Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hunter expected to register as lobbyist

Though he has not officially registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission, The Turner Report has heard that former 127th District State Representative Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, is going to join the growing list of those making the leap from legislator to lobbyist.

it should not be much of a leap for Hunter, who worked for lobbying organization Associated Industries of Missouri during much of his tenure in the House.

You may recall that Hunter broke ties with AIM in June, blaming the media for creating the impression that he could actually be swayed in his vote just because he was being paid by a lobbying group. I wrote this in the June 15, 2007 Turner Report:

After four years of double dealing as a state representative and an employee of a lobbying group, Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, has done the right thing and severed his ties with Associated Industries of Missouri.

Unfortunately the problem, according to Hunter, has never been with his conflict-ridden extra source of income, but with the media who have questioned his integrity, according to this passage, which a reader sent me from the Kansas City Star's pay-for-view Prime Time Buzz:

"I got tired of reading about it in the damn newspaper," Hunter said when asked why he resigned his post, effective May 1. "I’d been accused by the labor unions and the state chamber (of commerce) of having a conflict."

Hunter, a Joplin Republican who heads a House committee that examines worker's compensation issues, took the job in 2003. Associated Industries of Missouri, which describes itself as a "pro-business lobbying team," was closely involved in passage of legislation tightening worker's compensation laws in 2005.

Contrary to Hunter's opinion, his second job, definitely was a conflict of interest, as has been noted numerous times over the past few years in The Turner Report. To recount, consider this passage from the July 15, 2005, post:

Hunter has done a 360-degree turnaround in the type of bills he has sponsored since his first term in the House.
During his first three years as a representative, Hunter did not sponsor any business legislation. Then three weeks after the end of the 2003 General Assembly, he found a new job as a membership recruiter for Associated Industries of Missouri, a powerful pro-business lobbying organization. And that is not just my term for it. As Susan Redden's Globe article noted, AIM spells out exactly what it does on its website. It represents the "interests of Missouri employers before the General Assembly, state agencies, the courts, and the public."
Financial disclosure forms filed by Hunter with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate that he was employed by Associated Industries of Missouri in 2003 and 2004 and received at least $1,000 from it in both years. Unfortunately, all officeholders are required to state on these forms is if they received $1,000, they do not have to be specific.
It would be safe to speculate that if Steve Hunter was not the chairman of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee he would not have been the first person AIM would have thought about hiring. That committee, of course, deals with the workers compensation legislation that AIM and Missouri businesses have been pushing and finally succeeded in passing.
Perhaps Hunter wrote every word of that bill himself. He is certainly an intelligent man. But it would not be a stretch of the imagination to believe that AIM staff could have been very helpful in constructing the pro-business legislation.
Hunter sponsored that bill as a representative for this area, then put on his other hat after the end of the legislative session and spoke at eight "Lunch and Learn" presentations put on by Associated Industries across the state, speaking as an AIM employee to explain what he had done for the organization as a legislator.
Hunter sponsored three other bills designed to cripple labor unions in the state, which did not get anywhere.

And the same anti-union bills were sponsored by Hunter during the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions. And in one of the biggest examples of political hypocrisy in recent years (and that is saying a lot), Hunter had the nerve to go public with accusations that State Auditor Susan Montee had a conflict of interest when she issued an audit of the state's Second Injury Fund, as shown in this excerpt from a Missourinet article:

Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin) chairs the House Workforce Development Committee. Hunter says State Auditor Susan Montee failed to consider the sharp increase in awards from the fund and focused only on business contributions to it. Hunter also notes Montee's husband represents workers seeking payments from the fund. He claims that should be considered a conflict-of-interest and she should have stepped aside and allowed an independent firm to audit the fund.

Hunter complains about the media's badgering him about his "perceived" conflict of interest, but the media, especially the local media, has done a poor job of letting readers know about his conflict of interest. Any story involving Hunter's work as head of the House Workplace Safety Committee should have included a reference to his AIM job, as well as any story about his legislation in that area. Most of the time, that did not happen.

The Joplin Globe made a big splash with a story concerning Hunter's conflict three years ago, but then dropped it, never following up on the implications of Hunter's side job. And as far as I can remember, the Globe was the only area traditional media source to mention the conflict.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Go Steve! Any intelligent person knows you were doing membership recruiting for AIM. But then again, the qualifier leaves many out.