In Sunday's Globe, Andy Ostmeyer examined the top contributors to Kenny Hulshof, Sarah Steelman, and Jay Nixon in the governor's race. Ostmeyer does not specify the dates for Hulshof's information, but notes that information for Nixon and Mrs. Steelman came from 2004.
While that is useful information, up-to-date information on the candidates' fundraising is available on the Missouri Ethics Commision website, information that might be far more relevant.
The column indicates Ostmeyer gathered his information from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which had it broken down into the categories Ostmeyer used in his column.
Give Globe reporter Joe Hadsall, who alternates with Ostmeyer on these columns, credit. In his column the previous Sunday, Hadsall did some digging into Missouri Ethics Commission records. He showed the gifts local legislators had received from lobbyists during the most recent reporting date, which at the time was the end of April. That information had been posted on the Ethics Commission website June 1. Had Hadsall been able to wait two days, he would have had access to updated information. You can't blame Hadsall. It's the Globe's decision to have a weekly column on the subject instead of reporting on it as it happens that caused the newspaper to run with information that was almost immediately outdated.
Another problem with Hadsall's column was its mention of the campaign contribution reports of Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin:
As we reported last month, Hunter is term-limiting out of the House this year, and is not pursuing another statewide office. According to paperwork on file with the MEC, Hunter is preparing a run for the Carl Junction R-1 Board of Education in April 2009.
Others considering a run for that board may have to contend with a sizable campaign. Hunter had a war chest of $25,224.85, according to his Grassroots for Hunter committee report from July 2007. In October of that year, the committee was terminated, but the report does not show where the rest of that money went.
The Ethics Commission documents do not show where Hunter's money went, but as a commenter on the Globe website noted, The Turner Report did...nine days before Hadsall's column ran. The information that the Ethics Commission did not have available is on file at the Jasper County Courthouse:
Hunter terminated his Grassroots for Hunter committee on the statewide level in October, declaring that he would run for the Carl Junction R-1 Board of Education. Board candidates file their campaign reports locally and not with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Hunter's school board race received no contributions in October or January, but the pace picked up in his April filing. In addition to the maximum contributions listed above, Hunter received $300 apiece from the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents and Bank of America, $100 from Ride-Away Credit, and $450 from the 127th District Legislative Committee.
The disclosure report shows Hunter received $2,825 during the first three months of 2008, and spent $3,382.28, leaving him with $12,569.77, considerably more than is usually spent on a school board race.
Hunter has spent a considerable amount of money since October, when he terminated his state committee with $25,224.88 in the bank.
Among his expenditures:
-$1,350 to Kenny Hulshof's campaign for governor
-$325 to Rep. Marilyn Ruestman
-$650 to Purgason and Friends
-A $4,000 donation to Survey St. Louis
-$325 to Friends of Mark Parker
-$25 to the National Rifle Association
-$30 for membership in the Missouri Farm Bureau
-$237 to Capital One for rooms for the Summer Caucus and Canoe Trip
-A $100 donation to the Missouri College Republicans
-A $30 donation to the Joplin Trails Association
-$49.95 for a subscription to Wine Spectator magazine
And for those looking for at least one expenditure that can be remotely connected to Hunter's efforts to land a post on a public school board, Hunter provides it with $25 for a membership in the Show-Me Institute, retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield's think tank, which promotes educational vouchers.
My guess is that Ostmeyer and Hadsall, who already have full schedules, are having to squeeze in the time to do these weekly columns. That is not fair to them and it is not fair to the Globe's readers. The influence of money in politics is a vitally important topic, and one that needs far more attention than it has been receiving from the Globe. The weekly column, however, is a huge step forward from the Globe's previous once every two or three years approach to covering the subject.