Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hunter dethroned; Richard tops area legislators in lobbyists' gifts

It must be the newly found magic of holding the Speaker of the House position.

For all five years plus that the Turner Report has been covering lobbyists and their gifts to Missouri legislators, Steve Hunter has easily garnered more lobbyists' gifts than other Joplin-area legislators.

In his last year in the Missouri House of Representatives, however, Hunter has been dethroned.

Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received $3,821.10 in lobbyists' gifts in 2008, finishing the year with a flourish, adding $770.74 in December. Documents posted moments ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website show that on Dec. 29, lobbyist Matthew Morgan provided Richard with $404.24 worth of travel and lodging to Big Cedar Lodge, described on its website as a "wilderness luxury resort."

The Ethics Commission report shows Morgan was representing his own lobbying firm, but the Big Cedar Lodge and its owner Bass Pro are on Morgan's client list.

On the same day, Richard, who was speaker-elect at the time, also latched onto a $22.29 meal at the Candlestick Inn, with Ford Motor Company lobbyist Tony Reinhart footing the bill.

The wilderness luxury resort was not the only travel destination Richard had paid for by lobbyists in December, the Ethics Commission filing shows. On Dec. 9, lobbyist Rodney Boyd paid for travel and a hotel charge for an unspecified meeting representing Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal.

Richard also received a Christmas ham worth $20 from Smithfield Foods lobbyist Jewell Patek.

Hunter finished a distant second to Richard with $2,466.49 for the year, including just one gift during the last four months of the year and none in December.

Ed Emery, R-Lamar, finished third among the Joplin-area contingent with $1,639.80 in gifts, including $20.85 in the final month of 2008.

Bryan "Big Gun" Stevenson, R-Webb City, collected $1,134.71, including $24.50 in December.

Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, had $858.56, including $44.50 in December, and Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, trailed the locals, taking just $542.64 all year and no gifts in December.

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