Friday, October 31, 2008

Carthage Press' Buzz Ball offers recollections of Chip Watson

In his latest column, Buzz Ball of The Carthage Press offers some memories of former Big Nickel Publisher and GateHouse Media regional official Chip Watson of Joplin, who died recently:

Chip was a most passionate man about his job, his family, his church and about life. Chip had more newspaper advertising knowledge of any person I have worked with. I’m grateful to have grabbed on just a small amount of his knowledge that will help me in my future.

Chip cared about the things most precious to him. That is why we will miss him so much. While we may not have always agreed with his opinions or decisions, we always knew he didn’t give them out hastily. When he was wrong, he admitted it, took his lumps and went on.

Chip would be the first man to say he wasn’t perfect. He had failures in his life. He had ups and downs and difficulties that we all face. But Chip faced those difficulties a little bit different. He grabbed them by the throat and wouldn’t let go until they were either gone or diminished.

Governor takes Joplin Globe to the woodshed

In an op-ed piece in today's Joplin Globe, Gov. Matt Blunt takes the Globe's Editorial Board to task for its endorsements of Jay Nixon for governor and Barack Obama for president:

With the paper’s endorsements of these liberal candidates, it appears the Globe is adopting the values and views of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch instead of its own community. If Joplin-area readers want to know what the liberal elite at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks of those of us who learned our basic values in Southwest Missouri they ought to read the editorial “Rural Chic” which mocked and ridiculed political candidates who identify themselves with the traditions and values of communities like the one’s the Globe purports to serve.

I hope it is not too late for the Globe to see the error in supporting candidates who are pro-abortion, anti-Second Amendment and want to raise taxes. In the meantime, it is not too late for voters in the Joplin area to again ignore the bad advice they have received and vote against Barack Obama and Jay Nixon.

Incredible streak comes to an end; lobbyist Blunt pays for golf outing

For more than three and a half years, The Turner Report has noted that first lobbyist Andrew Blunt, brother of our governor, has not spent a penny on behalf of his clients.

That incredible streak came to an end, according to documents just posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

Blunt, representing AT&T, spent $83.46 for a golf outing and $7.25 for meals, food, and beverage on Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City.

Blunt disappointed in appellate court's decision in Westboro Church of God case

Gov. Matt Blunt issued the following statement today after the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruling allowing members of the Westboro Church of God to protest at military funerals:

"I am deeply disappointed in the court’s decision. To suggest that this action ‘will not cause substantial harm to others’ is inexcusable. This action will not only cause substantial harm, it will cause irreparable harm to the families and friends of those military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and are denied a peaceful, dignified funeral service.
"We enacted this important law in response to the hate-filled protest of Specialist Edward Lee Myers, who died serving his country in Iraq, and whose family experienced the harm that the court so readily dismisses.
"I signed the law sending a strong message that Missouri not only supports our military members at home and abroad, but that the sacrifices they make are valued, respected and important to a grateful state and nation for whom they fight and serve, and I am deeply troubled the court would open the door to protests of a fringe group that acts with hate and causes pain to those who are mourning the loss of a military hero.
"This ruling must be appealed with vigor. I hope the Supreme Court will not repeat this tragic interpretation."

Appellate Court: Westboro Church of God can protest at military funerals

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the Westboro Church of God, the fringe church that has made a habit of protesting at military funerals, can continue to do so. The full text of the opinion is printed below:

United States Court of Appeals
No. 07-1295
Shirley Phelps-Roper, *
Plaintiff - Appellant, *
v. **
Jeremiah Nixon, *
* Appeal from the United States
Defendant - Appellee, * District Court for the Western
* District of Missouri.
Mark Goodwin, *
Defendant, *
Matt Blunt, *
Defendant - Appellee. *
Submitted: October 15, 2007
Filed: October 31, 2008
Before BYE, BOWMAN, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.
BYE, Circuit Judge.
Shirley Phelps-Roper brought suit in the Western District of Missouri, challenging the validity of sections 578.501 and 578.502 of the Missouri revised statutes under the freedom of speech protection of the First Amendment of the U.S. 1Section 578.502 is a fall-back provision to be enacted if section 578.501 is declared unconstitutional. It is not ripe for review at this time since we are only reviewing the propriety of a preliminary injunction, not determining the constitutionality of the statute.

Although the exact content of WBC's group speech at the funerals of soldiers is not part of the record to date, in previous funeral protests the WBC has conveyed. Phelps-Roper requested a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of section 578.501 until the statute could be reviewed; the district court denied her motion, holding she did not demonstrate she was likely to succeed on the merits, did not demonstrate irreparable harm, and the public interest weighed in favor of upholding the challenged statutory provisions. Phelps-Roper appealed, and this panel reversed the district court's decision, finding Phelps-Roper met the standard for the issuance of a preliminary injunction. Phelps-Roper v. Nixon, 509 F.3d 480 (8th
Cir. 2007). We then granted a petition for rehearing to consider and incorporate the modified standard this court articulated in Planned Parenthood Minn., N.D., S.D. v. Rounds, 530 F.3d 724, 732 (8th Cir. 2008), for demonstrating a sufficient likelihood
of success on the merits. Because the result is the same under the modified standard, we revise our opinion accordingly and reverse the district court's decision.

Phelps-Roper is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps alleges members of her church believe God is punishing America for what WBC considers the sin of homosexuality by killing Americans, including soldiers. As part of her religious duties, she believes she must protest and picket at certain funerals, including the funerals of United States soldiers, to publish the church's religious message: that God's promise of love and heaven for those who obey him in this life is counterbalanced by God's wrath and hell for those who do not. Phelps believes funerals are the only place where her religious message can be delivered in a timely and relevant manner.

Messages including "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Blew Up The Troops," "God Hates Fags," and "AIDS Cures Fags." See The Westboro Baptist Church Home Page, (last visited
October 23, 2008) (describing the messages on the "large, colorful signs" they display during their "daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.").

On August 5, 2005, Phelps-Roper and other WBC members held a picket and protest near the location of the funeral of Army Spc. Edward Lee Myers in St. Joseph, Missouri. In direct response to the protest, Missouri enacted section 578.501, which
criminalizes picketing "in front or about" a funeral location or procession, and section 578.502, which criminalizes picketing within 300 feet of a funeral location or procession, in the event section 578.501 is declared unconstitutional. Section 578.501
states, in pertinent part:

(1) This section shall be known as "Spc. Edward Lee Myers' Law."

(2) It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in picketing or other protest activities in front of or about any location at which a funeral is held, within one hour prior to the commencement of any funeral, and until one hour following the cessation of any funeral. Each day on which a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense. Violation of this section is a class B misdemeanor, unless committed by a person who has previously pled guilty to or been found guilty of a violation of this
section, in which case the violation is a class A misdemeanor.

(3) For the purposes of this section, "funeral" means the ceremonies, processions and memorial services held in connection with the burial or cremation of the dead.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 578.501.
Phelps-Roper brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging these laws invade her First Amendment rights. She seeks: (1) entry of a declaratory judgment finding sections 578.501 and 578.502 unconstitutional; (2) issuance of a preliminary and
(3)Phelps-Roper does not appeal with respect to Mark Goodwin, the prosecuting attorney for Carroll County, Missouri. Goodwin and Phelps-Roper filed a stipulation for entry of consent judgment, which would permanently enjoin Goodwin, in his
official capacity as prosecuting attorney for Carroll County, and his employees, representatives, agents, servants, assigns, and successors, from enforcing or attempting to enforce §§ 578.501 and 578.502. The district court deferred ruling on the proposed consent judgment until a final judgment has been entered as to the constitutionality of Missouri's funeral protest statutes. Notwithstanding the agreement between Phelps-Roper and the local prosecutor, we have jurisdiction over this appeal
between Phelps-Roper and the governor and attorney general of Missouri. See Reprod. Health Servs. v. Nixon, 428 F.3d 1139, 1145 (8th Cir. 2005); but see id. at 1146-48 (Bye, J., dissenting) (concluding Article III jurisdiction is lacking over a Missouri action to enjoin enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional statute, where the local prosecutor charged with enforcing the statute is not part of the appeal).

Permanent injunction enjoining enforcement of sections 578.501 and 578.502; and (3)an award of costs, including reasonable attorneys fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988. Phelps-Roper appeals the denial of her motion for preliminary injunction against
Jeremiah Nixon, Attorney General of Missouri, and Matt Blunt, Governor of Missouri.

The standard of review for the denial of a motion for preliminary injunction is abuse of discretion. Entergy, Arkansas, Inc. v. Nebraska, 210 F.3d 887, 898 (8th Cir. 2000); Kirkeby v. Furness, 52 F.3d 772, 774 (8th Cir. 1995) (reversing district court's
denial of a motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin City of Fargo from enforcing an anti-picketing ordinance). A court considering a motion for preliminary injunction must consider (1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of the balance between this harm and the injury in granting the injunction will inflict on the other party; (3) the probability of the movant succeeding on the merits; and (4) the public interest. Id. (citing Dataphase Sys. Inc. v. CL Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 113 (8th Cir. 1981) (en banc)). The district court weighed these considerations and concluded Phelps-Roper was not entitled to a preliminary injunction. We have weighed these same considerations and come to a contrary conclusion.

