of the upcoming Missouri Supreme Court decision circulated around the state capital, Richard made nearly $100,000 in oversized campaign contributions to his fellow legislators, to pave the way for his election:
In the two days before the July 19 decision restoring contribution limits, Richard made 55 contributions of $1,000 or more, with some as high as $3,500, according to his October disclosure report, filed Monday with the Missouri Ethics Commission. In all, the Richard committee contributed $94,270, according to the report. Bob Nance of Excelsior Springs received the $3,500 contribution.
Richard will have to return $300 above the limit that was contributed to him after the July 19 Supreme Court decision.
Richard's opponent in the speaker race, Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, was another who asked to keep the excess money, according to the Ethics Commission decision. He will be allowed to keep $34,050 if the General Assembly passes a law during this session removing the limits.
Others on the list included:
-Barney Fisher, R-Richards, $2,175
-Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, $31,766.33
-Patti York, St. Charles mayor, $11,725
-Jim Guest, R-King City, $9,600
-T. Scott Muschany, R. St. Louis, $28,550
-Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, $1,625
-Brian Nieves, R-Union, $1,600
-Carson Ross, R-Blue Springs, $2,400