Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The conflicts of interest Missourinet left out

Missourinet's story today on calls by Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, to eliminate the Second Injury Fund included an attack on State Auditor Susan Montee, with claims that Ms. Montee's recent state audit claiming the fund would be millions of dollars in the hole next year was colored by the fact that her attorney husband represents people who try to receive money from the fund:

Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin) chairs the House Workforce Development Committee. Hunter says State Auditor Susan Montee failed to consider the sharp increase in awards from the fund and focused only on business contributions to it. Hunter also notes Montee's husband represents workers seeking payments from the fund. He claims that should be considered a conflict-of-interest and she should have stepped aside and allowed an independent firm to audit the fund.

Nowhere in the story does Missourinet reporter Brent Martin say a word about Hunter's conflict of interest. While serving as chairman of the House Workforce Development Committee, Hunter is also a paid recruiting chairman for Associated Industries of Missouri, a lobbying organzation for Missouri businesses, something which has been long noted in The Turner Report, including this passage from a July 15, 2005, 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.

Hunter also sponsored similar legislation in the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions.
When news organizations report on anything Steve Hunter says about business-related topics, it should be noted that his statements invariably are designed to promote Associated Industries of Missouri, especially when he is accusing someone else of having a conflict of interest.


Anonymous said...

Does what Hunter does or does not do have any affect on the story, or did you just conveniently gloss over that so you could throw dirt at a Republican?

Where's your angst over the Auditor's conflict?

Hunter is a shyster, but why only bash him?

Randy said...

Actually, my complaint was with Missourinet. I have no problem with pointing out any potential conflict of interest the state auditor involving conflicts of interest concerning the second injury fund. I do have a problem with mentioning the conflicts when they are pointed out by someone with just as many conflicts (or more) and not even mention those in the story.

Anonymous said...

Rep. Hunter announced today in a hearing of the Interim Committee that he severed his ties with AIM on May 1 because he had been accused of having a conflict of interest. Maybe he meant to say June 1?