Peaceful picketing is an expressive activity protected by the First Amendment. Olmer v. Lincoln, 192 F.3d 1176, 1179 (8th Cir. 1999). It is well-settled law that a "loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably
constitutes irreparable injury." Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976) (plurality). f Phelps-Roper can establish a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of her First Amendment claim, she will also have established irreparable harm as the result
of the deprivation. See Marcus v. Iowa Pub. Television, 97 F.3d 1137, 1140-41 (8th Cir. 1996); Kirkeby, 52 F.3d at 775. Likewise, the determination of where the public interest lies also is dependent on the determination of the likelihood of success on the merits of the First Amendment challenge because it is always in the public interest to protect constitutional rights. Connection Distrib. Co. v. Reno, 154 F.3d 281, 288 (6th Cir. 1998) (quotation omitted); Kirkeby, 52 F.3d at 775 (citing Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, 479 (1988)). The balance of equities, too, generally favors the constitutionally-protected freedom of expression. In a First Amendment case, therefore, the likelihood of success on the merits is often the determining factor in whether a preliminary injunction should issue. McQueary v. Stumbo, 453 F. Supp.2d 975, 979 (E.D. Ky. 2006) (granting preliminary injunction to WBC precluding enforcement of Kentucky statute imposing time, place and manner restrictions on gatherings near funerals) (citing Connection Distrib. Co., 154 F.3d at 288). We begin with an assessment of the likelihood of success on the merits. In Planned Parenthood, 530 F.3d at 732-33, this Court clarified what is required to
demonstrate a sufficient showing of likelihood of success on the merits. In general, "courts should still apply the familiar 'fair chance of prevailing' test where a preliminary injunction is sought to enjoin something other than government action based on presumptively reasoned democratic processes." Id. Where a party seeks to enjoin preliminarily the implementation of a duly enacted statute – as is the case here district courts must make "a threshold finding that a party is likely to prevail on the
merits." Id. (emphasis added). The Court reasoned that by re-emphasizing "this more rigorous standard for determining a likelihood of success on the merits in these cases, we hope to ensure that preliminary injunctions that thwart a state's presumptively reasonable democratic processes are pronounced only after an appropriately deferential analysis." Id. at 733. In such cases, it is only after finding a party is likely to prevail on the merits that a district court should weigh the other Dataphase factors.

When analyzing the merits of Phelps-Roper's claim, the district court correctly concluded the statute's speech restrictions are content-neutral and subjected the statute to intermediate judicial scrutiny. See Turner Broad. Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622,
642, 653 (1994). We reject Phelps-Roper's contention that section 578.501 is contentbased because it targets funeral picketing and was enacted for the purpose of silencing her speech in particular. The plain meaning of the text controls, and the legislature's specific motivation for passing a law is not relevant, so long as the provision is neutral on its face. City of L.A. v. Alameda Books, Inc., 535 U.S. 425, 448 (2002) (Kennedy, J., concurring) (stating "whether a statute is content neutral or content based is something that can be determined on the face of it . . . ."); Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703, 724-25 (2000) (stating "the contention that a statute is 'viewpoint based' simply because its enactment was motivated by the conduct of the partisans on one side of a debate is without support" and finding a statute content-neutral despite being enacted
to end harassment outside clinics by abortion opponents); Frisby, 487 U.S. at 482 (1988) (finding statute content-neutral despite being enacted in response to antiabortion protesters).

Section 578.501 regulates traditional public fora. A traditional public forum is one traditionally used as a forum for expression, such as a public street or a sidewalk. 4Warner v. City of Boca Raton, 420 F.3d 1308, 1310 n.1 (11th Cir. 2005); Griffin v. Sec'y of Veterans Affairs, 288 F.3d 1309, 1322 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Warren v. Fairfax County, 196 F.3d 186, 201 (4th Cir. 1999); Jackson v. City of Stone Mountain, 232 F. Supp. 2d 1337, 1353 (N.D. Ga. 2002).

Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312, 318 (1988); Olmer, 192 F.3d at 1179. While we recognize a cemetery is a nonpublic forum,4 section 578.501 restricts expressive activity not just within or on the premises of a cemetery or a church, but also on
traditional public fora such as the adjacent public streets and sidewalks. The statute must therefore satisfy the standard of review for traditional public fora. A content-neutral time, place and manner regulation may be imposed in a public
forum if it: (1) serves a significant government interest; (2) is narrowly tailored; and (3) leaves open ample alternative channels of communication. Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989); Veneklase v. City of Fargo, 248 F.3d 738, 744 (8th
Cir. 2001) (en banc) (upholding the constitutionality of a Fargo ordinance prohibiting the targeted picketing of a residence as a content neutral time, place and manner restriction).

The district court found the state has a significant interest in preserving and protecting the sanctity and dignity of memorial and funeral services, as well as protecting the privacy of family and friends of the deceased during a time of mourning and distress. Phelps-Roper v. Nixon, 504 F. Supp. 2d 691, 696 (W.D. Mo. 2007).

The Supreme Court has not addressed this issue, but has recognized the state's interest in protecting citizens from unwanted communications while in their homes, Frisby, 487 U.S. at 482, and when otherwise "captive," Madsen v. Women's Health Ctr., 512 U.S. 753, 768 (1994). One other circuit court, which recently analyzed the constitutionality of similar funeral protest statutes, has extended Frisby and acknowledged the state has an interest in protecting mourners, which were found to be a captive audience, from unwanted speech during a burial or funeral. See Phelps- Roper v. Strickland, 539 F.3d 356, 362-67 (6th Cir. 2008) (finding the state interest was significant); McQueary v. Stumbo, 453 F. Supp.2d 975, 992 (E.D. Ky. 2006)
(assuming, without finding, for the purpose of preliminary injunction, the state has an interest in protecting funeral attendees from unwanted communications so obtrusive they are impractical to avoid). We note our own opinion in Olmer v. Lincoln, 192 F.3d 1176, 1178 (8th Cir. 1999), which affirmed a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of an ordinance that "restrict[ed] to certain areas the 'focused picketing' of churches and other religious premises thirty minutes before, during, and thirty minutes after any scheduled religious activity" because it violated the First Amendment. In Olmer, we held the government has no compelling interest in protecting an individual from unwanted speech outside of the residential context. Id. at 1182 (refusing to allow other locations, even churches, to claim the same level of constitutionally protected privacy afforded to the home by Frisby). We stated: As the Supreme Court said in Frisby, 'the home is different,' and, in our view, unique. Allowing other locations, even churches, to claim the same level of constitutionally protected privacy would, we think, permit
government to prohibit too much speech and other communication. We recognize that lines have to be drawn, and we choose to draw the line in such a way as to give the maximum possible protection to speech, which is protected by the express words of the Constitution. Id. (citation omitted). Because of our holding in Olmer, we conclude Phelps-Roper is likely to prove any interest the state has in protecting funeral mourners from unwanted speech is outweighed by the First Amendment right to free speech.

5A funeral procession may be as few as two cars, according to statute. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 194.500.3.

For a statute to be narrowly tailored, it must not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further the state's legitimate interests. Bd. of Tr. of State Univ. of New York v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 478 (1989); Frisby, 487 U.S. at 485. An
overbroad statute may be challenged on its face even though a more narrowly drawn statute would be valid as applied to the party in the case before it. City Council of L.A. v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 798 (1984). To prevail, a plaintiff must
show the challenged law either "could never be applied in a valid manner" or it is "written so broadly that [it] may inhibit the constitutionally protected speech of third parties." Id. The district court did not engage in a meaningful analysis of whether
section 578.501 is narrowly tailored or overbroad; it found only that the statutory language has plain meaning, which a person of ordinary intelligence could ascertain. Since we do not decide the merits of Phelps-Roper claim, we decline to engage in a rigorous analysis of whether section 578.501 is overbroad. We do point out the cases upon which the district court relied to support section 578.501's "in front or about" language, e.g., Frisby, 487 U.S. 474 (1988) (upholding ordinance concerning
targeted picketing "in front of" a particular residence); Douglas v. Brownwell, 88 F.3d 1511 (8th Cir. 1996) (upholding a ban on picketing "before, about, or immediately adjacent to" a residence), are distinguishable because they involve residences and fixed locations. Section 578.501, by contrast, defines a "funeral" to include "processions" held in connection with burial and cremation.5 Mo. Rev. Stat. § 578.501(3). Its "floating" buffer-zones, therefore, provide citizens with no guidance as to what locations will be protest and picket-free zones and at what times. See Phelps-Roper, 523 F.Supp.2d at 619-20 (holding the language of the statutem applicable to funeral processions was substantially overbroad and burdened

The district court’s order striking down the portion of the Ohio statute applying
to funeral processions was not challenged on appeal.7We note the Eighth Circuit has found the term "picketing" to include a wide range of activities, including prayer. Veneklase, 248 F.3d at 743; Douglas, 88 F.3d at 1521.

substantially more speech than necessary to serve the state's interest), aff’d Phelps- Roper v. Strickland, 529 F.3d 356 (6th Cir. 2008). In addition, Section 578.501 does not limit itself to activity that targets, disrupts, or is otherwise related to the funeral, memorial service or procession.7 See Olmer, 192 F.3d at 1180 (finding an ordinance overbroad because it "purports to make
the carrying of signs at the indicated times and places unlawful, no matter what the signs say or depict, and this prohibition is much broader than necessary. . . . [T]he ordinance bans certain forms of communication even if all of those to whom it is
directed in fact wish to hear it."). While the Sixth Circuit concluded a similar ordinance was limited to activity that was directed at a funeral or burial service, the statute involved in that case defined "other protest activities" to include "any action that is disruptive or undertaken to disrupt or disturb a funeral or burial service." Phelps-Roper, 539 F.3d at 368 (emphasis added). Because the Missouri statute does not contain any such provisions, Phelps-Roper is likely to prove the statute does not limit its coverage to activity that targets or disrupts a funeral or burial service. We conclude there is enough likelihood Phelps-Roper will be able to prove section 578.501 is not narrowly tailored or is facially overbroad to the point she is likely to prevail on the merits of her claim.

