Saturday, October 31, 2009

Newspaper Days available at IUniverse website

Book and e-book versions of my latest, Newspaper Days, are available from the publisher IUniverse. A preview from the book and ordering information can be found at this link.

The book costs $18.95, while the e-book sells for $6. The book is also available at the, Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble website, and should be available in the Joplin area sometime within the next couple of weeks.

Blunt: Health care bill could die under it own weight

In this appearance on Fox News, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt says the House healthcare bill costs too much and could "die under its own weight:"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Long: Free market approach needed for health care

In a news release issued today, Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long, R-Springfield, criticized Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's health care plan and said he favored a free market approach:

Today, Billy Long remarked upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 1,990 page health care proposal, saying, “Yesterday’s revised health care proposal released by Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just as bad as the original HR 3200. This bill does nothing but interfere with the relationship between patients and their physician. Government should not have a role in every part of our lives. Regrettably, it has become clear that liberal Democrats do not share this belief. All this bill will do is lead to rationed care, a decrease in physicians, and a massive increase to the already nearly $12 trillion national debt.”

He continued, “Instead of trying to force a bill that is 1,990 pages long and eight inches tall through the House next week, why not spread it out over a couple of weeks by having eight separate votes on one-inch bills? That would allow the public and members of Congress to take the time to read the legislation, debate all of the contents, and see what is really going on. If this bill were any good, the process would be transparent. Instead, the liberals are trying to use political chicanery to force their big-government agenda through Congress. I just hope they don’t decide to drop another several-hundred-page amendment the night before the vote like they did with cap and trade.”

Instead of the liberals’ government-centric approach, Billy supports free market measures that would reduce health care costs by creating tax credits to allow families to purchase health insurance that works for them, allowing state-to-state portability of coverage to create more competition, and allowing high-risk people who have difficulty getting insurance to pool together to purchase insurance. He also supports Small Business Health Plans, which would allow small businesses to pool together to purchase insurance, giving them the same negotiating power as larger corporations and allowing them to negotiate more-favorable rates. In addition, Billy supports focusing on integrating information technology into the health care system by digitizing records to reduce administrative costs, allow physicians to have ready access to important patient records, and make treatment more efficient.

Marymont: Time for Gannett to get its swagger back

Former Springfield News-Leader Editor Kate Marymont, now Gannett's community division's vice president for news, says it is time for the newspaper giant to get its "swagger" back:

The list of priorities, provided to the editors during a three-day gathering Sept. 15-17 at the company's Mclean, Va., headquarters, is below:

1. Improve Watchdog Journalism: Recognize the value of unique, revelatory journalism; review resources to ensure adequate allocation to watchdog work; experiment with delivery systems; and look for partnerships and other creative sources of watchdog content.

2. Reposition the Daily Newspaper: Recognize that the newspaper is not a breaking-news medium; Develop unique content tied to community interests and focused on delivering depth, context, analysis, perspective; Produce local content that differentiates us as a media organization; and "get our swagger back."

3. Reposition Our Web sites: recognize that our Web sites are the primary medium for breaking news; ensure the Web site is distinct from the newspaper; Address Web design, content, functionality and utility; Leverage the strengths of the medium; and explore consumer response to various paid content models and possible vendor partnerships.

4. Sunday Readership and Engagement: Create a content strategy to attract younger readers; Protect high-value content for loyal Boomer readers; Invest in sales and marketing resources to grow engagement in key demographics and geographic audiences: Leverage advertising opportunities around the special value of Sundays.

5. Be Strong Community Leaders: Protect our long tradition of helping our communities solve issues, set visions, right wrongs; Preserve strong editorial voices in print while reflecting our changing audiences; solidify our role in the center of digital community conversations by leveraging all possible platforms; Be forces for positive change, when appropriate.

The directives are for all of Gannett's daily newspapers, including the Springfield News-Leader, except for USA Today.

No mention on Branson Daily News site of Pete Newman heaering

The drama of a well-known Branson figure showing up late for a hearing on felony sex charges was covered completely by the Springfield news media, but as of this morning not one word can be found about the story on the Branson Daily News website.

Page one of he website has details on a Monopoly tournament, the Branson Haunted Adventure Park, and planning for a terrorist attack on the Branson airport.

The "breaking news" page, where the Pete Newman story would have made a nice fit, has no stories on it at all.

Since the news broke of Newman's arrest more than six weeks ago, the Daily News has run only one story about it.

Missouri Western letter praises that university's leadership, makes unfavorable comparison to Missouri Southern

If you want more proof that Bruce Speck's tenure as president has helped make a laughingstock out of Missouri Southern State University, you need look no further than a letter to the president and former president of Missouri Western printed in the university's newspaper, Griffon News. In a letter praising the quiet, effective leadership at that university, the following comparison was made to MSSU:

That was apparent to me in the fall of 2007, when their president of 25 years, Julio Leon, stepped down in the second year of a three-year contract, effective immediately, after some disagreements with its Board of Governors. Contrast that with Western where you, Dr. Scanlon, gave the university a year advance notice, ensuring we could take our time finding a replacement and not need an interim president. As a member of the selection committee, I was impressed by the professionalism of the search process, which included members visiting the campuses of finalists and bringing three candidates to Western for interviews. Southern did not employ such rigor and only ended up bringing one candidate to Joplin. That is not to imply MSSU President Bruce Speck was not a qualified candidate—indeed, he was one of our finalists before we chose you, Dr. Vartabedian—but many on campus probably felt like they were not given a choice. The situation has only deteriorated since then:

• Several programs, especially the International Studies program that is central to Southern’s state-mandated mission, have been severely cut.
• Faculty and staff pay has been frozen for two years at Southern.
• Opposition to Speck and long-time Board of Governors member Dwight Douglas was so strong that a blog (which garnered as many as 1,000 hits in one day) focusing on their shortcomings was created.
• Several high level administrators have resigned, including a vice president for academic affairs who resigned after only three weeks on the job.
• Southern’s faculty senate, outlining 23 criticisms of Speck for “failures of leadership, management, shared governance, judgment and public embarrassment,” overwhelmingly passed a vote of “no confidence.” A vote of the entire faculty will be held Nov. 2.
While such controversy might make the front pages of this newspaper a bit more interesting, I for one am glad we have had a level-headed Board of Governors and drama-free presidents like the two of you.

A look at Springfield media coverage of Pete Newman hearing

The Springfield news media offered the following coverage of former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman's hearing on felony sex charges Thursday:

KSFX- Video



Springfield News-Leader

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Detailed explanation provided for Newman's late court appearance

The always reliable Crime Scene Blog has a complete account of former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman's failure to show up on time for his court hearing this morning:

Newman's attorney Tom Carver attempted to explain to Judge Williams that it was his fault that his client was late....but at that point it was already too late as Williams had signed a warrant for Newman's arrest.
Newman who had been free on $50,000 bond is now being held in the Taney County jail on an additional $10,000 CASH ONLY BOND......and a $90,000 signature bond.

Newman is charged with four felony crimes involving sex with underage boys.

Cynthia Davis: Parents who homeschool or put their children in private schools are giving their children's education more thought

In her latest column, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O"Fallon, offers her views on education, which mainly amount to the idea that taxpayers should foot the bill for private school education and homeschooling since parents who opt for those choices are thinking more about their children's education anyway. The column is printed below:

Last week was the 50th anniversary celebration of Citizens for Educational Freedom (CEF). This was so important because it brought out a diverse group of people all committed to one goal---helping parents to help their children achieve their maximum potential. This organization is committed to promote the primary rights of parents to pursue freedom of choice, justice and quality in education for all. These economically difficult times should inspire us toward vigilance to assure our tax dollars are being used in the most equitable manner.

As the mother of seven children, I can attest to the reality that all children have a variety of educational needs and responses to different environments. It is shortsighted to assume that what is best for one is best for all. Children need to be considered individually and put into the learning structure that will allow them to thrive. In addition, many come from homes where their parents cannot afford any other option besides public school. We need to consider the whole person and support whatever options will be of greatest benefit to the students. The best answer is to allow the parents to decide what will help their child the most.

When families feel it is best to put their children into an alternative educational setting, they receive no credit or appreciation for having made such sacrifices. Private school or homeschooling requires far more parental time, transportation expenses and tuition or curriculum acquisition with no assistance from the government, even thought these parents also subsidize the government public schools through property taxes. This structure can make alternative education choices prohibitive to parents who are on the lower end of the economic ladder. Citizens for Educational Freedom believes that parents, regardless of income, should decide where their children will attend school. Through programs that allow choice, all families will be treated equally, competition among schools will be fair, and the quality of education will improve for everyone.

Instead of perceiving children’s education to be the job of the schools, we need to see that it is the parent’s job to assure their children are educated and the schools exist to assist in that goal.

(Photo: Cynthia Davis is shown with Mae Duggan, founder of Citizens for Educational Freedom and Mrs. Duggan's husband, Martin.)

Pete Newman finally shows; preliminary hearing set for Nov. 17

Former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman showed up late today for a bond appearance hearing, arriving with his lawyer, Tom Carver, Springfield, after the judge had issued an arrest warrant and set Newman's bond at $100,000

After the arrival, bond was reset at $10,000 cash and $90,000 signature bond with the bond signed by Newman and his wife, according to online court records.

Newman's preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 17.

