Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The final figures are in for 2004 and 127th District Representative Steve Hunter completed his meteoric rise at the top of the state's Republican party.
According to statistics available from the Missouri Ethics Commission, no Republican accepted more gifts from lobbyists than Hunter during the past calendar year. Hunter's reports indicate that he accepted $3,322.14 worth of meals, travel expenses, and other considerations from lobbyists, with most of the gifts being connected to lobbyists representing Ameristar Casinos.
The gifts didn't stop coming when the legislative session ended in May, according to reports filed by Hunter with the commission. He received $982.96 worth of gifts since June 1.
Two Democratic representatives, Rodney Hubbard of St. Louis with $4,119.29, and Connie Johnson of Jefferson City with $3,468.53, were the only ones to top Hunter's figures. The Carl Junction Republican barely edged out new Speaker of the House Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, who received $3,096.06.
Hunter received more gifts from lobbyists than Kevin Wilson, Marilyn Ruestman, and Ed Emery combined, though Ron Richard of Joplin with $1,752.48, and Bryan Stevenson of Webb City with $1,770.14 also did well.
Ms. Ruestman received $229.09, Wilson $871.69, and Emery $583.52.
While Hunter received a great deal from lobbyists after the legislative session ended, Richard has received nothing, Wilson $21.87 worth of gifts, Ms. Ruestman $61.50 and Emery $196.74.
The influence of the casino lobbyists on both Democrats and Republicans was obvious from the reports filed by the legislators. Nearly every representative who received more than $1,000 worth of gifts from lobbyists, received a sizable portion of that money from Ameristar lobbyists.
Hunter accepted travel expenses from lobbyist Sarah Topp on three occasions in 2004. He accepted travel expenses from lobbyist William Gamble one other time.Though Ms. Topp and Gamble represent a number of clients, including the Missouri Sheriffs Association, the Ethics Commission records indicate the travel money to Hunter came courtesy of the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City. Ms. Topp and Gamble also represent all of the interests of Ameristar Casinos, a Las Vegas-based company which only recently moved its operations into this state.On Jan. 22, Hunter accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, according to Ethics Commission records. He also accepted $91.32 in travel expenses, indicating he most likely went to the same place, as well as $125 for meals, food, and beverage from Ms. Topp on Feb. 20, $138 in travel expenses from her on March 8, and $455 for meals, food and beverage on March 20.Hunter accepted an additional $250 in travel expenses from Gamble on Aug. 28, according to the Ethics Commission records. Legislators are allowed to amend the records if they pay the lobbyists back, though the original expenditure remains. The Ethics Commission records show that none of Ameristar Casinos' gifts to Hunter have been paid back.
Hunter was the only legislator to receive gifts from Ms. Topp in February and the only representative (there were three senators) who received gifts in March, records indicate.The $1,150.64 Hunter received from the gambling interest was more money than any other area legislator, except Richard, received from all lobbyists' gifts combined.
Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway received $1,464.85 worth of gifts from lobbyists, including travel expenses of $142.54 on March 29 and $168.50 on March 23, both from Jorgen Schlemeier, an Ameristar lobbyist. On June 12, she received $219.68 for travel from Sarah Topp, the same lobbyist who provided Hunter with most of his gifts.
Current House Speaker Jetton had his travel expenses covered by seven lobbyists on July 13, with each contributing $34.33, or close to $250 total, according to the Ethics Commission records. All seven lobbyists are registered as working for Ameristar. Apparently, Jetton believes taking one-seventh of the amount from seven different lobbyists looks better than receiving a large outlay from one lobbyist.
Jetton also received $124.04 for travel from the appropriately-named Ameristar lobbyist William Gamble on Nov. 18, $117.17 from Miss Topp for travel on Aug. 24, $116.87 for travel from Gamble on July 22.
Rodney Hubbard of St. Louis accepted $709.90 in travel expenses from Gamble on Aug. 9. Hubbard was an equal-opportunity proponent, also taking travel expenses three times from lobbyists from Harrah's Entertainment, another casino interest.