The remaining requirement the state must satisfy to defend its time, place and manner restrictions is such restrictions must leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information. See Ward, 491 U.S. at 791. As the Supreme
Court has stated, "one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place." Schneider v. New Jersey, 308 U.S. 147, 151-52 (1939). The Eighth Circuit has found other anti-picketing regulations did not leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information. When addressing whether a permanent injunction should issue in Kirkeby, the Court reasoned: [P]laintiffs wish to express an opinion about an individual to that individual and others, and they wish to direct their message at that individual. . . . Therefore, allowing them to picket in the town square or even the next block does not satisfy the second Ward requirement [of leaving open ample alternative channels for communication]. These time limits do not give the plaintiffs enough opportunity to direct their intended message at their intended recipients. Kirkeby v. Furness, 92 F.3d 655, 662 (8th Cir. 1996). By analogy, Phelps-Roper presents a viable argument that those who protest or picket at or near a military funeral wish to reach an audience that can only be addressed at such occasion and to convey to and through such an audience a particular message. Contra Phelps-Roper, 539 F.3d at 372-73. She is likely to prevail in proving section 578.501 fails to afford open, ample and adequate alternative channels for the dissemination of her particular

Because we conclude Phelps-Roper has demonstrated a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of her claim, we find she will suffer irreparable injury if the preliminary injunction is not issued. The injunction will not cause substantial harm to others, and the public is served by the preservation of constitutional rights. The district court abused its discretion when it concluded the balance of harms weighed toward denying the motion for a preliminary injunction based on its erroneous determination as to Phelps-Roper being unlikely to succeed on the merits.

We emphasize again we do not today determine the constitutionality of section 578.501. We hold only that Phelps-Roper is entitled to a preliminary injunction while the constitutionality of section 578.501 is thoroughly reviewed. The contrary
judgment of the district court is reversed.

Top lobbyist delivers $6,000 in contributions to Richard

Though he has no opposition for re-election, Speaker-of-the-House-in-waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, continues to pile up the money.

A 24-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows Richard picked up three identical $2,000 contributions from clients of the powerful Gamble & Schlemeier lobbying firm.

The checks were received today from Union Pacific Railroad (Gamble & Schlemeier represents the Missouri Railroad Association) Altria Client Services, Richmond, Va., and APS Healthcare, Windsor Hill, Md., according to the Ethics Commission documents.

Gamble and Schlemeier's long list of clients includes Ameristar Casinos, Missouri Healthcare Association, and Ameren UE.

Add $35,000 for Nixon

Attorney General Jay Nixon has picked up another $35,000 for his campaign account, according to a 24-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Nixon received $25,000 from Missouri Professionals Mutual, St. Louis; and $10,000 from Richard G. Miller, Pittsburg, Kan.

Former CJ, McDonald County teacher bound over for trial in statutory rape case

Josh Long, 30, a former Carl Junction and McDonald County teacher and coach was bound over for trial on statutory rape charges following a preliminary hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court. Long allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl:

The girl entered the court crying Thursday and remained tearful as she testified how she had sex with Long in the kitchen of his home on June 12. She said her relationship with him began toward the end of last school year and included near-daily texting of messages to each other via cell phones.

She told the court that he’d sent her by phone a picture of himself shirtless, and she’d sent back two nude pictures of herself. She testified that she had been to his house on another occasion when his wife and stepson were there and that she went there June 12 specifically to have sex with him.

“We had planned on seeing each other,” she told the court.

She described how they kissed, disrobed and had sexual intercourse on the kitchen island in his home.

Long had been hired to teach and coach at East Newton High School this fall, but resigned after the charges became public.

Monday hearing set in Rowan Ford murder case

A 1 p.m. Monday hearing is set in Phelps County Circuit Court for Chris Collings, one of two men charged with last November's brutal rape and slaying of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella.

Both Collings and his friend, Rowan Ford's stepfather, David Wesley Spears, are charged with first degree murder and forcible rape. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty for both men.

Spears' trial will be held in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Both cases were moved from Barry County.

Casino deposits $5,000 in Koster campaign account

Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, received $5,000 from Harrah's Operating Co. Nashville, Tenn. The casino contribution was among $32,750 noted by Koster in 24-hour reports filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Much of the remainder of Koster's contributions, $24,000, came from unions, according to the documents.

Koster's Republican opponent, Michael Gibbons reported $29,550 in contributions Thursday, including $10,000 from the Republican State Committee, $5,000 from JoAnn Emerson's campaign account and $2,000 from Todd Akin's.

Another big money day for Nixon

The gigantic lead that Attorney General Jay Nixon has over his Republican opponent in the governor's race, Congressman Kenny Hulshof, continues to grow.

Twenty-four hour reports filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission show Nixon raking in another $116,581.91, while Hulshof reported $3,000.

Those contributing to the Nixon campaign were:

Simmons Cooper LLC, East Alton, Ill, $25,000; Jerome Wallach & Associates, St. Louis, $10,000; Missouri Hospital Association PAC, Jefferson City, $7,750; Ironworkers Political Education Fund, Washington, D. C., $20,000; Missouri Democratic State Committee, $11,881.92 (in-kind); Normal Mulye, Kendall Park, N. J., $7,000; Citizens for Responsible Health Care, $10,000; National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education, $25,000.

Hulshof received $2,500 from Brian Underwood, St. Louis; and $500 from Michael Maurizi, Columbia.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock up 34 cents

Nexstar Broadcasting stock prices climbed for a third consecutive day Thursday, closing at $1.24 per share, up 34 cents from Wednesday.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Daily Mail weighs in on uproar over Rep. Fisher's finances

In Wednesday's edition of the Nevada Daily Mail, the newspaper finally addressed what has become a major issue in the re-election campaign of Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Richards- lawsuits that have been filed by companies that Fisher owes money.

That was an issue that was first brought up in the Aug. 29 Turner Report.

The newspaper leaves no doubt of where it stands on the issue, beginning with this statement:

A radio ad by Carla Keough, the Democratic candidate for the 125th District seat, and a letter by Jim and Nancy Wilson, Richards, along with several blogs aligned with the Democratic party have brought the incumbent, Barney Fisher's finances into question.

If the Daily Mail reporter is referring to The Turner Report as a "blog aligned with the Democratic party," nothing could be further from the truth. A blog that is "aligned with the Democratic party" would not have been the first and only one so far to name the names of Democratic state officials who attended the lobbyist-financed junket to the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville that ended with the arrests of Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis and Rep. Joseph Aull, D-Marshall. It would also not have covered the following stories:

-The felony hit-and-run charges against Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre

-The driving while intoxicated charges against Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia

-Numerous Democratic legislators have been fixtures on my frequently updated Turner Report Hall of Shame for accepting gifts from lobbyists.

-This blog was the first to reveal that the Democratic candidate for Seventh District Congress in 2006, Jack Truman of Lamar, was the director of the movie "Phone Sex Grandma."

-The Turner Report also has cited campaign contributions from Ameristar Casinos, Vacation Travel Services and an Alaskan lobbyist to Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Koster

-This blog also noted how Koster was traditionally a top recipient of lobbyists' gifts...until he decided to run for attorney general.

-The Turner Report was the first to point out the money-laundering system used by Koster, which has been the subject of complaints filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

-The blog has kept readers informed of the incredible amount of money coming to Jay Nixon's campaign from trial attorneys and labor unions

The items listed above are just a partial list. Obviously, the reporter did not do much research, he just parroted the words that were placed in his mouth by Rep. Fisher or those who represent Rep. Fisher.

The reporter's lack of research is also evident because the entire story comes from what has been handed to him by either Fisher. The Daily Mail allows Fisher to spin his own story about the so-called "smear" being perpetrated against him by his opponent, Carla Keough, and her supporters, without ever presenting one word of their case.

What is also apparent is that the reporter, Steve Moyer, did not do one bit of original research for this story. All he had to do is walk to the courthouse and look at the actual lawsuits filed against Rep. Fisher. There is no evidence that he did so (or that he has any intention of doing so).

Perhaps I will be proven wrong and the Daily Mail has an upcoming story detailing Ms. Keough's position and the evidence against Rep. Fisher.

I won't be holding my breath waiting.

News-Leader: Obama coming to Springfield Saturday

The Springfield News-Leader reports Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is coming to Springfield Saturday:

Obama will bring his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, with him to Springfield, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Obama's campaign has not officially confirmed the rally or released any details about the event.