He is charged with four felony sex crimes involving underage boys, according to court records.

Pete Newman fails to show for hearing, arrest warrant issued

An arrest warrant was issued for former Kanakuk Kamp counselor Pete Newman after he failed to appear for a hearing today in Taney County Circuit Court.

Newman's bond was increased to $100,000, according to online court records. It had been $50,000.

Newman is charged with four felony sex crimes involving underaged boys. More information came be found in this post from earlier today.

UPDATE: Newman arrives late with lawyer.

Dec. 18 hearing set in Jeff Roe libel suit

After a long wait, a 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18 hearing date has been set in the libel suit by St. Charles County commissioner Joe Brazil against Republican operative Jeff Roe.

Brazil filed the initial libel suit against Roe in March 2007, as detailed in the March 30, 2007 Turner Report. Brazil took the action after Roe attacked him in two posts on "The Source" blog just before the August 2006 State Senate primary, which was won by Brazil's opponent, Scott Rupp.

The first attack, printed Aug. 1, 2006, accused Brazil of being drunk and partying loudly. On Aug. 4, Roe printed the post Brazil found the most egregious, which Roe removed from his blog months after the lawsuit was filed:

According to, in 1982, Brazil was attempting to pull off a senior class prank at McCluer North High School in Florissant, Missouri. Brazil plan was to deposit thousands of pounds of sand into the school’s faculty parking lot. Brazil even owned a dump truck that could be used to aid in the prank.

After quite a few beers, Brazil and his buddies loaded up the dump truck with sand and drove to the school. One of Brazil’s friends, Norval Pierce sat on top of the bed of the truck while Brazil dumped the sand. Brazil drove slowly while dumping, attempting to adequately spread the sand in the parking lot. As Brazil was driving, the truck jumped forward, throwing Pierce through the frame of the truck. Not realizing what had happened, Brazil continued to drive while drunk and dumping sand. Brazil proceeded to crush Pierce under the truck.

So now we have another instance of Brazil’s irresponsibility and not owning up to his mistakes. What else do we need to know Joe?

Roe's version of the story was disputed, not only by Brazil, but by others, including the Florissant police officer who made the stop and said no alcohol was involved, that it was just an accident, according to the O'Fallon Watchdog website.

Roe filed a countersuit at one point, but later dismissed the action.

Newspaper Days available from Barnes & Noble

Because of a snafu by the publishing company, it appears it will still be about two weeks before my new book, Newspaper Days, is available locally, but it is now on sale at the Barnes & Noble website.

The book, which covers my time as a reporter and editor for various southwest Missouri newspapers, is also available at and the Books-A-Million website.

Former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman court appearance scheduled for today

Former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman, facing four felony sex charges involving underage boys, will be back in court today, according to Taney County Circuit Court online records.

Newman is scheduled for a 10 a.m. bond appearance hearing and "criminal setting," according to Newman is being represented by Springfield attorney Tom Carver. Newman has been free on $50,000 bond after waiving his arraignment and pleading not guilty Sept. 15.

The allegations against Newman were outlined in Taney Count court documents. From the Sheriff's Department's investigative report:

"Between 2005 and 2008, Pete Newman became a close friend of his by attending family dinners, sleepovers, bible studies, taking vacations together and writing letters. Pete would hold one-on-one sessions with (the boy) in Pete's hot tub (at Pete's residence) and would request they be naked. Pete would discuss life's struggles with (him) and talk about masturbation. Pete would explain that if (the boy) would masturbate with him in his hot tub then there would be no lust and therefore (the boy) would not be sinning."

The boy told Roberts he and Newman masturbated together 10 times over a four-year period.

The sex went further than masturbation with another teenager, according to the report. After beginning with the masturbation sessions with the 13-year-old, the report said, "Pete started masturbating (the boy) and (the boy) would then masturbate Pete." That led to oral sex when the boy turned 15.

Newman allegedly used the hot tub trick on a 14-year-old, again resulting in mutual masturbation sessions.

When the Sheriff's Department began contacting former campers from other states, they heard more disturbing stories. Parents from Tennessee told the deputy their son, who was 14 at the time, reported engaging in the same type of activity with Newman.

Roberts described Newman's tactics, saying Newman became close to boys aged 11 to 15, hung out with them, gained their parents' trust, then beginning slowly with the hot tub and leading to sexual experiences. Roberts referred to it as "the grooming process" used by sexual offenders.

More charges may be in the offing against Newman, according to the Crime Scene blog, which recently quoted Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell as saying that tips have been received concerning more crimes that may have been committed by Newman.

It also appears likely that Newman and Kanakuk will soon be involved in civil lawsuits. As noted in the Oct. 26 Turner Report, a national law firm, Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris is looking for alleged victims:

From the law firm's website:

According to court documents, on June 8, 2009, Joe White received a signed letter from Newman, confessing to multiple acts of sexual misconduct with former campers and offering an apology. Shortly before the September warrant was issued, Joe White made a statement that it had been known since March 2009 that Newman allegedly “engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with adolescent boys, including some who had been Kanakuk Kampers.” There are allegations that the camp organization has known about Newman’s improper conduct for many years and failed to acknowledge it. Sexual abuse lawyers at Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris are accepting cases involving accusations of inappropriate conduct or possible sexual abuse at Kanakuk camps. All inquiries will be handled in a discreet and confidential manner.

If you or your child were victimized by Pete Newman, we want to help. When you contact us, you will immediately be able to speak with one of our experienced lawyers, and your conversation will be confidential. We have experience in these cases dealing with very emotional and private situations. We can help you. For a discreet and confidential consultation please contact Ernest Cory or Tara Henderson at or call toll-free (800) 852-6299.


(Randy Turner's book, Newspaper Days, is available at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blunt criticizes Obama for H1N1 vaccine problems

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt blames President Barack Obama for the delays in getting the H1N1 vaccine to Americans:

“Overseas manufacturers, particularly in Europe, are creating H1N1 vaccines at a much faster rate because they don’t contend with the same inflexible regulatory environment that our domestic manufacturers face,” Blunt said in a statement released by his office. “Only now, as flu season hits, do we find out that we don’t have enough H1N1 vaccines to treat the most vulnerable Americans.”

The Missouri Democratic Party noted that Blunt was one of those who voted against the bill providing funding for the vaccine.

Crowell proposes sending tax credits through the legislative appropriations process

In this Missouri Chamber of Commerce video, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau suggests sending tax credits through the legislative appropriations process:

Nixon answers question on cutbacks

In these YouTube videos from Jason Rosenbaum of Capitol Calling, Gov. Jay NIxon answer media questions concerning the $200 million in budget cuts he announced today:

Nixon outlines $200 million in cuts

Gov. Jay Nixon announced today the elimination of 450 part-time positions and 200 full-time positions among the cuts he has made to the state's budget. The video was provided by Jason Rosenbaum of Capitol Calling:

Second stop on Speck listening tour held

The second stop in Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck's listening tour was held Tuesday:

The full faculty's no-confidence vote for Speck is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Newspaper Days available at Books-A-Million website

My new book, Newspaper Days, is now available at the Books-A-Million website. It can also be ordered through the Joplin Books-A-Million store and picked up there to save on shipping charges.

The book, which details my times at the Newton County News, Lamar Democrat, Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald, Lamar Press, and Carthage Press, is also available at, and can soon be purchased through other internet sites and at several local retail outlets.

Insurance interests pours $50,000 into House Republican committee

Missouri Professionals Mutual, St. Louis, contributed $50,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee, according to a 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Jeff Smith objects to presentence investigation report

With just a little more than three weeks before his sentencing on federal election conspiracy charges, former Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, is not liking the direction things are going.

In a sealed document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Smith objected to the presentence investigation report. That would indicate the government is planning to recommend more prison time than Smith is wanting to serve.

Smith resigned from the Senate Aug. 25, the same day he pleaded guilty to the charges which involve running a smear campaign against Russ Carnahan, his opponent in the 2004 Congressional primary.

In a self-serving statement issued to his supporters that day, Smith softpedaled his actions, while concentrating heavily on his accomplishments in office.

Details revealed in court documents showed that Smith not only went along with a coverup of the activities of his operative, Milton Ohlsen during the primary campaign, but he also was willing to throw the blame on one of his former campaign aides who had died earlier. From the Aug. 25 Turner Report:

Not knowing that his conversation was being overheard by the feds, Sen. Jeff Smith, who resigned his seat and pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice, tried to talk his co-conspirator, Rep. Steve Brown, into blaming everything on the late Artie Harris.

During a June 30 meeting at Starbuck's Cafe in Clayton, Smith told Brown, "Can you put it on Arnie?" Smith asked. "If you can just put it on Arnie." Arnie Harris, a key member of Jeff Smith's 2004 Congressional campaign, died shortly after being interviewed by the FEC about accusations, since proven to be factual, that Smith's campaign worked with Milton "Skip" Ohlsen on the direct mailing of attack literature against the eventual winner of the Democratic primary, Russ Carnahan.

Smith continued to take that cowardly approach during another meeting with Brown and 2004 campaign treasurer and co-conspirator Nick Adams June 30 at Smith's home, again with the FBI listening in.

Smith and Adams tag-teamed Brown to get him to lay the entire blame on Harris. Adams said, "I'm alive and Artie's dead. Can was emphasize this was Artie's deal?"

