Those who are familiar with Missouri politics know the story of the politician who convinced several of his representative colleagues to contribute money to a relative's campaign. That relative also benefited from campaign contributions from lobbyists and money legally laundered through committees.
That, of course, is the story of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and those contributions were provided by his father, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt. Nothing new there.
However, the Blunt story is not the only case in which those same elements occurred. Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter's campaign committee is called "Friends for Rita Hunter." An examination of Missouri Ethics Commission records indicates Mrs. Hunter, wife of Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, has friends in high places.
It also shows that Republican elected officials and the 127th District Legislative Committee had no problem taking sides in a primary race in which no incumbent was running. And the side they took belonged to the woman who served as Jasper County Republican Committee chairman, Rita Hunter, pouring money into her campaign, though there was no reason to support her over other candidates, especially since no Democrats filed for the position.
During the 2004 Republican primary, Mrs. Hunter and four others, Susan Butler, Gretchen Long, K. C. Brockman, and Thomas Sandt, fought for the Republican nomination. Only one of Mrs. Hunter's opponents, Gretchen Long, was able to outspend her, thought most of that was done by taking out loans. Ethics Commission documents show Ms. Long spending $21,033.15, while Mrs. Hunter spent $17,078, Brockman $5,172.77, Ms. Butler $4,165 and Sandt apparently did not spend enough to have to file a report.
Mrs. Hunter was able to spend about $15,000, nearly all of her money, during the last month, with most of it going toward a television campaign, something rarely seen in a county public administrator race.
Where did Mrs. Hunter's money come from?
A close examination of Missouri Ethics Commission records indicates her husband lined up 20 state representatives to contribute $2,700. Those contributing were: Hunter $575; Bob Behnen, Kirksville, $100; Bryan Stevenson, Webb City, $100; John Quinn, Chillicothe, $100; Tom Dempsey, St. Charles, $100; Ed Emery, Lamar, $50; Rex Rector, Harrisonville, $100; Charles Schlottach, Owensville, $100; Shannon Cooper, Blairstown, $200; Jerry Bough, Nixa, $100; Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, Marble Hill, $250; Robert Mayer, Dexter, $100; Bill Deeken, Jefferson City, $100; Brian Munzlinger, Williamston, $100; Larry Gene Taylor, Shell Knob,$100; Robert Schaaf, St. Joseph, $25; Carl Bearden, St. Charles, $100; Ron Richard, Joplin, $200; Blaine Leutkemeyer, St. Elizabeth, $100; Marilyn Ruestman, Joplin, $100.
Of those representatives, only one, Stevenson, donated to any of Ms. Hunter's opponents. He contributed $100 to the Long campaign.
A small portion of Mrs. Hunter's money, $400, came from registered lobbyists with $200 coming from Bill Waris and Associates, Kansas City. Waris pleaded guilty in U. S. District Court last year to making a false statement to the FBI during a corruption investigation. He represented numerous Kansas City interests. Mrs. Hunter also received $100 from Joplin lobbyist Gary Burton and $100 from Leggett & Platt lobbyist Lance Beshore.
The Aurora business, Service Vending, can be linked to $4,800 with $600 apiece coming from Jerry Sumners, Toby Sumners, Talbert Sumners, Tyler Sumners, Brian Fronabarger, Tisha Fronabarger, Theresa Sumners, and Service Vending Company itself.
The money laundering came courtesy of the 127th District Legislative Committee. The committee donated money to committees across the state and it came back to Rita Hunter and her husband in the form of contributions to their campaigns. Usually, this kind of money is designated to help candidates facing Democrats in the general election, but in this case the district committee used it to take sides in a battle between Jasper County Republicans.
For instance, on Feb. 12, 2004, the 127th District Legislative Committee contributed $1,500 to the 3rd Senatorial District Committee. That money came back to the county April 16 in the form of a $1,000 contribution to Hunter and $500 to Mrs. Hunter.
In the disclosure report filed eight days before the Aug. 3, 2004, election, Mrs. Hunter listed a $400 contribution from the Republican 18th Legislative District Committee and $1,000 from the 120th District Republican Committee in Clinton. That committee contributed an additional $500, for a total of $1,500, to Mrs. Hunter on July 28, according to the report filed 30 days after the primary election. That total matched the amount contributed to the 120th District Committee by the 127th District Committee.
A group called Citizens & Businesses United, also based in Clinton, contributed $500.
In addition to the contributions listed above, Mrs. Hunter contributed $6,190.57 to her campaign.