But a Greene County Democratic Party official confirmed the event and said organizers are considering holding it Saturday evening.

A lesson in hypocrisy

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

Over the years, Joplin Globe editors and reporters have earned a reputation for doggedly pursuing the truth, even to the point of browbeating politicians and businessmen who refuse to give them answers on anything the newspaper deems to be of public interest.

That dedication to the pursuit of the truth has enabled the Globe to break many important stories, something which, of course, benefits its readership.

During the past several months, the Globe has diligently pursued stories about layoffs at local plants, interviewing those who have been left without jobs and those who made the decisions on who would be sent to the unemployment line.

Unfortunately for Joplin Globe readers, that noble quest for news the public needs to know ended last Thursday. That was the day the axe swung at Globe headquarters. From what I have been able to discover, at least 15 full or part-time workers, and possibly as many as 25, were fired, including at least one name which should be familiar to those who have read the newspaper on a regular basis.

Farm Editor Mike Surbrugg had been with the Globe for at least three decades. During the time I was editor of the Lamar Democrat in the 1980s, Mike, in addition to handling the Sunday farm pages, was the regional reporter covering Lamar, Barton County, and numerous other areas. He has a reputation for working hard and doing his best to make sure his readers were receiving accurate information.

From what I have been told, Globe supervisors called the budget cut victims into their offices and told them their jobs no longer existed. After that, with no time to say goodbye to longtime friends, guards escorted the fired employees, including veterans like Mike Surbrugg, out of the building.

If this is the first time you have heard about this, it is not because you missed it in the Globe. The same newspaper that has bullied people who refuse to answer its questions has not written one word about this situation in the five days since the massacre occurred. The information has been available from only three sources, my blog The Turner Report, KOAM, which could get no comment from any Globe officials, and word of mouth.

Three days after leading Mike Surbrugg away from the building like he was some kind of security risk, the Globe Sunday edition ran his last farm page, complete with a column accompanied by his picture (smiling, of course). No mention of the fact that the man who put in all of the work that made the page possible was no longer employed by the newspaper.

I suppose it is a sign of the times. The Joplin Globe is far from the only media company to studiously avoid publicizing anything negative about itself. Sadly, that is something the media does every day. Some would call it good business sense.

A more accurate word would be hypocrisy.

Globe endorsement of Obama rankles some readers

The Joplin Globe's remarkable record of not supporting a single Democratic candidate for president since William Jennings Bryan in 1908 ended Wednesday when the newspaper gave its stamp of approval to Barack Obama.

Think about that. The Globe Editorial Board endorsed Wendell Wilkie over Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, and Tom Dewey over Missouri's own Harry S Truman eight years later.

So what happens when the Globe breaks from its century-long precedent and endorses a Democrat?

Just check out the comments section on the newspaper's website.

Some of the readers are canceling or threatening to cancel their subscriptions. They have every right to do so, but it seems childish to cut off the Globe just because its editors don't agree with your opinion.

Unfortunately, that is what our nation has become- a land where disagreements are no longer acceptable. To some people, if you're not on their side 100 percent of the time, you are the enemy. (And that applies to Obama supporters as well as those who favor John McCain.)

Check out those comments. There are some howlers on both sides.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock up 23 cents

For the second straight day, Nexstar Broadcasting stock was headed in the right direction.

Shares were selling 23 cents higher, 90 cents, at the close of trading Wednesday.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Attorneys General Association kicks in another $100,000 for Koster

The Democratic Attorneys General Association has contributed another $100,000 to Chris Koster's campaign, according to a 24-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The organization has given the Koster campaign $400,000 overall, according to Ethics Commission documents.

Koster also reported a $25,000 contribution from the Nixon for Governor Committee.

Randy Cope named CEO of American Consolidated Media

Former GateHouse Media executive and Neosho Daily News Publisher Randy Cope has been named CEO and co-president of American Consolidated Media:

"Randy has approximately 20 years of operational and managerial experience in the U.S. community newspaper sector," Macquarie CEO Mark Downey said in announcing the appointment at the company's annual meeting in Sydney.

"Randy's appointment is another step in the process that began 18 months ago, when Macquarie and ACM sought to grow ACM into a more substantial business," Downey said. "Significantly, since then ACM has grown to the fifth-largest small-market community newspaper group in the U.S."

Dallas-based ACM was founded ten years ago by Jeremy Halbreich, who resigned as CEO this summer, a year after the chain was acquired by Macquarie. ACM publishes 104 dailies and non-dailies in 10 states.

Previous Turner Report posts about Randy Cope can be found at this link.

Carl Junction teacher cries foul on Proposition A ad

The gambling interests pushing for the passage of Proposition A continue to try to mislead voters into thinking the measure is primarily designed to benefit education. It has falsely claimed there is a wide network of educators who favor the proposition. One of those it claims backs the proposition, Carl Junction R-1 teacher Doug Campbell, says he is against Proposition A. The following release was issued by the Vote No on Proposition A group:

A southwest Missouri school teacher's name has falsely appeared on promotional materials for Proposition A, and he said it was done unethically.

Doug Campbell, Vocal Music Instructor at Carl Junction Junior High School was astonished to receive mail from the Yes on A collation that said he was one of many teachers in support of the measure.

"I was very embarrassed to see my name supporting a proposition that expands gambling," Campbell said.

"I understand first hand the dangers of gambling, as I've seen people who have suffered the terrible consequences of gambling addiction. I don't support removing the $500 loss limit or anything else that will benefit casinos."

The Yes on A coalition has claimed that hundreds of school teachers around the state are supporting the measure but Campbell has his doubts. He believes the method the casinos used to obtain such support was completely unethical and seriously misleading.

"I received a survey asking if I thought more funding for education was needed. The survey had the appearance of an official letter from a state educational organization with several educators and their schools listed, so I filled it out. The only question concerning casinos asked how important it was to prohibit the legislature from using revenue from casinos for these funds," Campbell said.

Evelio Silvera, Executive Director of Casino Watch Committee was shocked to learn that the survey did not ask teachers if they supported proposition A or opposed it.

"There is no telling how many other educators around the state have been used by the casino industry. Mr. Campbell's bravery to step forward has exposed this unethical practice and I hope more teachers will come forward to tell their story," Silvera said.

In 1994, during the Amendment 6 campaign, the casinos published a list of people in the Kansas City Star claiming they were in support of the gambling measure. Rep. Don Lograsso, and at least 15 others, were listed as its supporters even though they were clearly against the measure. The Yes on Amendment 6 Committee issued an apology letter but as Rep. Lograsso said, the severe, irreparable harm had already placed people's reputations and careers in jeopardy.

Doug Campbell hopes people will understand that he is not supporting Proposition A and hopes his reputation can weather the storm. He has made many apologies to friends, colleagues and church members who have questioned why he would support such a proposition.

These unethical and harmful practices call into question all of the teacher endorsements for Proposition A. All the money in support of Proposition A has come from the Las Vegas-based Ameristar & Pinnacle casino companies and from the Missouri casino lobby. No money has come from educators and it's no wonder all three Missouri teachers unions have refused to endorse Proposition A.

News-Leader parent company to lay off more before end of year

No word yet on how this will affect the Springfield News-Leader, but the company that owns the newspaper, Gannett, will lay off more employees before the end of the year, according to a letter sent by Division President Robert Dickey to publishers and general managers:

Division President Robert Dickey, in a letter to publishers and general managers, said the media company will begin an involuntary staff reduction of about 10 percent by the first week of December. Each publisher is responsible for developing a plan by mid-November to meet the 10 percent goal. Laid-off personnel will receive one week of severance for every year with the company, with a cap of 26 weeks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Globe officials stonewall KOAM attempt to get the story

Except for items on this blog, only one media outlet, KOAM, has pursued the story of last Thursday's firings at the Joplin Globe, and as you might expect, Globe officials, the same ones who so self-righteously rip any public officials who won't talk to them, remained silent:

The Joplin Globe has laid off several employees. We spoke to several of the former employees, and one of them said as many as 22 people were laid off.

However, the Globe has not* confirmed that number, or given a reason for any layoffs.

One former employee, Ryan Atkinson, says he holds no ill will toward the paper, and says he was not given a specific reason why he was let go.

"I can't say I know an official reasoning, just given the current state of the economy and specifically the state of the newspaper industry," Atkinson said. "I can't say it was a big surprise, but I'm guessing just the hardships of the economy and the industry."

Our calls to the publisher of the Joplin Globe and its parent company for comment were not returned.

Globe's top business story: Pac-Man Mania hits Rangeline

If you check out the Joplin Globe business section on its website, you will discover the top business story is a new place on Rangeline that offers vintage video games such as Pac-Man.

You would think that a century-old business firing at least 15 full and part-time workers and perhaps as many as 25, would be the top business story in the Joplin area.

Five days have passed and the Joplin Globe still hasn't had the decency to inform its readers of legitimate news. Of course, it's legitimate news that casts the Joplin Globe in a bad light.

Unfortunately for Globe readers, the newspaper's management has Wally Kennedy watching Rangeline and no one is watching the Globe.

(It should be noted that except for those written by Kennedy, most of the articles on the Globe's business page were written by veteran reporter Mike Surbrugg, one of those who was unceremoniously handed his walking papers then escorted off the premises by a guard after decades of loyal service.)