Smith added, "Artie would totally want us to throw him under the bus here."

Smith's cover-up was detailed in other conversations that were monitored by the government, as noted in another Aug. 25 Turner Report post:

Smith, not realizing his conversation was being monitored by an FBI wiretap June 1 confirmed his connection to an unsuccessful backdoor attempt to derail Russ Carnahan's successful primary bid for the House seat being vacated by Richard Gephardt.

"Did I know (Milton Ohlsen) was going to do something/" Smith told his co-conspirator, Rep. Steve Brown during the telephone conversation. "Yeah, I mean I thought he was going to do something. If I didn't think he was going to do something, hen I would have said to Artie (Harris) and Nick (Adams) don't waste your time talking to that guy."

During that conversation, which was included in documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Smith acknowledged he knew Brown had paid Ohlsen money for the illegal mailing:

"I vividly remember somebody being like well (Ohlsen) wants to do this, and I was like, well, f------ let him do it, sweet. And they're like, well, he's going to need the money to do it, he'll need to get it from your donors, and I said, like hopefully, my donors will give it to him."

The court documents indicate another conversation between Smith and Brown, this one face to face was also monitored. During that conversation, Smith talked about what evidence the FBI had against him "I don't think he (Ohlsen) taped any phone conversations with me. I mean, I pray he didn't. I may have had a phone conversation with him where I acknowledged what he was doing."

Smith then admitted he was fully aware of what Ohlsen was doing. "I'm assuming that I broke the law by having knowledge of what (Ohlsen) was going to do. I don't know how they could prova that."

Smith then told Brown to lie to investigators. "Don't do anything stupid," he said. "Stupid would be telling them that things that are happening in your brain."

Smith said when he was interviewed he would be "Ninety percent honest."

Smith's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 17 in federal court in St. Louis.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Speck to faculty: Don't blame me; I'm just doing what the board tells me

Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck's first meeting with faculty reminds me of Groucho Mark's description of a fight in the movie "Monkey Business"- "Bobbing and weaving, nice work if you can get it."

For $180,000 a year and more fringe benefits than you can shake a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time (another Groucho line), Speck tells faculty he is simply an expensive megaphone for Dwight Douglas and the Board of Governors:

In response to a majority of the questions, Speck said the Board of Governors has made the decisions or will be making them. He said his role has been to provide guidance on the pros and cons of an issue so that board members have a reasonable foundation on which to act. He also said he is making recommendations to the board.

He was asked whether he would ever take an adversarial position with the board if he disagreed with something it did.

“I will give them my best judgment of a situation,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether I can live with it or can’t live with it.”

The lines are all reminiscent of Groucho, but it would be far preferable if Speck would emulate Harpo.

Richard: Contribution limits should not be a part of ethics reform

Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, believes the only ethics reforms needed are a few minor changes in current law- and that one change that is not needed a restoration of campaign contribution limits.

In an interview with the Joplin Globe, Richard seemed to indicate he will stand as an obstacle in the way of any major ethical reforms in Missouri in 2010:

Richard said he believes any legislative proposal should address “closing some loopholes.”

“But people should be able to give what they want,” he said. “It should be transparent and direct, to the campaign and not through committees.”

Reader offers views on Bruce Speck's listening tour

A reader sent me these thoughts about the first day of Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck's much-awaited listening tour. The name of the author has been withheld:

I watched the news tonight with interest to hear of Dr. Bruce Speck’s first ‘Faculty listening’ meeting. The Television channel that I watched featured Dr. Speck’s response to questioning about the International Mission and he stated that it had to be evaluated in terms of ‘How does it benefit every student on campus?”. On the face of things this seems to be a reasonable request, until one actually takes a moment to think about what a University does.

Let’s assume for a moment that this ‘every student’ filter is the correct method to evaluate programs offered by Missouri Southern State University.

What about the majors that students get. Not every student gets the same major so perhaps we should eliminate all courses related to a student actually getting a Major. So the four schools would all have to be eliminated (save some money on all those pesky Deans and Faculty). All that would be left is the general education curriculum – the first two years of a student’s academic career at MSSU. Isn’t that the definition of a Junior College – Crowder. They provide the general education courses that are required of all students.
What of the proposed new Medical school – since presumably not all MSSU students would become Doctors it doesn’t pass that muster either. So we can quit fooling ourselves about this since it won’t ever become a reality anyway.

So, what would MSSU actually have since:
Not all students receive financial aid
Not all students drive and park at the University
Not all students live in the dorms and eat at food service
Not all students get sick and need the medical services clinic
Not all students use the library (ask any professor or the professional library staff that question)
Not all students play sports
In fact, not all students do anything except pay tuition, oops, the Honors program doesn’t pay that and that sure isn’t all students, not even if you throw in all those non-paying athletes.

It might be a very interesting analysis to compute the cost of each sports team and the actual number of students who benefit (This was asked of the International Mission) and just as the requirement was stated there – these sports program must either pay for themselves or make a profit. (A doubtful proposition since the Int’l Mission was cut by over $ 200,000 and the money given to the Sports programs which had gone over budget by that amount). Dr Speck is the one who created this lightning rod, not anyone else. I'm not advocating getting rid of sports, they, like every other program which does NOT BENEFIT EVERY STUDENT ON CAMPUS is valuable and part of the University.

The purpose of a University is to offer differing course work leading to a variety of Majors to serve students learning needs for their differing careers. When Dr. Speck begins to say things like ‘every student’, ‘cost effective’, or ‘fair’ he is about to state something that simply leads to further doubt about his credibility and honesty.

Is the International Mission of benefit to all students? It has a created a diverse campus which provides for rich experiences both in and out of the classroom.
It has created a faculty that provides learning experiences in the classroom that extend beyond the horizon of just SW Missouri and provides the basis for integrating a students learning with the extended world beyond the borders of Missouri and even the United States. It makes them (students) more competitive, self confident, and enables them to view life in terms that apply critical thinking and evaluation from a richer and more informed viewpoint. Yes, just like ‘Go Lions – Beat Pitt” does.

Mild weather cuts profits for Empire District Electric

Mild summer temperatures were a blessing for us, but not for Empire District Electric Company. The following news release was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

At the Board of Directors meeting of The Empire District Electric Company held today, the Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.32 per share on common stock payable December 15, 2009, to holders of record as of December 1, 2009.

The Company, an operator of regulated electric, gas and water utilities, announced today the results for the quarter and twelve months ended September 30, 2009.


The Company reported consolidated earnings for the third quarter of 2009 of $14.8 million, or $0.43 per share, compared with 2008 same quarter earnings of $20.2 million, or $0.60 per basic share and $0.59 per fully diluted share. Earnings for the twelve months ended September 30, 2009 were $41.1 million, or $1.20 per share. This compares to earnings of $31.6 million, or $0.95 per share, for the 2008 twelve month period.
Extremely mild weather during the third quarter lowered kilowatt hour sales and resulting electric revenues compared to the 2008 third quarter. The Company estimates cooler summer temperatures may have decreased electric revenues by almost $10.8 million compared to the 2008 third quarter. According to statistics provided by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, the 2009 third quarter was one of the coolest summer periods in modern recorded history for the Company’s service territory.
The Company announced today that it has increased the aggregate offering amount of its equity distribution program of its common stock from $60,000,000 to $120,000,000. The Company has sold $30.6 million of common stock utilizing this program since its inception in February 2009.

Hartzler: Democrats using defense spending to advance gay agenda

Former Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, a candidate for the Fourth District Congressional seat currently held by Ike Skelton, issued the following news release attacking the use of defense spending bill to advance "the agenda of the homosexual rights lobby":

Instead of funding American troops as a national obligation, congressional Democrats are again using defense spending legislation as a place to hide their pet political projects.
Congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler said: “This is a terrible example of liberals using the good will of our men and women in uniform to advance their radical agenda. It’s wrong.

“First, by Congressman Skelton’s decision, the House used military funding to make a backroom deal for an agenda of the homosexual rights lobby. Now, House leaders are said to be extending the disreputable game of ‘using the troops,’ to create a new House seat for the District of Columbia.

“The way to stop the partisan political games with the U.S. military is to replace go-along liberals like Congressman Skelton, who has lived in Washington DC for 33 years, with new thinking and new blood. If elected, I will support the military 100 percent. I will never play politics with troop funding by using defense legislation for unrelated partisan political payoffs.”
Hartzler, a Republican, said the possibility of the new plan to force the military to haul water for liberal partisan politics was mentioned last Thursday by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

As with Skelton’s recent acquiescence to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and homosexual lobbyists, the new bill would be included in a defense bill during final negotiations with the Senate. The earlier Skelton-arranged deal expanded federal law to create a caste-system for victims of certain violent crimes giving more justice to some based on the perpetrator’s intent.
This Skelton-managed special rights bill, voted on party lines October 8, was sought by homosexual lobby groups. It came from a closed-door House-Senate deal to include the special-rights language in the annual defense spending bill, as a "rider" and "special provision." It sets special federal penalties in violent crimes where sexual orientation is claimed as a motive. Hartzler believes in equal justice for all, with strict enforcement against all violent criminals.

The latest liberal move to use the troops as hostage to liberal politics would use defense appropriations to create a new Washington, D.C. vote in the House along with a second new seat created for Utah.

