Fired Up Missouri appears to be engaging in a considerable amount of hyperbole with its claim that Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, is involved in activities that are as bad as those for which Rep. John L. Bowman, D-St. Louis, was indicted for last week.
But the blog makes good points and uses The Turner Report to bolster its case when noting the conflict of interest Hunter has concerning his side job as a recruiter for the lobbying group Associated Industries of Missouri and his chairmanship of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee.
As he has for the past three years, Hunter has filed legislation that would benefit his employers and cripple unions in the state of Missouri:
It is a mystery how an elected legislator, employed by the Associated Industries of Missouri, can push that group's key legislative proposal, a pusillanimous "Right to Work" bill, and still walk the streets a free man. Next week, the House committee chaired by Hunter will hear legislation sponsored by Hunter that's written by the special interest group that pays Hunter (I would link to the House hearing website for this hearing, but Hunter makes a point to post public word of his hearings no earlier than the statutorily mandated 24 hours in advance, so as to limit opportunities for public testimony and transparency, of course). How lovely. Yet while Hunter and the GOP House pursue legislative tactics better suited to Venezuela than Missouri, the mainstream media haven't seemed to notice.
Fired Up Missouri is engaging in a bit of overheated hyperbole with its remarks about Hunter walking the streets "a free man," but Hunter's devotion to his employer and his willingness to carry AIM's water has been mentioned numerous times over the past few years in The Turner Report.
A telling point is how Hunter's legislative goals have changed over the years. I examined that in the July 15, 2005, Turner Report:
Hunter has done a 360-degree turnaround in the type of bills he has sponsored since his first term in the House.
During his first three years as a representative, Hunter did not sponsor any business legislation. Then three weeks after the end of the 2003 General Assembly, he found a new job as a membership recruiter for Associated Industries of Missouri, a powerful pro-business lobbying organization. And that is not just my term for it. As Susan Redden's Globe article noted, AIM spells out exactly what it does on its website. It represents the "interests of Missouri employers before the General Assembly, state agencies, the courts, and the public."
Financial disclosure forms filed by Hunter with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate that he was employed by Associated Industries of Missouri in 2003 and 2004 and received at least $1,000 from it in both years. Unfortunately, all officeholders are required to state on these forms is if they received $1,000, they do not have to be specific.
It would be safe to speculate that if Steve Hunter was not the chairman of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee he would not have been the first person AIM would have thought about hiring. That committee, of course, deals with the workers compensation legislation that AIM and Missouri businesses have been pushing and finally succeeded in passing.
Perhaps Hunter wrote every word of that bill himself. He is certainly an intelligent man. But it would not be a stretch of the imagination to believe that AIM staff could have been very helpful in constructing the pro-business legislation.
Hunter sponsored that bill as a representative for this area, then put on his other hat after the end of the legislative session and spoke at eight "Lunch and Learn" presentations put on by Associated Industries across the state, speaking as an AIM employee to explain what he had done for the organization as a legislator.
Hunter sponsored three other bills designed to cripple labor unions in the state, which did not get anywhere.
It is time for our area media and state media to take another look at Steve Hunter and his obvious conflict of interest.