GateHouse Media earnings report set for Nov. 7

GateHouse Media, owner of The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the U. S., will have its third quarter earnings conference call Friday, Nov. 7. The following news release was filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

GateHouse Media, Inc. announced today that it plans to release its third quarter financial results before the market opens on Friday, Nov. 7. The Company has scheduled a conference call to discuss the financial results on Friday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The conference call can be accessed by dialing (877) 627-6511 (from within the U.S.) or (719) 325-4851 (from outside of the U.S.) ten minutes prior to the scheduled start and referencing the “GateHouse Media Third Quarter Earnings Call.”

A webcast of the conference call will be available to the public on a listen-only basis at Please allow extra time prior to the call to visit the site and download the necessary software required to listen to the internet broadcast. A replay of the webcast will be available for three months following the call.

For those who cannot listen to the live call, a replay will be available until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 25 by dialing (888) 203-1112 (from within the U.S.) or (719) 457-0820 (from outside of the U.S.). Please reference access code “8740510.”

Nexstar Broadcasting stock up 17 cents

After several consecutive days of falling stock prices, Nexstar Broadcasting headed in the other direction today, closing at 67 cents per share, 17 cents up from Friday's close.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Nixon machine continues to roll over Hulshof

While Congressman Kenny Hulshof was adding $21,375 to his campaign account today, Missouri Ethics Commission documents show his opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon, was picking up $436,666.13.

The top contribution for Nixon was $353,227.21 from the Missouri Democratic State Committee. He also received $7,150 from the Missouri AT&T PAC, $5,000 from James Giardina, Baldwin; $5,000 from Environmental Operations, St. Louis; $2,000 from ACA Services, Inc., St. Louis; $25,000 from Industry Advancement Fund, Kansas City; and$10,000 from Comprehensive Health Services, Hannibal.

Hulshof reports $21,375

Congressman Kenny Hulshof's latest 24-hour report notes $21,375 in contributions with the following of $1,000 and more:

Gary Carver, Kansas City, $1,000; Camden County Republican Club, $2,000; Osage Door Company, Ozark, $1,000; Wendell Bailey, Willow Springs, $1,000; Elect Nodler Committee, Carthage, $1,000; Anthony Stubblefield, Ozark, $1,000; Knapheide Manufacturing Company, Quincy, Ill., $2,000; TeleOne, Inc., Chesterfield, $1,000

Nexstar Broadcasting stock falls to 50 cents

Nexstar Broadcasting stock continuing its recent trend, fell another 17 cents per share to 50 cents Monday.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Another $35,000 in oversized contributions for Koster

Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Koster reported another $40,000 in oversized contributions Monday, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Koster received $10,000 from Laborers Local Union No. 319 PAC, Joplin; and $5,000 apiece from Abbey Care Center, St. Louis; Taxpayers Unlimited, Inc., St. Louis; Janelle Biernbaum, Raymore; Emerson Electric Company, St. Louis; and Altria Client Services, Inc., Richmond, Va.

News-Leader endorses Lee for Greene County circuit clerk

The Springfield News-Leader has endorsed Jim Lee, author of the Bus Plunge blog, for Greene County Circuit Clerk.

In an editorial in today's edition, the News-Leader's Editorial Board notes:

Lee has a history of dedication to jobs he has tackled -- including small businessman, teacher, work force development specialist for the state Department of Economic Development and southwest regional coordinator for the Missouri State Teachers Association. The latter job required Lee to balance many interests, work with people, lots of them, and steadily move toward goals that were not always easily achieved.

He should be given a chance to bring that discipline to a new, public role. Adept at representing teachers for years, he now deserves a chance to represent us -- in an important, overburdened government office.

The newspaper also expresses reservations about Helms' fiscal discipline, noting his 2003 bankruptcy, which was first revealed in the July 22, 2006 Turner Report.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Casinos pour $15 million plus into Proposition A, spread money to

The Yes on A Committee, fueled by contributions from Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment, has put more than $15 million into passing Proposition A.

The details are outlined in an eight-day report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

More than $16 million raised for Nixon during election

Attorney General Jay Nixon has raised more than $16 million during his race for governor and has spent nearly $4 million this month, according to his eight-day report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Nixon still has $1,696,947.72 in his account, according to the report.

Hulshof has raised more than $5 million during campaign

Congressman Kenny Hulshof has raised $5,274,605.63 during this election, according to his eight-day report, filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Of that total, Hulshof has $597,862.55 left going into the final days of the campaign, the documents indicate. Since the last filing period, he has raised $1,005,199.99 and spent $1,636,650.72.

Reader: Nevada Daily Mail won't publish letter about Rep. Fisher

Lawsuits filed against Rep. Barney Fischer, R-Richards, may be part of the public record, but apparently they will not find a place in the pages of the Nevada Daily Mail.

Fisher's problems, which were first brought to light in the Aug. 29 Turner Report, are the subject of a letter written by Melissa Earll, Nevada, and sent to the Daily Mail. The text of the letter is printed below:

Dear Editor:

It's been a few years since I sat in class and studied the way our government works or rather, is supposed to work here in the United States in general, and Missouri in particular. At both levels, I've witnessed a number of elected public servants come and go; a few who played only a minor role in the formation and implementation of policy and legislation, and even fewer playing a greater role and whose favorable reputation lingers still.

I have always been a voracious reader, but even more so these past few months while witnessing firsthand the ramifications of unregulated markets amidst the greed and corruption that has permeated throughout. It's just the latest blow to our country's standing in the eyes of the world. A fat, ugly blow to the gut.

Each and every one of us has been impacted in some manner by the heaving and shifting economic reality with which we're faced today. We've had to make financial decisions that affect our pension/annuity retirement accounts, money market and savings accounts, etc...moving things around to less risky investment vehicles or keeping things as they are, hoping for the best.

Some folks have fared better than others, that's usually par for course. Also the norm are the few, somewhat privileged folks who are immune to these precarious financial uncertainties, seemingly. More power to them, I say, but they don't wear my shoes, they don't walk the miles I have.

Much like the color-flushed dying leaves outside, something's changed for me. I feel it bone-deep and have struggled to define it. I think it begins and ends in the same thought, that somehow my government has failed me; my elected representatives have failed me.

How do we move forward from here? How do we make the needed changes to make our country, our home, an honorable nation once again in the eyes of our world peers?

Simple: we must have good leaders.

We must have good leaders who understand the need for financial responsibility and accountability in all levels of government. Simple enough, right? I mean, we all know how to be financially responsible, right?

Collectively as individuals, we practice our own financial responsibility when we juggle our given financial resources to pay our monthly bills and expenses against a rising tide of higher prices and less value for our money. Don't pay and we all know what happens, right? We're held accountable. One way or another, we are held accountable.

Well, some of are, that is...Barney Fisher, MO State Representative for the 125th District apparently isn't. Yes, that's right, our very own elected public servant Barney Fisher apparently doesn't always pay his bills.

As found on under the Casenet search function, a judgment in the amount of $6,134.60 plus interest plus court costs was entered against Barney Fisher on behalf of Cavalry Portfolio Services in Judge McBeth's court back in February of 2005. (The original case had been filed in December of 2004, before he ran for elected office in 2006). The most notable detail from this same record is the fact that, to date, no satisfaction of this debt has yet been recorded.

Likewise, just last year in June of 2007, a judgement in the amount of $14,273.35 (including an interest rate of 18.990% plus court costs) was entered against Barney Fisher in Judge Quitno's court on behalf of Capitol Financial Group. (Ironically, a hearing on this matter that was scheduled earlier this month on October 14th has been conveniently moved back to November 18th, after next month's election.) Yet again, no date of satisfaction of this debt has yet been recorded.

I don't know about the rest of you but these court cases make me angry.

But what makes me even angrier is where's the transparency? Why wasn't this information shared with the 125th District voters before his election in 2006 when he ran against Tim Wells? Why weren't we informed of his lax handling of his personal finances and thus able to weigh this information as we considered our candidate of choice in November of 2006?

And don't anybody tell me Barney Fisher's personal affairs are none of my business; as a registered voter, it IS my business. This is a variation of the reason why we have the problems we're now having in Washington D.C. and Wall Street both.

I don't know about the rest of you but we must demand that we have public servants in Washington, D.C. and in Jefferson City, MO who understand the moral and ethical need of being financially responsible in representing ALL of their voting constituents, not just a small minority.

We have borne witness to the greed of Wall Street and the hypocrisy of politics, in general. Both reflect that we have had financially irresponsible and unwise leaders who hold much of the blame for abusing the public trust in which they were invested.

Next month, on November 4th, we can change that. For this reason alone, Carla Keough, the Democratic candidate for MO's 125th District, has my vote. Won't you support her with your vote and send a message and say enough's enough?

Melissa Earll
Nevada, MO

Muschany trial date to be set Nov. 24

The trial date for former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, who is charged with felony deviate sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl, will be set Nov. 24, according to Cole County Circuit Court records.

The trial date was originally supposed to be set today, but the decision was pushed back following a brief hearing to allow additional discovery,

Hulshof itinerary includes Saturday stops in southwest Missouri

Republican candidate for governor Kenny Hulshof has a full slate of campaign stops set for the final full week before next Tuesday's election including a series of stops Saturday in the Ozarks.