Ruestman outlines plans for next legislative session

In her latest capitol report, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, outlines her plans for the next legislative session:

Winter is quickly approaching and that means it is time to start considering legislation for the coming session. As your elected Representative I believe it is important to communicate my priorities. This week I’d like to share some legislation I have been working on and will continue to work on in the next legislative session beginning in January.

Property Tax Reform – It is time to stand up for our seniors and home owners. For too long, rising assessments and taxes have made our homes unaffordable. My proposed reforms would make property taxes more predictable and manageable. It really bothers me that the government meant to protect our rights is forcing seniors out of homes they’ve had for 30 plus years.

State Sovereignty – The stimulus package is just the latest effort from the federal government to control the states. I want the State of Missouri to remind Washington that we are a sovereign and independent state. We do not have to and we will not continue to cow to Washington’s wishes.

Grandparents’ Rights – It is well-known that children are generally going to be in a more loving and nurturing environment with their own family members. Last year we passed legislation giving grandparents the first opportunity to take their grandchildren in the event they are removed from their parents’ home. There are still abuses in the system and I want to continue to correct those.

Expanding Castle Doctrine – In 2007 we passed Castle Doctrine applying to your home, dwelling or vehicle. I’d like to go back now and expand that to include your property. We need to put the criminals on notice that if they invade our property, the owner can assume they are there to harm them and act accordingly.

Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit – Over 70% of Missouri’s firefighters are volunteer. This tax credit would offer $180 - $360 in tax credits for firefighters reaching a certain threshold of training. Tax credits are hard to pass in times of economic stress, but I believe our firefighters deserve this for the sacrifices they make each and every day to protect our families.

Post-Dispatch represents Missouri in top 25 circulation for Sunday papers

Only one Missouri newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ranked in the top 25 for circulation for Sunday editions, according to statistics from the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

The Post-Dispatch ranked 15th with a circulation of 401,427, a drop of 5.23 percent from the previous year.

Accused killers of Carthage couple to be tried in Jasper County

Judge Gayle Crane ruled this morning that an out-of-town jury will be impaneled to hear the murder trial of Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield. The two men are charged with the brutal October 2008 murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage.

The judge delayed a decision on severing the trials until closer to trial date. She asked the attorneys for both sides to provide dates between April and September 2010 when they will have conflicts to help in setting the trial date.

Another motions hearing has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 7.

Hearing set today in Carthage murders

A decision could be made this morning on whether the accused killers of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage will be tried together or separately.

Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, are scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. this morning in Jasper County Circuit Court. The men are charged with first degree murder, armed criminal action, and burglary in connection with the October 2008 deaths of the Sheldons, owners of the Old Cabin Shop in Carthage.

Lawyers looking for victims of former Kanakuk director Pete Newman

The countdown is on to see when the first lawsuit is filed in connection with the sex crimes alleged against former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman.

At least one national law firm, Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, is advertising for victims.

According to the website:

According to court documents, on June 8, 2009, Joe White received a signed letter from Newman, confessing to multiple acts of sexual misconduct with former campers and offering an apology. Shortly before the September warrant was issued, Joe White made a statement that it had been known since March 2009 that Newman allegedly “engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with adolescent boys, including some who had been Kanakuk Kampers.” There are allegations that the camp organization has known about Newman’s improper conduct for many years and failed to acknowledge it. Sexual abuse lawyers at Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris are accepting cases involving accusations of inappropriate conduct or possible sexual abuse at Kanakuk camps. All inquiries will be handled in a discreet and confidential manner.

If you or your child were victimized by Pete Newman, we want to help. When you contact us, you will immediately be able to speak with one of our experienced lawyers, and your conversation will be confidential. We have experience in these cases dealing with very emotional and private situations. We can help you. For a discreet and confidential consultation please contact Ernest Cory or Tara Henderson at or call toll-free (800) 852-6299.

The next hearing in Newman's case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in Taney County Circuit Court.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A capsule summary of the new book, Newspaper Days

I have always been amused at Bill and Hillary Clinton's complaints about being the victims of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

As far as I can tell, they made it through the White House days just fine, even surviving the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I, on the other hand, actually did lose my job because of a vast right-wing conspiracy of sorts, which I outline in several chapters of my new book, Newspaper Days, which is on sale at and which will be available at other internet sites and at Joplin-area retail outlets in the next few weeks.

Following is a review of each of the 26 chapters in the 232-page book:

"Newspaper Days" takes me from my first journalism job in 1977 with the Newton County News in Granby until I stepped into the little trailer outside of Diamond High School to begin my teaching career in the fall of 1999.

The following is a breakdown of the chapters in the book

1. Goodbye Carthage Press- The book begins with Ralph Bush firing me on May 17, 1999.

2. A Little Background- My first job at the Newton County News, how I landed it, ran a stopsign and was involved in an auto accident the same day, the murder of Barbara McNeely, being fired, landing a job as Lamar Democrat sports editor, losing that job due to budget comebacks, taking the job as editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald and the closing of that newspaper. (It's a long chapter, but it's broken up into smaller parts.)

3. Returning to the Newton County News- I return to the Newton County News, working for Emery Styron, get another chance as editor and deal with some fascinating people, including City Marshal Duane Beaver, Mayor Bob Snyder, and my cartoonist Scott White, my first interview for a teaching job, my showdown with some drug dealers who wanted to do me bodily harm, getting fired through the U. S. Mail, and then being rehired at the Lamar Democrat.

4. Lamar Democrat Revisited- How Tommy Wilson and Dave Farnham ruined the Democrat as a daily and turned it into a weekly newspaper and how Doug Davis saved the Democrat from going out of business, the return of the Democrat to local ownership, the younger reporters I worked with, Murder at the 71 Motel and leaving the Democrat to go to The Carthage Press.

5. The Early Days in Carthage- How I almost left a couple of months into the job to return to the Democrat because I didn't have anything to do, the Webb City Police Department investigation, the Nancy Cruzan case, my battles with the late Bill Denney, when he was sports editor,

6. The Transition from Reporter to Editor- How I found out about my promotion weeks before Jim Farley or Neil Campbell finally told me, teen drinking, the Joplin Globe reporter who accused me of making things up with the Webb City police investigation (and how she had to eat crow when everything I wrote about was testified to under oath in a civil suit), eavesdropping on closed sessions of the Jasper City Council and Lockwood Board of Education, the rise of Bubs Hohulin, the state senate race between Marvin Singleton and James Spradling, Bill Webster and Roy Blunt battle for the GOP nomination for governor, and finally becoming managing editor.

7. Taking Charge of the Newsroom- Starting with Amy Lamb, Randee Kaiser, Ron Graber, and Jack Harshaw as my staff, the Doug Ringler murder, how Amy Lamb energized the Press staff with brilliant coverage of Terry Cupp's preliminary hearing and with other strong features,

8. Nothing Succeeds LIke Excess- Early stories during my time as managing editor including Amy Lamb's coverage of the execution of the man who murdered Harold and Melba Wampler of Jasper, Ron Graber becomes a hero in his hometown of Freeman, South Dakota, following the arrest of Lamar con artist Pat Graham, Randee Kaiser leaves vacation to cover Carthage developments in the Oklahoma City bombing case, my Sports Talk columns on former Lamar volleyball coach Armando DeLaRosa, who murdered his wife and then killed himself, and on Seneca football coach Alvin Elbert and his friendship with eight-year-old drunk driving victim Abby Phipps

9. The Lamar Press- This chapter details our 49-week adventure in printing the best weekly newspaper this area has ever seen, including columnists Nancy Hughes, Kim Stahl, Katie Gilkey, Doug Oakes, Susan Davis-Mabe, and Marvin VanGilder, Cathy Bland's trip to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington to visit her father, Lamar war hero Howard Layne Jr., who was killed in Vietnam, the Leigh Hughes story from first kiss to lasting love, and how we closed the newspaper in style with Cait Purinton's investigation into the Lamar Guest House.

10. The Sale of The Carthage Press- American Publishing Company buys the newspaper from Thomson and we come under the regional management of the Cope family of Neosho, bookkeeper Carolyn Baker embezzles $42,000 and costs Jim Farley his job (and then sues us for vacation pay) How American Publishing became Liberty Group Publishing, using a process that later put the company CEO in prison, and then how Liberty became GateHouse Media

11. Red Oak II- Artist Lowell Davis recreates his hometown Red Oak three miles outside of Carthage, then in a weak moment, burns his studio. Eventually, former Carthage resident Terry Reed reaches an agreement to buy Red Oak II, and attempts to attract investors through an event called the American Heritage Festival, The speakers' lineup for the festival is a who's who of conspiracy theories in the U. S.

12. A Storm Brewing in Carthage- As Jasper County officials become concerned about the American Heritage Festival, Terry Reed takes his case to the people through the Mornin' Mail

13. The American Heritage Festival- With The Press at its lowest point, Amy Lamb, Tricia Gould and Brian Webster had left, Ron Graber and I team with three interns, Jana Blankenship, Brooke Pyle, and Marla Hinkle, to cover Janet Kavandi's space shuttle flight, the KOM League Reunion, and eventually the festival.

14. And Those Nuts...- The Kansas City Star makes it look as though Carthage is a hotbed of racism, and I write the column that marked the beginning of the end of my newspaper career, Lowell Davis decides not to sell to Terry Reed, I hear Reed tell a radio talk show host that he is suing me for libel, the Globe and the Mornin' Mail beat me on the story.

