The Economic Growth Council, a committee that laundered campaign contributions in Democrat Chris Koster's successful campaign for attorney general, has ceased operations, according to a termination statement filed March 12 with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The Council, which had Koster friend and former Jay Nixon aide Chuck Hatfield as treasurer, cleared its bank account by giving a $5,000 contribution to Koster on Dec. 19, and contributions of $2,334.45 and $800.10 to the Missouri Democratic Party on the same day.
The operation of the Economic Growth Council was followed closely by The Turner Report during the 2008 campaign. I detailed the operation in the April 15, 2008, Turner Report:
An elaborate money laundering operation established by former Jay Nixon aide Chuck Hatfield enabled Chris Koster to continue to far outpace his opponents in the Democratic race for attorney general.
Hatfield's Economic Growth Council, registered with the state on Dec. 23, funneled nearly half a million dollars into Democratic committees across the state, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
For instance, the 128th District Democratic Committee, Webb City, received $27,500 from the Economic Growth Council, and immediately sent half of that amount to Koster and the other half to LUC Media, Marietta, Ga., a firm that specializes in political advertising, apparently to be used on Koster's behalf.
The 12th and 14th Legislative District committees, two of many which have Mark Miles as treasurer, received $27,500 apiece from the Economic Growth Council, with half of the money going to the Koster campaign in cash and the other half reported as an "in-kind" contribution. It appears those "in-kind" contributions went to LUC Media.
The Economic Growth Committee made contributions of this kind to committees all over the state, and Koster's campaign disclosure form, filed today, shows sizable contributions from all of them.
The committee's funding comes from a wide variety of sources, including an aging billionaire, but not the one who has been written about extensively in this blog over the past few days. Though Rex Sinquefield has contributed heavily to Koster's campaign through his political action committees, this time the billionaire is James Stowers, 84, of the Stowers Institute, who contributed $125,000 to the committee...the same amount he gave directly to Koster's campaign one year ago during the time when campaign contributions were not in effect. The Economic Growth Council also received $73,725 from the Supporters of Health Research and Treatments, an amount also nearly identical to what the group gave Koster one year ago.
Among the other contributors who circumvented contribution limits by giving first to the Economic Growth Committee, which then laundered their cash through the legislative committees were:
-Ameristar Casinos, St. Charles and Kansas City, $17,450
-Regional St. Charles County Leadership Fund $12,500
-Land Trust No. 12 LLC, O'Fallon $20,000
-McEagle Fund LLC, O'Fallon $5,000
-Carey & Davis LLC, St. Louis, $100,000
-Technology Drive LLC, St. Louis, $25,000
-Healy Law Firm, St. Louis, $25,000
-Hubbard for Senate, St. Louis, $30,000
-John F. McDowell, Boeing, $10,000
The Economic Growth Council was also used to launder contributions from the payday loan industry jsut before the election,, as detailed in the Nov. 3 Turner Report:
The Economic Growth Council contributed $8,000 to Koster's campaign Sunday, according to a 48-bour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, and it appears most of that money came from the payday loan industry. The council's Ethics Commission filing shows it received $5,000 from Check into Cash, Cleveland, Tenn. and $1,500 from Axcess Financial, Albuquerque, N. M.
The Aug. 2 Turner Report showed how the Economic Growth Council was the conduit through which money from Branson-based Vacation Services of America, a company with a troubled past, was funneled to the Koster campaign:
Vacation Services of America, a Branson-based company that Attorney General Jay Nixon accused of bilking customers in 2004, appears to have funneled $10,000 into the campaign account of Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Koster.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents show Vacation Services of America contributed the money to the Economic Growth Council, which has been a laundering service for Koster's money. Economic Growth Council has been sending its money to county and legislative committees, which are allowed to contribute up to $13,450, thus enabling well-heeled contributors to avoid the $1,375 limit for individual contributors.
Vacation Services of America was required to pay $10,391 in restitution following an action taken by Jay Nixon four years ago.
According to the Aug. 25, 2004, Kansas City Star, the company and others were described by Nixon as "allegedly unscrupulous vacation and travel companies."
The article said the companies "made false promises that people would save money, used tough pressure tactics to sell travel packages, claiming high upfront fees and then failed to provide services, and refused to let customers cancel orders."
The Ethics Commission decided not to pursue the money-laundering allegations, needing four votes to do so, and falling one short.