According to the itinerary released by the Hulshof campaign, the congressman will be at Taney County Republican Headquarters in Branson from 12 noon to 12:45 p.m., Stone County Republican Headquarters, Kimberling City, 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.; and Christian County Headquarters in Nixa, 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Turner Report marks 8,000th post

This marks post number 8,000 for The Turner Report, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary next month.

The Turner Report actually began in 2000 as an almost invisible website with a steady readership of about 25 people which updated infrequently for almost three years.

I had never heard of a blog when two of my eighth graders at Diamond Middle School started blogs and I realized how much easier blogging was than trying to maintain a regular website. And because I had promised my students that since they had to write every day, I would, too, the blog helped me keep that promise.

It evolved from me telling stories about the old newspaper days, and talking about books I had read or movies I had watched, to digging into public records and trying to keep my readership up to date on news that, for the most part, they will not receive anywhere else.

At first, the Turner Report readership was steady at about 35 to 50 unique visitors per day. In recent weeks, that average has been around 550 to 700 and the site has topped 1,000 often during times when major events have occurred in southwest Missouri.

The most visits The Turner Report has had, approximately 4,000 in one day occurred following the arrest of Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, on charges of deviate sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl.

Globe milks final copy out of fired veteran reporter

Joplin Globe readers who turned to the farm page in the Sunday edition saw nothing unusual. It was the same type of farm page that has greeted them week after week, year after year.

Mike Surbrugg bylines were plentiful and Mike's face was pictured with his column. It was enough to give the Globe's readers, particularly those who are interested in agriculture, a sense of comfort, knowing that is one subject the Globe covers better than just about any newspaper in the state.

Whoops, I used the wrong tense in the previous paragraph. I should have written "the Globe covered better than just about any newspaper in the state."

Three days before the business-as-usual farm page ran in the Sunday edition, Globe management gave Mike Surbrugg and 14 other full or part-time employees the old heave-ho, reportedly having guards escort them from the premises.

Of course, that cavalier treatment of someone who gave his all for the Globe for decades did not stop the newspaper from milking every last bit of copy Mike Surbrugg turned out...while never having the guts (or the common decency) to tell readers of their actions.

Four days have passed since the firings. As of yet, not one word has been written in the pages of the Globe. Apparently, the Globe's philosophy is it's only news when it happens to someone else.

Houston Chronicle: Death row inmates made 2,800 calls

The Houston Chronicle is continuing to examine the number of cellphones smuggled into prisoners, including those on death row. The investigation began after strip club killer Richard Lee Tabler threatened a state senator on a cell phone smuggled in to him by his mother. Tabler and Timothy Doan Payne, a 2004 East Newton High School graduate, were convicted in connection with four killings of people connected to the Teazers Strip Club in Killeen, Texas.

The Chronicle article notes 2,800 calls have been made by 10 death-row inmates:

Cell phones are just about the hottest commodity inside prisons," said the prisons' inspector general, John Moriarty, whose office has opened 743 cases involving cell phones found in Texas prisons.

Moriarty said he knew of no hits ordered from prison using smuggled cell phones, though there have been drug deals made. Mostly, he believes, inmates use the phones to call home.

But just how do smugglers get phones past a penitentiary's security?

Some visitors have been caught hiding cell phones in the heels of their shoes. Some get them through security, only to get caught later dropping them in trash bins during visitation, Moriarty said.

Last year, an inmate was discovered to have both a cell phone and charger in his rectum. Moriarty said it's not clear how many people have smuggled cell phones into prisons in their body cavity; metal detectors won't typically sound the alarm.

Until this week, when a lockdown was declared amid revelations that 10 death row inmates made nearly 2,800 calls in the past month from a cell phone, not everyone entering Texas prisons, not even all visitors, were scanned for contraband.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Messenger column explores Ameren UE contributions

Ameren UE has returned to its old ways, spreading money around to various politicians, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch political columnist Tony Messenger.

One of those who benefited from the company's generosity is Speaker-in-Waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who received a $7,000 contribution:

So what's behind the new generosity?

Two words: nuclear plant.

Ameren is in the early stages of seeking regulatory approval to build a second nuclear reactor at its Callaway County location. This multibillion-dollar project promises to be the central issue in the coming legislative session.

Compared to the '70s when Callaway 1 was built, there will be less hemming and hawing about whether or not to go nuclear this time. In light of the energy crisis, nuclear is glowing hot. The principal issue is financing.

Missouri has a law that keeps utility companies from charging consumers for construction or financing costs on plant construction until the new facility is up and operating.

Ameren wants to change this and get customers to help pay along the way. The plant will take several years to build and might cost more — $6 billion is one figure being tossed around — than the value of Ameren's other assets. In the tightening credit market, the company won't be able to raise the money to build the new plant if consumers don't help along the way, Ameren says.

Page picks up $24,700

A 24-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows another $24,700 in Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Dr. Sam Page's account.

The biggest contributions, both for $2,500 came from Bruce Grench, Olivee; and Patients First Health Care, LLC, Washington, MO.

At this moment, incumbent Republican Peter Kinder has not filed a 24-hour report for today.

News at the Globe, but the Globe is not telling anyone about it

At least 15 full or part-time employees were fired Thursday at the Joplin Globe, including veteran Mike Surbrugg, who has been with the newspaper for decades.

Three days have passed since the workers were escorted from the Globe premises, yet not one word has been printed in the newspaper.

undeniably, the Globe has the First Amendment right to publish what it wants and if it decides it is not the public's business to know what happens behind its hallowed doors, it is entirely within its rights to do that- But what kind of message is that to be sending from a newspaper whose editors are quick to criticize others for keeping information from the public.

It is not as if the Globe does not consider employee layoffs to be news. The newspapers archives are filled with articles about companies cutting jobs. A few examples include:

-Jan. 16, 2008: System and Services Technologies, Inc., announced plans to lay off 40 employees.

-Aug. 23, 2008: Six hundred employees out of work with closing of Superior Industries plant in Pittsburg

-March 2007: Joplin Workshops, Inc., announced plans to lay off 21 workers.

-Dec. 3, 2006: Precious Moments, Carthage, announced the layoffs of 11 full-time and 29 part-time workers

-Oct. 19, 2006: City of Joplin announces plans to eliminate the job of clubhouse manager at Schifferdecker. This one was so important that it required two bylines, Mike Dwyer and Derek Spellman.

-Feb. 3, 2007: Talbot Industries in Neosho cut 54 jobs.

This partial list does not even include one story after another when OSullivan Industries in Lamar was eliminating jobs.

If members of Joplin Globe management expect news sources to be open and honest with them, it is time for the Globe to show the way.

Leggett & Platt lays off 86 at Kentucky plant

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt is eliminating 86 jobs at its Simpsonville, Ky. plant:

Workers are expected to be let go on or about Dec. 14. Eligible workers will receive at least 60 days pay and benefits. Leggett & Platt also will provide outplacement assistance, the company said in the release.

The Simpsonville plant, located at 211 Main St., produces mechanisms for swivel and recliner chairs.

About 160 employees will remain at the Simpsonville plant, company spokeswoman Sherry Adams said.

Plant Manager Doug Allan told Business First last year that the company had lost sales to competition from cheaper labor in Asia.

He said then that he didn’t expect any more layoffs and expected the plant would regain the lost jobs over time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nixon adds $81,800 to campaign account

A 24-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows Jay Nixon with another $81,800 as the attorney general continues to dominate the fundraising portion of the governor's race.

Among the larger donations for Nixon- $10,000 from Operating Engineers Local 101, Kansas City; $10,000 from Pipefitters Local 533, Kansas City; $5,000 from MoCormack, Baron Salazar, Inc., St. Louis; $5,000 from Harry Maue, Bridgeton; $15,000 from IOUE Local 513 Political and Education Fund, Bridgeton; and $5,000 from John Joslyn, Branson.

Globe endorses Nixon for governor

In an editorial posted today on the Joplin Globe website, the Editorial Board endorsed Attorney General Jay Nixon for governor:

What’s clear from our interviews with both candidates is that Missouri will be in good hands with either Nixon or Hulshof at the helm.

We think Nixon is the best-qualified candidate to move Missouri forward.

Casinos continue attempt to buy Proposition A vote

The ongoing effort by Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment to push through Proposition A continued Thursday with the casinos, which had already contributed more than $12 million in an effort to win passage of the measure, adding another three quarters of a million to the pot.

Documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show Ameristar Casinos contributed $500,002, while Pinnacle Entertainment chipped in with $250,000.

The measure, which is advertising itself as adding money for education, is primarily designed to get rid of Missouri's loss limits requirement and to eliminate any future competition for existing casinos.

$22,600 for Page

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Dr. Sam Page received $22,600 in late contributions, according to a 48-hour report filed Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The biggest contributions on the list were for $2,000.

Pages opponent Republican incumbent Peter Kinder, did not file any reports with the Commission Friday.

Nixon adds $284,900 to campaign account

Attorney General Jay Nixon continues to run away from Republican opponent Kenny Hulshof in the money race as the campaign for governor enters its final stage.