15. Monday Morning Coming Down- The details of the lawsuit, how we handled it in the pages of The Press

16. Our Response to the Libel Suit- Ralph Bush pens an answer to the Reed lawsuit, I dig up new information about Reed's past lawsuits and the background of some of those who spoke at the American Heritage Festival

17. Moving Forward- I am allowed to add Jo Ellis, John Hacker, and Rick Rogers to the Press staff, coverage of the death of Congressman Gene Taylor and Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hobson of Lamar, who died when the U. S. embassy at Kenya was bombed, Rick Rogers and Ron Graber redesign The Press, The American Heritage Festival receives national coverage in a far right wing magazine. Liberty Group Publishing does not contact a lawyer, the Kansas City Star's attorney launches a full-frontal assault on Terry Reed,

18. All the Way to the White House- Terry Reed says the American Heritage Festival lawsuit will take him all the way to the White House, uncovering a conspiracy against him and others involved in the festival, Ralph Bush tells me to make a move that eventually costs me my job.

19. Number Five in the State- This chapter details how The Press was the number five newspaper in the state in the Missouri Press Association Gold Cup contest in 1998, thanks to the hard work of Stacy Rector, a high school senior whose work on our Teen Tuesday section won the press the Community Service Award, Work by Ron Graber, Cait Purinton, and Brian Webster was also rewarded, I find out that the judge almost ruled against us in the Terry Reed lawsuit

20. Abandoned- The Press runs a weeklong series on drunk driving that receives much acclaim, I receive a bill for nearly $8,000 for attorney fees in the Reed lawsuit,

21. The Beginning of the End- Ralph Bush puts me on probation for, among other things, having too much local news on page one, Ralph decides to fire John Hacker, Rick Rogers decides to leave The Press for a job at Missouri Southern, Jennifer Martin celebrates 30 years at The Press, though her departure would come only a few months after mine

22. The New Regime- Rick Rogers and Ron Graber replace me as managing editors of The Press, Ralph Bush fights to keep me from getting unemployment, I become paranoid about Rick Rogers' possible role in my departure, this old war horse is put out to pasture

23. Third in the State and Nobody Knew It- The Press was beaten only by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the 1999 MPA contest, but no one at the Press realized it. THe newspaper wins first place awards for community service, the drunk driving series, investigaative reporting (the drunk driving series) and best feature story (written by teenager Stacy Rector), but plays up its wins for sports coverage and design, the American Journalism Review looks into my firing, Terry Reed drops the lawsuit against me, and later against The Press, I discover the real reason why I was fired

24. Looking to the Future- The Joplin Globe tries to take advantage of my firing,

25. Newspaper Job Possibilities- I talk to Jim Farley, the Siloam Springs newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader and Neosho Post about jobs. The Nevada Daily Mail hires me to sit around and wait until the managing editor is fired and I can take over, I interview for teaching jobs at Webb City, Diamond, and East Newton, but get passed over, I have to choose between taking the managing editor job at Miami, Oklahoma, or being a substitute teacher for a year. Another teaching job opens up and I have to make a final decision on whether to stick with journalism or teaching.

26. School Days- I become the shortest teacher in the Diamond Middle School Language Arts Department (I'm slightly under five-nine, the women were both six feet tall) I found myself surrounded at Diamond by many familiar faces. My teaching career begins.

That is just a capsule summary of what is included in the book. I would guess that anyone who lived through those times will see some things they had totally forgotten about, or find out information they had never heard before.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mayer: New DNA law making a positive mark

In his latest capitol report, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, notes a southwest Missouri case as an example that a new DNA law passed by the legislature is already paying dividends:

The General Assembly’s expansion this year of the state’s DNA profiling system to enhance state law enforcement’s ability to solve crimes is already making a significant difference within just two months of the bill’s passage.

On Aug. 28, the governor signed House Bill 152, which requires DNA samples to be taken from anyone 17 years of age or older who is arrested — not just convicted — of violent crimes, burglaries and sex offenses. To protect individuals’ civil liberties, lawmakers also took measures to ensure that if the charges are dropped after the person is arrested, the DNA sample would be destroyed and all DNA records expunged. Missouri is reportedly the 21st state to institute similar legislation.
The new DNA law is already making a positive difference in our state. The first case resulting in a criminal charge being filed as a result of the new law recently occurred in southwest Missouri, where law enforcement officers were able to match a DNA sample taken from a 17-year-old arrested in a recent break-in to blood left at the scene of an earlier unsolved burglary in the area. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, its crime labs have also matched three other DNA profiles obtained from arrestees to unsolved crimes since the expanded DNA law took effect.

You may recall that in 2004 Missouri passed a crime-fighting bill that requires all convicted felons in Missouri to submit DNA samples. Since that law was passed, the program has provided investigators with around 2,500 hits. More than 220 homicide investigations and 540 sexual assault cases have been aided by the expansion of the law. The new legislation is expected to build upon the program’s success and lead to the arrest of many more criminals who have so far managed to keep their identities secret.

I’m very pleased to see Missouri’s new DNA law already working to fight crime and provide more protections for our citizens. And as we have learned through increasing frequency from state and national headlines, DNA profiling has proven most effective in capturing criminals and, just as importantly, exonerating innocent people.

Globe owners shut down Oklahoma newspaper

Community Newspapers Holding, Inc., owners of the Joplin Globe, have shut down the twice-weekly Midwest City Sun in Oklahoma. The newspaper had been in business for nearly 30 years.

Criminal motion hearing in Carthage double-murder case set for Monday

A motions hearing in the murder case against Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Winans and Laurin are charged with the October 2008 murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon, Carthage, owners of the Old Cabin Shop. The two men are charged with first degree murder, armed criminal action, and burglary.

Blunt outlines differences between GOP, Democrats on health

During this speech given Wednesday on the House floor, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt outlines differences between Republicans and Democrats in the ongoing health care debate:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Strip club killer's mother, sister enter guilty pleas

The mother and sister of death row inmate Richard Lee Tabler, the Killeen, Texas, strip club killer, pleaded gulity this week in a Texas court to sneaking in contraband to Tabler,

The contraband in question was buying minutes for a smuggled cell phone that Tabler used to make a threatening call to a state senator:

Gina DeBottis, director of the Huntsville-based Special Prosecutions Unit that handles prison crimes, said Lorraine Tabler, 61, and Kristina Martinez, 36, pleaded guilty in a Polk County state court and received a sentence of 10 years deferred adjudication.

Under that sentence, both women will remain on probation for 10 years and will have their record cleared ofd the charges if they do not commit new crimes in the meantime, officials said.

Tabler and Timothy Doan Payne, an East Newton High School graduate, were convicted of killing two people connected to the Teazers strip club in Killeen. Payne is serving a life sentence.

Link to "Newspaper Days" featured on this page

A link to's page for my new book, Newspaper Days can be found on the right-hand side, as well as links to the pages for my previous books, The Turner Report, Devil's Messenger, and Small Town News.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Icet names Ruestman, Merritt 7th District co-chairs

Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, has named Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Greene County Sheriff Jack Merritt as the Seventh District co-chairmen of his campaign for the Republican nomination for state auditor.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post-Dispatch editorial: Missouri ethics laws are not serious

The fallout continues from the Kansas City Star's series on corruption in the Missouri legislature. In an editorial today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch claims Missouri ethics laws are not serious:

Speaker Richard, however, is concerned; he's now talking about legislation to "reinforce the seriousness" of ethics laws.

That would be fine if Missouri had serious laws. Here's a clue: If the House speaker can be a political consultant, your laws aren't serious. If lobbyists pay for your Christmas parties and your working dinners, your laws aren't serious.

The state needs tough new laws, including strict campaign contribution limits; a ban on using party committees to launder contributions and a state ethics commission with some real clout.

It's time to clean up Illinois politics, and not just in Illinois.

Joplin Globe publisher stepping down

I read with interest the announcement that Joplin Globe Publisher Daniel Chiodo is stepping down after 13 years.

Chiodo, of course, is best known in this blog for his incredible statement that he started the free weekly newspaper, the Joplin Herald because there was not enough space in the Globe for the Joplin news.

What a legacy!

"Newspaper Days" available from

My latest book, Newspaper Days, has officially hit the market.

The book, which details my journalism career from my first job at the Newton County News in 1977 through my last days at The Carthage Press in 1999 Newspaper Days can be ordered from for $18.95. E-books are available for $6.

The book includes a detailed account of the $1.5 billion libel suit that hastened my departure from newspapers, as well as giving a picture of a day before chain newspaper ownership thoroughly weakened print journalism.

The book will be available at retail outlets in the Joplin area in the near future, as well as from other Internet sites.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shields, critic of move to restore campaign contribution limits, has been major recipient of casino cash

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields is unswayed by the Kansas City Star's reporting on the pay-to-play culture in Missouri politics.

Shields told the Star he wants to look into increasing the Missouri Ethics Commission's powers.

What neither Shields nor the Star mentions is how Shields has been a major player in practices which, while legal, (and remember who it is that makes the laws) are highly suspect. In the Nov. 14, 2007, Turner Report, I detailed Shields' cozy relationship with the casino industry:

When a politician accepts sizable cash donations from special interests it does not necessarily mean that politician has sold his vote, but it is a part of the record the public has every right to know...and one that more often than not remains uncovered by the media.