Connie Johnson of St. Louis apparently has a great appetite for lobbyists' gifts. Ms. Johnson received $627.35 for meals, food, and beverage, from Jorgen Schlieman on May 28.
Other legislators receiving large amounts from Ameristar included:
-Tom Dempsey, Republican Majority Floor Leader, St. Charles- $3,026.89 from all lobbyists, including $113.71 for travel from Gamble on Oct. 13, $250 for travel from Ms. Topp on June 7, $274.50 for travel from Gamble on May 18, and $135 for travel from Ms. Topp in January.
-Esther Haywood, Democrat, St. Louis- $1,356.08 from all lobbyists, $200 for travel from Jorgen Schlemeier on June 10.
-Robin Wright Jones, Democrat, St. Louis- $1,532.94 from all lobbyists, $200 for travel from Schlemeier on June 10.
-Joe Smith, Republican, St. Charles- $2,453.06 from all lobbyists, including $275.82 for travel from Ms. Topp, June 27, $101 for meals from Gamble on April 27, $327.14 for travel and $117.16 for meals from Schlemeier on March 27 and March 30, respectively, and $135 for travel from Ms. Topp on Jan. 10.
-Brian Yates, Republican, Lee's Summit- $2,228.94 from all lobbyists, including $125.58 from Ms. Topp for meals on Aug. 31.
I reported in the Jan. 4 Turner Report that Dish Network would be raising its prices as of Feb. 1 and noted the hypocrisy of the company that has been jumping all over cable for its annual rate hikes, raising its own prices after just 12 months. An Associated Press article indicates that the situation is much worse than that. Apparently, Dish Network has had five rate hikes in the past five years, according to the article.
Two prominent southwest Missourians have been proposed for honors by State Representative Marilyn Ruestman. Ms. Ruestman has submitted bills which would honor the late songwriter Albert Brumley of Powell, writer of the classic "I'll Fly Away," and Ms. Ruestman's mentor, former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock.
House Bill 154 would designate a portion of I-44 in Greene County from state route MM, exit 70, east to state route 286, exit 72, as the "Congressman Mel Hancock Freeway."
House Bill 155 would designate a portion of Highway E in McDonald County from the Arkansas state line north to Highway 76 as "Albert Brumley Memorial Highway.' The bill stipulates that all signs would be paid for, put up and maintained by Albert E. Brumley and Sons, Inc.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced today (Jan. 5) that the Golden City R-3 School District in Barton County will receive a $71,700 low-interest loan for lighting upgrades. The loan and six others which were announced, is administered by the MDNR's Energy Loan Program.
Attorneys representing Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn, Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, Associate Commissioner Jim Honey, and former Associate Commissioner Anna Ruth Crampton have filed a motion in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri asking to be allowed to question convicted child molester Martin Anthony Eck.
Eck is suing the county officials claiming he didn't receive proper dental care while he was in the county jail.
Eck pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court in November to two counts of statutory sodomy in connection with incidents involving a 12-year-old girl. The Joplin Globe reported that Eck had been convicted of child molestation 11 years ago in Gordon County, GA. He was sentenced to 20 years, but the sentence was suspended and he was allowed to move to Joplin a few years later, where he was under the supervision of the probation office here, according to the article. Eck, 41, Joplin, is asking for $100 million. Eck told what happened to him in his petition. 'I arrived at Jasper County Jail on April 2, 2004,' he wrote. 'I told the booking officer that I had bad teeth that needed taken care of. I was told at that time Jasper County Jail did not have a dentist. I filed a grievance on May 12, 2004, and got no response. I told the nurse numerous times and have written the sheriff on July 15, 2004." 'I still have not seen a dentist. As I understand it, it is the County Commission's job to make sure health care is available. It's been four months, still no dentist.' " Eck has been allowed to filed as a pauper, meaning that his effort to seek compensation for his dental problems will be funded by Missouri taxpayers.
The attorneys for the county officials have asked to interview Eck, according to their motion, because "it is vital to the defense of this litigation that defendants understand specifically what the plaintiff contends transpired during his incarceration in 2004 at the Jasper County Jail."

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