Nixon picked up $289,900 in oversized contributions during the past couple of days, according to 48-hour reports filed today and Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Of that total, $284,900 was noted in Friday's filing, including $150,000 from SEIU PEA International. Nixon also received the following:

Integrity in Law Enforcement, Independence, $25,000; James Nutter Sr., Kansas City, $25,000; James Nutter Jr., Kansas City, $10,000; Robert Blitz, Frontenac, $10,000; Norman Harty, Dexter, $9,900; Boilermakers Local No. 27 Voluntary Fund, $10,000; Davis Minton, Dexter, $10,000; Express Scripts, St. Louis, $10,000; Hilda Jones, Williamsburg, $10,000

Nixon picked up $15,000 from Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger, a New York law firm, according to the 48-hour report filed today.

Sinquefield gives $50,000 to Hulshof

During this election cycle, retired billionaire and educational voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield has poured hundreds of thousands into campaign committees through the 100 political action committees he created in 2007.

For the first time during this cycle, a contribution has been made in Rex Sinquefield's name. The billionaire gave $50,000 to Kenny Hulshof's gubernatorial campaign, according to a 48-hour report filed Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The contribution was among $99,850 reported by the Hulshof campaign. Hulshof also received $15,000 from the Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists $14,000 from the Armstrong-Teasdale law firm, $5,000 from Western Anesthesiology Associates, and $4,000 from South County Anesthesia Associates, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

For the final 11 days of the campaign, under new laws that went into effect Aug. 28, candidates have to report all contributions of more than $250 on a daily basis.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chiodo Protocol: You take care of it; I won't be in today

It takes real guts for a publisher to cut 20 percent of his staff, then make himself available to face the people whose jobs he erased. It takes just as much guts for that publisher to lay out his decision to his readers.

Yes, that takes guts, but that is not the way Joplin Globe Publisher Dan Chiodo handled the Thursday massacre, a source close to the Globe told The Turner Report.

Chiodo not only did not make himself available to the people whose livelihoods he eliminated, on the next day others had to explain to remaining staff members why many of their colleagues were no longer working for the Joplin Globe.

Under Chiodo's direction, however, long-time employees were told by their department managers at approximately the same time their jobs no longer existed. Then they were given a few short moments to remove their belongings, then were escorted from the building.

Apparently, Chiodo does have a little bit of a heart, however. Sources indicate Chiodo planned to make even deeper cuts to the newsroom, but changed his mind following an impassioned plea for her staff from Editor Carol Stark.

For those of you not familiar with Dan Chiodo, he is the same man who once proclaimed the weekly Joplin Herald as a necessity because there is not enough room in the Joplin Globe to put Joplin news.

If he has his way, there won't be enough reporters to gather that news. Thankfully, that should not keep the Globe from creating more niche magazines to further dilute the news product.

Daily publisher offers tribute to Chip Watson

In a column published earlier this week, Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers offered a tribute to GateHouse Media regional manager Chip Watson, who died earlier this week:

Chip scared even me at first.

But in the 10 years we worked together, his “Chip charm” won me over.

I will never forget the time he and I met four days after the January 2007 ice storm hit Neosho, and caused so much damage in town and for its residents. I had slept maybe 10 hours total in those four days, as we were putting the paper out from a house in town with electricity and Internet, and having it printed in Springfield. My house was still dark, and had two holes in the roof from branches falling. And when I did sleep, it was below 40 degrees in the bedroom.

Finally, after four days of non-stop work, I crumbled and started breaking down. Chip came over and gave me a big bear hug. He was not shy about sharing his emotions.

He told me how proud he was of the paper still printing despite not having power, and that the community was proud of the paper, too.

Now, Chip is not going to be there the next time I need some advice, or just someone to vent my frustrations to. He is not going to be there to talk about how the St. Louis Cardinals blew the lead in the ninth inning, or why the Missouri Tigers can’t win the big game.

He is not going to be there when I need advice. I talked to Chip on a daily basis, more than my own parents, and not always about work — sometimes about life.

On Sunday, I was going to give him a call and tease him about my St. Louis Rams beating his Dallas Cowboys.

But, I didn’t. I knew he wasn’t feeling good last week, so I figured he was probably resting.

I just didn’t know he would be resting for all eternity.

Blog: Make Carthage Press into a weekly

In a posting earlier this week on his blog, Newsprint in My Blood," Missouri Southern State University Publications Manager T. R. Hanrahan suggested it is time to make The Carthage Press into a weekly:

I have been waiting for The Carthage Mess to update its Web site for four days. As I write this, it is now Monday. The most recent post is from Thursday.
Now let me put this in perspective. This weekend was the Maple Leaf Festival. That is a pretty big Carthage thing. But there is no slideshow. There is no story. There is no coverage. The Globe got it done.

Personally, I would like to see someone try to make The Press into a community newspaper again, but it is never going to happen under current management.

Governor concerned about integrity of upcoming election

In his weekly column issued today, Gov. Matt Blunt expressed concerns about possible voting fraud Nov. 4:

Voting is a fundamental right and gives each of us a voice in our government. Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice to secure this right for us and many others today are fighting to protect our right to vote and the other freedoms we enjoy. Missouri voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on November 4, and I urge you to take advantage of that opportunity.

We must also keep in mind that our entire system of representative government is undermined by those who commit or attempt to commit voter fraud and voter registration fraud. A system the people do not trust is a system that undermines the people's faith in their elected government.

As governor and as a former secretary of state, I am very concerned about the integrity of the upcoming election. I became secretary of state following the voter fraud that occurred in 2000 and issued a comprehensive report entitled "Mandate for Reform: Election Turmoil in St. Louis November 7, 2000" which provided the framework for election reform in Missouri.

Contrary to assertions that voter fraud has not occurred in Missouri, my report found that well over 1,000 improper ballots were cast in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Further my report found that there was in St. Louis an organized and successful effort to generate improper votes in large numbers.

In response, we examined Missouri's election laws and procedures and enacted significant reforms making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. Most importantly we restored Missourians' confidence in the integrity of their elections.

I am no longer secretary of state but as governor I am no less concerned that we have fair elections.

I am particularly concerned by groups like the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) which has submitted fraudulent voter registration forms in our state and across our country. Twelve ACORN workers in Missouri have already been convicted of voter fraud during the 2006 election and now the F.B.I. is investigating ACORN's voter registration activities in Kansas City in this election.

This is one reason I have offered my assistance to Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and called on all election authorities to be alert and vigilant, responding immediately to any and all allegations of voter fraud. It is the responsibility of all political parties to carefully watch over our election process while recognizing that under no circumstance should anyone ever intimidate voters.

On November 4 polls all across Missouri and the United States will allow voters to make their voices heard on a variety of issues. I urge all registered voters in Missouri to participate in this important part of our democratic government and exercise your right to vote while also being vigilant as you vote.

It is vital to our democracy that our elections are fair and conducted free of voter fraud so we can have results that we all can trust.

Another all-time low for Nexstar Broadcasting

Nexstar Broadcasting reached an all-time low of 62 cents per share today before climbing slightly to 67 cents at the close of trading.

The price was down nine cents from Thursday's closing mark of 76 cents per share.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Son of former Lamar basketball coach to replace Lute Olson at Arizona

Russ Pennell, son of former Lamar High School boys basketball coach Dewey Pennell, has been named interim basketball coach at the University of Arizona, replacing the legendary Lute Olson, who is retiring:

UA athletic director Jim Livengood stated Thursday that the school will soon begin a national search for a permanent replacement, but Pennell will take over in the meantime.

"Russ is a veteran assistant coach with a wealth of coaching experience," said Livengood. "His experience of working in three of the best basketball conferences in the nation will serve us well."

Pennell, 47, returned to college basketball when he joined the Arizona coaching staff in May 2008 after spending the last two seasons running a basketball league in the Phoenix area. His most recent coaching position was as an assistant for Arizona State from 1998-2006.

While working for the Sun Devils under coach Rob Evans, the program amassed a 119-120 record that included an NCAA Tournament berth in 2003 and three trips to the N.I.T.

"This is an exciting opportunity for me," said Pennell. "I look forward to the challenge of leading this program. As the son of a former coach and one who has spent his life around the game of basketball, I'm humbled to get a chance to lead such a storied program."

Don't let the door hit you on the way out; Globe cuts 15 employees, reportedly including veteran Surbrugg

When you work for a twice-weekly newspaper, you always have the fear that the big regional daily is going to publish a big story before it hits your pages.

When I was at the Lamar Democrat between 1982 and 1990, I worked hard, then kept my fingers crossed that Mike Surbrugg, the Joplin Globe reporter who covered Lamar and Barton County, would not get hold of some major story before our next edition was published.

Unfortunately for me, thanks to Mike's diligent work, the Globe did beat the Democrat from time to time.

During the Edgar Simpson days, when Dow Jones, which owned the Globe at that time, convinced a number of veteran reporters to take buyouts, including Jo Ellis, who I was lucky enough to be able to hire at The Carthage Press. Mike Surbrugg resisted the buyout despite efforts to convince him to take it by making life at the Globe extremely uncomfortable.

For the past few years, Mike has been in semi-retirement, devoting his time at the Globe to the weekly farm section.