The same fact happened today when Bob Priddy of Missourinet reported on Sen. Charlie Shields' comments concerning the state legislature's failure to approve his bill to repeal loss limits at gambling casinos

He says it's a tough loss because Kansas City casinos will soon face aggressive competition from a new casino just across the state line. By January he thinks the legislature will have had more chance to gauge the impact that casino will have on Missouri's operators. He doesn't know if the information will change anything but lawmakers will at least have a better grasp on the situation.

But the impact might become obvious well before the new Kansas casino is built because the Kansas legislature is allowing more gambling at the Woodlands dog track. Hundreds of slot machines soon will be installed at the track, which is in Kansas City, Kansas.

But Shields admits it's going to be hard getting legislators from eastern Missouri to vote for ending loss limits. He says casinos in Illinois do not provide the kind of competition for St. Louis boats that the Kansas casino will provide on the western side.

In the April 28, 2007 Turner Report, I noted that casino interests have poured money into Shields' campaign coffers:

During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.

That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog over the last three years, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.

Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.

While I have no reason to question Shields' sincerity in pressing his bill, it is important to note the money the gambling interests are supplying to his campaign. The media should be providing this information, but far too often they don't.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Richard open to strengthening ethics laws

In the wake of a hard-hitting expose of the pervasive influence of money in Missouri politics, Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, says he is open to beefing up ethics laws:

House Speaker Ron Richard, a Republican, declined to address specific proposals, but said he is open to a “serious look into how we can work to strengthen Missouri ethics laws and ensure moral behavior in the House of Representatives.”

LeVota: Restore campaign contribution limits

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, responded to the Kansas City Star reports on the influence of money in politics with a call to return campaign contribution limits:

“The Kansas City Star’s investigation into the apparent selling of legislative action by current and former Republican leaders of the Missouri House of Representatives should disturb all Missourians who value integrity in the legislative process. The Star exposed numerous instances in which special interests that supported or opposed particular legislation gave huge campaign contributions to House Republican leaders, or campaign committees under their control, shortly after winning a favorable legislative outcome. The examples cited by the Star simply are too numerous to be explained away as mere coincidence and indicate a widespread culture of pay to play among House Republican leaders.

“A major reason these situations occur is the repeal of Missouri’s voter-approved campaign contributions limits, which House Republicans jammed through in the closing minutes of the 2008 legislative session with virtually no debate. House Democrats opposed the repeal of contribution limits and remain committed to legislation that not only would reinstate limits but crack down on the laundering of funds through shell committees, which has continued unabated despite claims by repeal supporters that ending limits would improve transparency.”

News-Leader: Additional charges likely against Anderson Guest House owners

An update on the postponement of Anderson Guest House owners Robert and Laverne Dupont contained the nugget that more charges are on the horizon:

Robert and LaVerne DuPont were scheduled to go to trial in early November on health care fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. But a federal judge has postponed the trial at the request of an attorney for Robert DuPont.

Springfield attorney Stuart Huffman said in a court filing last week that he recently learned additional charges will be filed against DuPont. Prosecutors agreed it would be best to delay the trial, he said.

The investigation into the Duponts' Joplin RIver of Life Ministries and the Guest Houses in Anderson and other communities began following the November 2006 Anderson Guest House fire that killed 11 people.

Ruestman still pushing for gun laws

The National Rifle Association's best friend in office, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, is still pushing unnecessary pro-gun legislation, similar to her castle doctrine bill. Now she is wanting to add on to the castle doctrine bill, which we did not need in the first place. Those items are addressed in Mrs. Ruestman's latest capitol report:

In Washington, our Second Amendment rights are being threatened by the far-left, liberal radicals. This administration has supported far-reaching restrictions on guns. While in the Illinois Senate, Senator Obama voted in FAVOR of lawsuits aimed at gun manufacturers by victims of gun accidents and crimes. He also cosponsored a bill to limit gun purchases to one per month.

The story is different in Missouri since a conservative majority took the reins in 2003. We passed a conceal carry law which is still in effect today. In the six years it has been in effect in Missouri, there has only been one weapon-related incident involving someone with a conceal carry permit. Conceal carry licenses act as a protection for responsible, law-abiding citizens.

In the upcoming session, we plan to expand the conceal carry permits to include citizens aged 21 and up. Missouri is currently the only state that requires a resident be 23 years old to obtain a license. We believe that all responsible adults should be allowed to conceal carry if they choose.

Additionally, we are looking at increasing the time frame a conceal carry license is valid. Right now, they are only good for three years. I advocate an increase to five years. If, in that time, a person with a permit breaks the law or takes advantage of the law, the privilege should be revoked permanently. Otherwise, let those obeying the law, keep it for a longer time.

One reason the Second Amendment is so vital is protection of families and property. That is why I worked hard to pass the Castle Doctrine in 2007. The Castle Doctrine states that you have the right to defend your family and home from a perpetrator. In 2009, the Missouri House will be working to extend that right to your land as well. A person should be able to protect his/her person, family, home, land and livestock from intruders.

Carthage Press eliminates Monday edition

The move has been predicted on this blog and elsewhere for months, and now it has been confirmed- beginning in November, The Carthage Press, will eliminate its Monday edition, following the path blazed by numerous GateHouse Media publications:

“First let me say, The Carthage Press is NOT going out of business,” Felix said. “In fact, we are doing fine, but we must make some changes to stay on track. This decision was made due to the continuing increase in the cost of newsprint paper. Over the past years, newsprint paper has gone up and continues to climb.”
Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker said the change will have little effect on how much of the news affecting Carthage and Jasper County the paper covers.
In fact, the additional planning time created on Monday by not having the pressure of putting out a newspaper right after the weekend will allow the news staff to better plan its week and possibly cover more events.

KY3 Political Notebook: Nodler falls short of expectations

In a Sunday post, Dave Catanese of KY3 Political Notebook reviews questions over the third quarter campaign disclosure reports including one over the conventional wisdom that Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, was going to raise more money than auctioneer Billy Long and Sen. Jack Goodman.

Of course, it did not work out that way since Long finished well above Nodler:

How big was Nodler's margin of victory? Zilch. The conventional wisdom was wrong. Team Long smartly played down expectations and Nodler raised $77K to Long's $104K

KC Star series casts spotlight on Joplin company owners' attempts to sway legislation

The Kansas City Star series on the corrupting influence of money in Missouri government cast a spotlight on the Humphreys family of Joplin, which owns TAMKO:

Campaign cash flowed freely following legislative action this spring on how the state's judges are picked, The Star's investigation found.

Judicial nominees for the state supreme and appeals courts, along with some larger circuit courts, are vetted by commissions made up of lawyers, gubernatorial appointees and a sitting judge. But conservatives have assailed the process, arguing that it gives too much influence to trial attorneys.

At the forefront of the fight has been the Humphreys family, owners of Joplin-based Tamko Building Products Inc. Tamko makes roofing products and other building materials. The company has been named in numerous asbestos lawsuits and boasts of a "very aggressive" litigation strategy.

Some companies believe that, through the political process, they can put judges on the bench who are more conservative and sympathetic to corporations.

Jetton and other House leaders have courted the Humphreys family for years. According to a Jetton confidant, who asked not to be identified, Jetton set a goal at the start of his reign as speaker to cultivate the Humphreys family first as $50,000 donors and then elevate the family to $100,000.

Jetton said he has met with David Humphreys twice over the years at his office in Joplin.

"I went down ... and explained what we were doing. And I said, 'If you like what you've seen, we need you to help us out,' " Jetton recalled. "And he was like, 'I like it. I'll help you.' "

KC Star makes ethics recommendations

To go along with its hard-hitting articles on corruption in Missouri government, the Kansas City Star offered an editorial which suggested the following changes in the way the government operates:

•Limits on campaign contributions. Lawmakers lifted the cap in 2008, promising greater transparency as a tradeoff. But donors still funnel anonymous donations through political committees. Exorbitant payments give the appearance, deservedly or not, that politicians are being bought.

•A stronger definition of what constitutes a lobbyist. Jetton uses weak laws to avoid registering as a lobbyist and disclosing clients and income. Yet he’s clearly been involved in influencing legislation.

•A prohibition on lawmakers working for lobbyists or as paid campaign consultants while in office. Few states permit those activities, and Missouri should be ashamed that it does. Lawmakers should enact a waiting period before a former legislator can return to the Capitol as a lobbyist.

•A stronger watchdog. The Missouri Ethics Commission takes too long to investigate complaints, and it rarely issues meaningful sanctions against lawmakers who violate ethics provisions. The legislature needs to give the commission the resources and backing it needs to be effective.

Excessive campaign contributions and brazen political power plays are soiling Missouri’s Capitol. If lawmakers won’t voluntarily clean up their house, voters should replace them with legislators who will. Or perhaps the FBI will take the initiative

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Richard insurance contributions noted in Star investigative report

Forty thousand dollars of campaign contributions from insurance interests to Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, are noted in an investigative piece on money in politics in today's Kansas City Star.

•A bill aimed at requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders easily passed the GOP-controlled Senate on a 29-2 vote and cleared two House committees.

