(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
It has to be tough being the most powerful man in Missouri when no one will do what you say.
Of course, Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, is not necessarily the most powerful man in Missouri, though he told KODE reporter Dustin Latimer he was during a May interview.
Richard said he was “more powerful than the governor, more powerful than the president of the Senate. Not that I care about it.”
As Missourians have found out recently, at least one person has more power than Ron Richard- his party’s House Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.
When former Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington, began filing lawsuits against numerous towns, including Granby, for what he called “stacking” sales taxes illegally, Richard attempted to solve the problem with legislation. The legislation sailed through a committee with a “do pass” recommendation, but that was just a waste of energy.
The fate of the bill was decided eight days before that committee meeting when Tilley's campaign committee accepted $110,000 from a committee controlled by Burcham.
Since the majority leader controls what legislation comes to the floor, the bill was doomed.
And who is this man who really has the power in the Missouri House? Steve Tilley is also the man appointed by Richard to be the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, a position he also held under previous Speaker Rod Jetton.
Tilley must have a different definition of ethics than the one in my dictionary:
-Tilley accepted $340 worth of tickets to the indianapolis 500 May 24, according to documents posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website. The gift came from lobbyist Joseph Piertle, representing the Missouri Primary Care Association.
-On March 10, Tilley picked up $200 in entertainment tickets from Ameristar Casino lobbyist William Gamble.
-On Dec. 31, Tilley brought in the new year with a little help from his friend, lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier. Schlemeier paid $1,742.28, $580.76 apiece in "lodging, meals, and entertainment" for Tilley, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau; and former Speaker of the House Jetton to celebrate the ringing out of the old and the ringing in of the new at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, the Gamble and Schlemeier client that footed the bill for the excursion, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
-Travis Brown, lobbyist for billionaire educational voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield, spent more than $4,000 wining and dining legislators, including Tilley, Richard, and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, during a two-day spree in November 2008. Brown paid $515 for travel, lodging, and meals for Tilley.Nodler, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and his wife Joncee, received $1,135.98 in meals and lodging from Sinquefield's lobbyist Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, according to Ethics Commission documents. On Nov. 7, each of the Nodlers received $162.13 for meals, with the total increasing to $286.21 apiece for meals the following day. Nodler received lodging totaling $239.30 on Nov. 7. Richard also received the $239.30 for lodging on the 7th, with he and his wife each receiving meals worth $162.13 on the 7th and $25.13 on the 8th.
And this is just a partial list of Tilley's remarkable accomplishments.
When it comes to ethics, that does not fit any definition I have ever heard. When it comes to power, however, it is apparent that Steven Tilley, not Ron Richard, is the man who has it.
And that is unfortunate for citizens of Granby, who may have to foot the bill for Tom Burcham’s frivolous lawsuit.