He won't be in charge of that section any more. Apparently, the section will either be dropped or filled with wire copy since Mike Surbrugg was reportedly one of 15 employees downsized by Globe management Thursday.

A source close to the situation told The Turner Report that most of the cuts were to part-time employees, who were gathered together in a Globe conference room, given the bad news, told to gather their things quickly, and then were escorted from the building.

Thanks for all of your hard work over the years, Mike, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

This round of cuts is reportedly not going to be the last one. Globe management was able to whittle down a CNHI directive to eliminate 22 positions, but the stay is reportedly only temporary.

Undoubtedly, the economy has hit everyone hard, including CNHI and the Joplin Globe. Bad times, however, are never an excuse for bad manners.

Is it really any wonder that no one holds this newspaper in high regard?

Sinquefield committee makes $10,000 contribution to Nodler

Sen. Gary Nodler's not running for anything right now (at least not as far as we know), but that certainly has not kept the big bucks from flowing into his campaign account.

Missourians for Tax Reform, one of retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield's political action committees, dropped $10,000 into the Joplin Republican's account Oct. 21, according to a 48-hour report filed Wednesday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

During the 2008 calendar year, Nodler has received $19,880 from Sinquefield committees, including $10,650 from Missourians for Tax Reform, with the remainder coming from two of Sinquefield's pro-educational voucher committees, Missourians Supporting Teaching Excellence, and Your School, Your Choice.

Gibbons campaign receives $10,000 in oversized contributions

Republican attorney general candidate Michael Gibbons picked up two $5,000 contributions over the past two days, with half of that coming from the Gibbons Law Firm in Kirkwood, according to a 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The remaining $5,000 came from Express Scripts.

During the same time period, Gibbons' Democratic opponent, Chris Koster, did not report any $5,000+ contributions.

Benefit talent show, silent auction planned

A benefit talent show and silent auction will be held 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, in the South Middle School Auditorium.

Our band, Natural Disaster, will perform for the first hour, followed by the nationally -known gospel quartet, the Victorymen, featuring my next door neighbor on the second floor at South Middle School, eighth grade history teacher Rocky Biggers.

The proceeds will go to Columbia Elementary custodian Leroy Wilson and his family. Mr. Wilson is undergoing treatment for cancer.

A $5 donation is requested.

I will have more information about the show over the next several days.

Late money headed for lieutenant governor campaign

Seventy-five thousand dollars has been poured into the campaign accounts of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and his Democratic opponent, Dr. Sam Page, during the last four days, with the lion's share of the money, $55,000 going to the challenger.

Kinder received his $20,000 in one lump sum from New York hedge fund owner Paul Singer, according to a 48-hour report filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Page's contributions, filed over the last four days, include $25,000 from the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council, $10,000 from the Western Anesthesiologists Association, $10,000 from James B. Nutter, Kansas City; and $5,000 apiece from the 24th Democratic Legislative District Committee and the Missouri Democratic State Committee.

Governor candidates add $26,250 to accounts

It was a slow day for gubernatorial candidates Jay Nixon and Kenny Hulshof Thursday, according to their 48-hour reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Congressman Hulshof reported $14,250 in oversized contributions, $7,500 from the Carroll County Republican Central Committee and $6,750 from Emersco Electric Co., St. Louis; while Attorney General Nixon received a $12,000 donation from Titlemax AIP, Savannah, Ga.

Gannett stock hits 18-year low

Stock prices for Gannett Co., owner of the Springfield News-Leader, hit an 18-year low of $9.31 per share Thursday:

Gannett tumbled 11.25% during the session, shaving $1.18 off its share price to close at $9.31 a share. It price, adjusted for splits and dividends, hasn't been that low since October 1990.

Gannett is scheduled to release its third-quarter results on Friday morning. Based on the weak revenue figures already released by The McClatchy Co. and Media General, Wall Street is clearly not expecting good news from the nation's largest newspaper publisher.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nexstar Broadcasting closed at 76 cents per share

Nexstar Broadcasting's freefall continued today, with the broadcasting company's stock falling eight cents to 76 cents per share, an all-time low.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns/operates KODE and KSNF in Joplin and KOLR and KSFX in Springfield.

GateHouse Media closes in single digits

GateHouse Media's days on the big board ended with a whimper.

The publishing company, which owns more than 300 publications across the United States, including The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News, closed at seven cents per share yesterday, down seven cents from Wednesday's closing price of 14 cents.

Today was the last day GateHouse Media stock will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which delisted the company, effective Friday, after it failed to reach $1 per share for the past few months.

The stock will still be traded over the counter.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock price continues to drop

Nexstar Broadcasting stock fell to an all-time low of 81 cents per share and closed at 84 cents, down five cents from Wednesday.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

GateHouse Media hits another all-time low

Today will be the last day GateHouse Media shares are sold on the big board. The New York Stock Exchange has delisted the newspaper company starting Friday.

On the next to last day of NYSE trading, GateHouse reached an all-time low of 14 cents before rebounding slightly to 16 cents per share, down two cents from Tuesday.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the United States.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Democratic Party employee attacked at Hulshof campaign event

In this YouTube age, Democrats attend Republican political events to capture footage and vice versa.

The first sign that this movement was going to become a major part of the political landscape came when former Virginia Sen. George Allen's re-election chances (and presidential hopes) were dashed when he referred to a Democratic Party photographer videoing his event as "macaca" a derogatory and racially offensive name.

When Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof brought his campaign for governor to the Lincoln Ladies Ice Cream Social in Carthage in August, he made some pleasant remarks about his Democratic Party follower, suggesting jokingly that he might even eventually convince the young man to vote for him.

Apparently, with all of the polls showing Hulshof trailing his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon, by a wide margin, some of Hulshof's followers have taken a different approach during a campaign stop in West Plains, one that not only infringes on the Democratic party worker's First Amendment rights, but also borders on assault. The incident, of course, has bene captured on YouTube and posted by the Missouri Democratic Party:

Palin Springfield rally moved to Bass Pro

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Springfield rally, originally scheduled to be held at Missouri State University, has been moved to Bass Pro to accommodate the expected crowd:

Just before 6 p.m, party officials said the rally would be at a parking lot outside Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World store at the corner of Sunshine Street at Campbell Avenue. It will still start at 11 a.m.

A news release says people who stood in line and got tickets should bring those tickets with them to the rally, where they'll be in a special reserved section. Those who don’t have tickets will have a different section.

The initial site for the rally only held 4,000 people and those tickets went quickly.

Feb. 17 trial set for Robinson

A Feb. 17 trial date has been scheduled in St. Louis County Circuit Court for Rep. Bradley Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, who is charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident.

Robinson, 42, was allegedly driving his pickup on Jan. 1 when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video purportedly shows Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Robinson's wife Tara was driving, and then leaving the scene. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, five passengers in the pickup have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against the Robinsons.

Robinson is represented by one of St. Louis' most powerful defense lawyers, Travis Noble, a former policeman and drug agent, who has earned a reputation for winning DWI cases (the Robinson cases involves no DWI allegations).

Tara Robinson's trial is scheduled for Nov. 6 in St. Francois County.

Robinson is not seeking re-election.

Proposition A is not about education

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

Proposition A is not about education.

Of course, you would not be able to tell that by the advertisements that have bombarded us over the past couple of weeks.

We have grandparents saluting Proposition A, extolling the virtues of this wondrous device through which all financial problems for Missouri elementary and secondary schools will be solved forever.

This past week, it has been a former teacher of the year telling us how wonderful the measure is. At this point, however, not one single educational group has announced support for Proposition A and there is a good reason for that.

The advertisements are all about education, but Proposition A was written by the casino interests, and is designed solely to benefit the casino interests.

Proposition A does call for a one percent increase in casino taxes, with that money earmarked for education. That is the sweetener designed to entice voters to overlook the remainder of the measure.

It would also remove Missouri’s innovative loss limit law which prohibits gamblers from losing more than $500 during a two-hour period. The casino owners want to be able to take as much money as possible from problem gamblers and their families. They complain that the loss limits are driving gamblers to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kansas, where they can lose as much as they want, but Missouri casinos have still been extremely profitable.

The measure would also eliminate the requirement that gamblers carry identification with them, something which has aided law enforcement in numerous investigations.

Proposition A also eliminates any future competition for existing casinos, effectively allowing them to establish a monopoly.

In the 1976 movie, “All the President’s Men,” the character “Deep Throat,” played by Hal Holbrook, told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, to “follow the money.”

Following the money on Proposition A does not lead us to education, only to the deep pockets of casino owners who are willing to do anything they can to get this measure approved in November.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests, primarily Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment, have contributed more than $12 million this year to the Yes on A Committee,

The contributions include a quarter of a million from Pinnacle Entertainment posted Saturday on the Ethics Commission website. Both Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle made $2,613,001 contributions earlier this month, following $1,787,500 contributions in September.

The only contributions the committee has received that did not come from Ameristar or Pinnacle were two donations totaling $38,482.02 listed as "in-kind" from the Missouri Gaming Association, the lobbying group for the casino industry.

Not one contribution to the committee has come from anyone connected with education.

Proposition A is a shell game by casino owners who are brazenly betting on Missourians to put their concern for educational funding ahead of what to all intents and purposes appears to be one of the slimiest proposals to appear on a Missouri ballot in decades.