But House leadership opted not to bring the bill to the floor, despite widespread support. Insurance companies opposing the bill followed up that decision with at least $40,000 in donations to House Speaker Ron Richard and floor leader Steven Tilley, a client of political consultant Rod Jetton.

Great Nodler parade controversy resolved

A commenter on a Turner Report item Saturday said that while Seventh District Republican GOP candidates Billy Long and Sen. Jack Goodman had volunteers with them at the Carthage Maple Leaf Parade yesterday, Sen. Gary Nodler did not.

This photo arrived this afternoon from the senator's assistant, Jake Heisten, , showing Nodler and his volunteers. I am happy to clear up that piece of misinformation.

Kander releases information on proposed ethics legislation

With the recent arrests and guilty pleas to felonies by Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis; Rep. Talibdin El-Amin- D. St. Louis; and Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, as well as major revelations in a series of Kansas City Star articles today about the influence of money on legislation, Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, released copies of a letter and a memorandum he sent to his fellow House members Sept. 9 outlining proposed ethics legislation for 2010. The letter and memorandum are printed below:

Dear fellow legislators,

Since taking my seat in the House of Representatives earlier this year, I have had numerous conversations with many of you about the need for sweeping ethics reform in our state. Far too often, these conversations end with regretful resignation to the belief that nothing is likely to change despite the glaring problems that exist.

The purpose of this letter is to articulate some of the most basic problems, the remedies I believe are necessary, and the statutory changes I intend to propose next session in the form of multiple bills. I know what an incredibly difficult task it will be to pass major ethics reform. That’s why I’m starting this conversation four months before the session begins. I want the opportunity to incorporate your input before these bills are pre-filed in December.

I also intend to highlight a few legislative proposals from last year that I think deserve a fresh look this year.

Ethics violations occur on both sides of the political aisle. It is my sincere hope that these pieces of legislation will have bipartisan support in 2010.

Please contact my office to indicate your interest in co-sponsoring any of the new pieces of legislation next session. Contact the past sponsor to co-sponsor good bills I’m highlighting from last session.

Most importantly, please let us know what changes you would suggest. I don’t promise that the final bills will include every suggestion, but I will certainly do my best to introduce legislation that includes bipartisan input, so long as that doesn’t require sacrificing the prevailing mission of real reform.

Thanks for your consideration. The attached document lists our greatest problems, my proposed solutions (and previous proposals by others), and the language I’d like to see in our state’s statutes.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Problem: Money Laundering
Unfortunately, it has become common practice by many Missouri politicians to shuffle funds from one committee to another in order to “wash” contributions and mask their source. This risks the possibility of legislators engaging in “pay to play” schemes without the risk of detection because funds can enter the system in one committee and then travel through several others over a period of months before finally reaching the legislator in question. Our completely unregulated committee system serves little purpose other than to aid those who engage in the laundering of political money.

Solution: Common sense committee reforms

Because political money is typically “washed” through a variety of committees before finding its way into a candidate or party committee, my initial instinct was to eliminate several of the committee designations that exist now (continuing, legislative district, etc.).

My research indicates that doing so would present a first amendment problem. Therefore, we must settle for regulating the existing system.

I propose that we allow only candidate committees to receive donations from other committees. If non-candidate committees are not allowed to donate to one another, the current methods for laundering political money will be impossible without directly implicating a candidate’s campaign committee.

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 130.031

“No committee shall transfer funds to any other committee with the sole exception that a candidate committee may transfer funds to another candidate committee. Whoever attempts to transfer funds from one committee to another for the overriding purpose of concealing or masking the origin of a political contribution shall be guilty of a class D felony.”

Problem: Donor Anonymity
Currently, the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) website only allows users to search for contributors to candidate committees. Therefore, a contributor who has received unlawful favors from a legislator but does not want to be known as a contributor to that legislator or a tangentially related committee can rest assured that only extreme due diligence will reveal their contribution. This severely limits transparency and is partly due, by design I suspect, to the lack of a requirement for electronic filing by noncandidate committees.

Solution: Bring continuing committees into the light of day

If candidate committees can be expected to file online disclosures, it is not overly burdensome to expect the same of other committees. The law must be amended to require all committees to file electronically. Additionally, the MEC should be instructed to make all itemized contributions – regardless of committee type – searchable on the MEC

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 130.057

“8. All committees required to file disclosure reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission must do so in electronic format as prescribed by the Commission. The Commission shall make all contributions to any committee registered with the
Commission available in an easily accessible electronic format to the general public in accordance with the requirements for public officials in section 5 above.”

Problem: Pay to Play

Current law does prohibit the exchange of value for official acts. However, a more clearly articulated, broader statute would allow more frequent prosecutions of “pay to play” activities by legislators and deter legislative extortion. It is questionable whether the current law would specifically encompass the giving of campaign contributions, for instance.

Solution: End legislative extortion

We need a new provision specifically aimed at “pay to play” schemes and including more than just the passage of law, but also any promises not to advance or hinder certain legislation. In 2005, Rep. Rachel Storch introduced language concerning bribery, but the bill did not receive a hearing. That language was a definite step in the right direction as it expanded the application of bribery, but it is time for us to go even further and write a law that encompasses the way in which “pay to play” transactions are most likely to proceed.

We can continue to sit around and hope that federal agents from the Western District will make Jefferson City corruption a priority, or we can create an actionable “pay to play” provision in Missouri law and allow the outstanding law enforcement professionals at the state level to make a contribution toward clean government, as well.
Statutory language to be added to RSMo Ch. 105

“Section 1. Whoever offers anything of value – including, but not limited to, political contributions – in consideration for the act of passing state or local legislation or a state administrative regulation or whoever offers anything of value in consideration for failing to pass or hindering the passage of state or local legislation or a state administrative regulation shall be guilty of a class D felony.

(A) Violations of the above section would include, but are not limited to, accepting anything of value as consideration for a promise to: advocate for or against a piece of legislation, assign legislation to a specific committee, delay the referral
of legislation to a committee, or in any way affect the legislative schedule to hinder or benefit specific legislation.”

Problem: Rampant conflicts of interest

There have been several instances of legislators and members of their staff conductingpaid political work for members or potential members of the General Assembly. The conflict of interest is obvious. For instance, if a staffer or member responsible for the assignment of bills to a particular committee receives compensation for work as a political consultant to a bill’s sponsor, there is either impropriety or the appearance of impropriety when the staffer or member’s office gives favorable treatment to such a member’s legislation. It is unfortunate that such conflicts have only been unearthed in the
past by investigative journalists. The public should have the opportunity to find such conflicts themselves.

Solution: A mix of prohibition and increased accountability

To deal with the problem of staff conflicts, I propose that we increase the number of positions that require personal financial disclosures (PFD). Current law requires that certain positions, such as General Counsel, file PFDs, but there is some debate about whether or not that applies to part-time or contracted employees acting in such roles. I will file legislation to end that debate.

Additionally, I propose that any staffer who also works as a paid political aide of any kind be required to file a personal financial disclosure.

Rep. Paul Quinn proposed legislation last year that prohibited members of the General Assembly from acting as political consultants for one another. I hope that more members will co-sponsor Rep. Quinn’s bill this year and that the Speaker will refer it to committee.

Furthermore, former Rep. Harris at one point proposed language that would have required all staffers to House and Senate leaders to file PFDs. I believe this to be a common sense idea, as well.

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 130

“1. Staff member - an individual employed by the state of Missouri or any public official of the state of Missouri.
2. Staff members receiving compensation for political activities or consulting not directly associated with their official positions, shall be required to file a personal financial disclosure report with the ethics commission. The ethics commission
shall determine the content of the report to be filed and establish reasonable deadlines for filing. Both the content and the deadlines shall be substantially similar to the personal financial disclosures required of public officials.”

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 105.483

“(12) This section shall apply to all persons in the roles or positions set forth previously, to include those compensated on a full-time, part-time, or contract basis.”

Problem: Political Consultant Tax Evasion

According to reporting by the Springfield News-Leader, there have been instances in Missouri where political consultants have used campaign committees to finance the operations of a private business. This was a foreseeable problem, given the sometimes blurred lines between political business and political campaigning.

Solution: Outlaw it

It is important that this be addressed directly in statute in such a way that creates a manner in which to prosecute an obvious federal violation at the state level – should the federal government fail to move. Already powerful political consultants in Missouri can only consolidate power if they are allowed to operate their businesses beyond the reach of state or federal taxes.

Statutory language to be added to RSMo Ch. 130

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no committee funds shall be used for the payment of the private business expenses of any person or other entity unless specifically allowed by law. The violation of this section is a class D felony.”

Problem: De-facto lobbyists

An individual who serves as a political consultant to multiple members of the legislature, but also does consulting work for private entities with business before the legislature, is able to lobby on behalf of corporate clients without the traditional lobbyist regulations.

This is more than just unfair competition in the lobbying community; it is a dangerously unregulated way for corporate actors to gain significant influence within the Capitol.

Solution: Registration

These non-lobbyist lobbyists must be brought into the light of day. For instance, a consultant could work for members of both chambers and do grassroots public relations work against a specific piece of legislation (on behalf of a corporate client) at the same time. The expectation that the corporate client would not ask the consultant to speak to his clients about the issue or that the consultant would not have already done so is naïve.

