Thursday, September 06, 2012

New State Board of Education member responsible for large influx of campaign cash from voucher supporters

In all of the media stories announcing the nomination of former Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, to the State Board of Education, I have seen nothing about the former legislator's role in opening the doors for hundreds of thousands of dollars of money from public education opponents such as Rex Sinquefield to be given legally to Missouri politicians.

Shields was the sponsor of the 2008 bill that removed Missouri's campaign contribution limits opening the door to people such as Sinquefield and the Humphreys family of Joplin's TAMKO to contribute millions to candidates who share their extreme right wing views.

As I wrote in a November 2007 Turner Report, Shields' legislation did serve one useful purpose, for Shields at least. It stopped him from having to go through numerous shell committees to pick up thousands of dollars from casino interests, which he paid back by pushing legislation to remove loss limits at Missouri casinos:

Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, says he plans to reintroduce a bill to remove all campaign contribution limits:

"What you’ve seen after the Supreme Court overturned it is now you’ve got this period of vagueness. ... Then you’ve seen people creating all these committees and everything like that," Shields said. "I think that ought to send the message that really what you want is transparency. You want to know where the money comes from. And the more time and more places the money comes through, the harder it is to track its roots."

The transparency bit sounds good, and it would probably make it easier for Shields to continue the collect casino contributions, something at which he has been quite adept.

According to October filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Shields received $1,300 directly from casino interests, $800 from Isle of Capri and $500 from Herbst Gaming, while the 34th Senatorial District fund, which pours a considerable amount of money into Shields' coffers, received $7,000 from Ameristar Casinos.

During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.

That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.

Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.

And during the last legislative session, Shields sponsored the Start Smart Scholarship Fund bill which had the following description:

This act establishes the Smart Start Scholarship Program. The program will offer grants for educational expenses incurred while attending a qualifying institution for no more than two academic years to each person who attends a Missouri high school for three consecutive academic years immediately prior to being graduated from the institution, and who, within two calendar years from the date of graduation, applies for a grant under this act.

The bill, however, called for the repeal of casino loss limits, something the industry has been wanting ever since casinos became legal in Missouri.

The loss limits have now been removed. Another example of how campaign cash influences legislation in this state.

And now, for all of his success in making Missouri a playground for millionaires and billionaires who want to shape Missouri in their own warped images, Charlie Shields is a member of the State Board of Education.

I can't say this bodes well for public education in Missouri.

1 comment:

Kjoe said...

I posted this on the post dispatch site, and probably on the beacon. I am constantly berating the pd, especially the editorial board for what they say, and fail to say about education. Latest effort is to make them realize mike jones and the other state board members should be talked to regarding temporary accreditation. All reporters hold the view that nicastro knows all, and none of the 8 differ with her. I am neutral about what happens on October 16...I just want their heads removed from their asses.