The solution is to create a “de-facto lobbyist” category and require registration. It could be included in the current lobbyist definitions in RSMo 105

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 105.470

“De-Facto Lobbyist – Any individual who works as a political consultant or public relations consultant for a member of the legislative or executive branch and for any other entity doing business in the state of Missouri whether or not such individual expends funds or other items of value to influence or attempt to influence an election, the passage of a law or regulation, or a ballot measure.”

Problem: Obstruction of Investigations

With few resources at their disposal, the Missouri Ethics Commission is heavily reliant upon elected officials and political activists to offer honest information. Due to the lack of likely follow-up work in the limited investigations that take place, it is difficult to assess who is telling the truth. Obstructing an MEC investigation should carry a heavy penalty – one significant enough to deter obstruction. There are some who believe that the federal system that harshly punishes obstruction is unfair, because it allows prosecutors to get convictions when there is not enough evidence to charge theunderlying acts. This is a wrong-headed philosophy.

When Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Scooter Libby for obstruction, he faced this criticism and offered an analogy that explained the obstruction statute perfectly: “If you saw a baseball game and you saw a pitcher wind up and throw a fastball and hit a batter right smack in the head, and it really, really hurt them, you’d want to know why the pitcher did that. What we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He’s trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.”

Solution: Model the federal approach

The fact is, we have a recent example in Missouri politics where lying didn’t pay because the system worked. Not the Missouri system, but the federal system. It’s important for us to have a statute that significantly deters Missouri’s politicians from throwing sand in the umpire’s face.

Statutory language to be added as RSMo 575.01

“Section 1. 1. A person commits the crime of obstruction of an ethics investigation if:

(1) He or she confers or agrees to confer anything of pecuniary benefit to any person in consideration of that person’s concealing or withholding information concerning an ethics violation under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Ethics Commission or a violation of any election law; or

(2) He or she agrees to accept anything of pecuniary benefit in consideration for concealing or withholding information concerning an ethics violation under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Ethics Commission or a violation of any election law; or

(3) He or she for the purpose of obstructing or preventing an ethics investigation:

(a) Utters or submits a false statement that he or she does not believe to be true to a member or employee of the Missouri Ethics Commission or to any official investigating the violation of an election law; or

(b) Submits any writing or other documentation to the Commission, its investigators, or any other official agent of the state acting under ethics, election, or campaign laws that is not accurate and that he or she does not believe to be true.

2. 1. It is a defense to subdivision 3 of subsection 1 of this section that the false statement or writing or other documentation was retracted, but this defense shall not apply if the retraction was made after:

(1) The falsity of the statement or documentation was exposed; or

(2) The member or employee of the Missouri Ethics Commission or an official investigating a violation of election law took substantial action in reliance upon the statement or documentation.

2. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of retraction pursuant to this subsection.

3. Obstructing justice pursuant to this section is a class D felony.”

Problem: Political Machines

The political machines of today take a different form than those of the Pendergast area. Today, they are centered on political consultants as often as special interests. Our system enables this process, in part, because a single individual can serve as treasurer of multiple committees. While not everyone that controls multiple committees does so for a dishonest purpose, there are far too many “bag men” able to donate funds from several different sources (and, in the absence of money laundering reforms, directly to their own committees). This allows a single person to further a conspiracy to conceal the origin of funds with almost no help from others, making it nearly impossible to prevent.

Solution: End the slight of hand

Why is it necessary that a single individual act as treasurer of multiple committees? It is not. We can put a few “bag men” out of business. Former Rep. Jeff Harris first proposed this in 2005 and I have built upon the language he proposed at that time.

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 130.021

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an individual is prohibited from serving as the treasurer or deputy treasurer of more than one committee at any time. Violation of this provision is grounds for such individual’s removal via a writ of quo warrant issued by any court of competent jurisdiction or upon the unilateral action of the Missouri Ethics Commission.”


Problem: Lobbyist Gifts

There’s not much to say here. There’s just no reason this bill shouldn’t finally move forward. Why is it so important that elected officials have the chance to get free tickets and free dinners in order to learn more about a particular issue? Constituents who do not have the money to entertain their representative for two hours shouldn’t have less opportunity to persuade them as a result.

Solution: End it.

The single sentence solution in Rep. Brian Yates’s proposal from last year says it all. We should all join Rep. Yates in co-sponsoring this bill when he proposes it again this year.

Statutory language to be added to RSMo 105.456
“No member of the general assembly shall accept any tangible or intangible item, service,or thing of value from any lobbyist, as defined in section 105.470.”

Problem: The no-limit world

Missouri once led the way toward campaign finance reform, making it all the more disappointing that we are one of the few states with no contribution limits at all. In 1994, Missourians overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure that implemented campaign contribution limits and, in 1999, in Nixon v. Shrink, then Attorney General Nixon successfully defended the law before the U.S. Supreme Court. We have a proud history of responsible campaign reform, but today a single special interest can dwarf the influence of the average voter because they have the means to exclusively bankroll a candidate’s campaign.

Solution: Restore the limits

Last session, I co-sponsored Rep. Paul Levota’s bill to restore campaign limits and I propose that we finally take that action this year.

Statutory language to be added as RSMo 130.032

“130.032. 1. In addition to the limitations imposed under section 130.031, the amount of contributions made by or accepted from any person other than the candidate in any one election shall not exceed the following:

(1) To elect an individual to the office of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, or attorney general, one thousand two hundred seventy-five dollars;

(2) To elect an individual to the office of state senator, six hundred fifty dollars;

(3) To elect an individual to the office of state representative, five hundred dollars;

(4) To elect an individual to any other office, including judicial office, if the population of the electoral district, ward, or other unit according to the latest decennial census is under one hundred thousand, three hundred twenty-five dollars;

(5) To elect an individual to any other office, including judicial office, if the population of the electoral district, ward, or other unit according to the latest decennial census is at least one hundred thousand but less than two hundred fifty thousand, six hundred fifty dollars; and

(6) To elect an individual to any other office, including judicial office, if the population of the electoral district, ward, or other unit according to the latest decennial census is at least two hundred fifty thousand, one thousand two hundred seventy-five dollars.

2. For purposes of this subsection, "base year amount" shall be the contribution limits prescribed in this section on January 1, 2010. Such limits shall be increased on the first day of January in each even-numbered year by multiplying the base year amount by the cumulative consumer price index, as defined in section 104.010, RSMo, and rounded to the nearest twenty-five-dollar amount, for all years since January 1, 2010.

3. Every committee established under this chapter shall be subject to the limits prescribed in subsection 1 of this section. The provisions of this subsection shall not limit the amount of contributions that may be accumulated by a candidate committee and used for expenditures to further the nomination or election of the candidate who controls such
candidate committee.

4. Except as limited by this subsection, the amount of cash contributions, and a separate amount for the amount of in-kind contributions, made by or accepted from a political party committee in any one election shall not exceed the following:

(1) To elect an individual to the office of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor or attorney general, two thousand dollars;

(2) To elect an individual to the office of state senator, one thousand dollars;

(3) To elect an individual to the office of state representative, five hundred dollars; and

(4) To elect an individual to any other office of an electoral district, ward, or unit, ten times the allowable contribution limit for the office sought.

5. The amount of contributions that may be made by or accepted from a political party committee in the primary election to elect any candidate who is unopposed in such primary shall be fifty percent of the amount of the allowable contributions as determined in this subsection.

6. Contributions received and expenditures made before August 28, 2010, shall be reported as a separate account and under the laws in effect at the time such contributions are received or expenditures made. Contributions received and expenditures made after August 28, 2010, shall be reported under the provisions of this chapter as a separate account from the other separate account described in this subsection. The account reported under the prior law shall be retained as a separate account and any remaining funds in such account may be used under this chapter.

7. Any committee that accepts or gives contributions other than those allowed shall be subject to a surcharge of one thousand dollars plus an amount equal to the contribution per nonallowable contribution, to be paid to the ethics commission and which shall be transferred to the director of revenue, upon notification of such nonallowable contribution by the ethics commission, and after the candidate has had ten business days after receipt of notice to return the contribution to the contributor. The candidate and the candidate committee treasurer or deputy treasurer owing a surcharge shall be personally liable for the payment of the surcharge or may pay such surcharge only from campaign funds existing on the date of the receipt of notice. Such surcharge shall constitute a debt to the state enforceable under, but not limited to, the provisions of chapter 143, RSMo.

Problem: Lawmaking in the shadows

The sunshine law in Missouri is one of the best mechanisms to ensure honest, transparent government and hold accountable those who misuse power. Under current law, individual members of the Missouri General Assembly are exempt from the sunshine law. If members are violating even existing ethics laws, it’s almost impossible to prove it without the use of a subpoena.

Solution: Legislative sunshine

Last year, Rep. Jake Zimmerman proposed an easy fix to this problem. I’m happy to say that Rep. Tilley and Rep. Schoeller were among the co-sponsors. Rep. Zimmerman’s bill would have applied the sunshine law to all government officials – including members of the General Assembly. My hope is that Rep. Tilley will impress upon the speaker the importance of actually referring Rep. Zimmerman’s bill to committee this session. When Rep. Zimmerman offered it as an amendment to another open records bill last session, it failed by a single vote.

Statutory language to be added as RSMo 610.010(4)a

Application of the open records law to: “Any public official, statewide elected official, or employee of the state and its agencies when such persons are operating in their official capacities and using state-funded equipment for their official communications;”