Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Democratic Party: State auditor attending Kinder fundraiser was conflict of interest

A Missouri Democratic Party news release accuses State Auditor Tom Schweich of conflict of interest because he attended a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, whose office Schweich is auditing. The news release is printed below:

State Auditor Tom Schweich attended a fundraiser for Peter Kinder in Chesterfield last night, despite the fact Schweich's office is in the middle of a highly-publicized investigation of Peter Kinder’s inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

Schweich’s attendance at the fundraiser further underscores Schweich’s conflict of interest with Peter Kinder and the need for an independent, third party investigation of Kinder’s travel.

“Tom Schweich has made it clear that he’s a politician first, State Auditor second and has compromised any ability for his office to conduct a real investigation as to how much taxpayer money Peter Kinder wasted,” said Caitlin Legacki, Missouri Democratic Party spokeswoman. “Schweich needs to appoint a third-party, independent auditor to conduct an appropriate investigation of how much taxpayer money Peter Kinder wasted to facilitate his lavish lifestyle.”

Three things to look for when Schweich’s office releases their “review” of Peter Kinder’s misuse of tax dollars:

•Since the auditor’s office has said they’d have access to Kinder’s schedules, will those schedules be made public? To date, Kinder has refused to make his schedules available to the press and public.

•Did the auditor’s office examine the costs of the meals of Kinder’s personal and political travels for which he charged taxpayers?

•Did the auditor’s office examine the costs of Kinder's travel to attend personal and political events for which he charged taxpayers?

State Auditor Tom Schweich -- and his staff -- have serious conflicts-of-interest when it comes to Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.

•Deputy Auditor Harry Otto, a Schweich Appointee, Contributed to Kinder. In 2004, now-Deputy Auditor Harry Otto contributed $200 to Peter Kinder's debt committee. Schweich appointed Otto to the position of Deputy Auditor by in January 2011. Otto has also contributed generously to former Gov. Matt Blunt, State Sen. Brad Lager, and the Missouri GOP. [Missouri Ethics Commission; AP, 1/13/11]

•Kinder Emceed Schweich Fundraiser Before Billing Taxpayers for a Night at the Chase. In 2009, Kinder was the master of ceremonies at a fundraiser for Schweich fundraiser, after which he billed taxpayers for a night at the Chase Park Plaza. [St. Louis Beacon, 10/5/09; Kinder Hotel Receipt]

•Kinder Helped Persuade Schweich Not To Run For Senate & Contributed More Than $200,000 to His Auditor Campaign. The lieutenant governor kicked in a whopping $220,000 for Schweich’s 2010 campaign for state auditor. In fact, according to the Associated Press, “Kinder played a role in persuading Schweich to run for auditor instead of challenging Matt Blunt’s father, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, in a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.” Matt Blunt later forgave a $300,000 loan made to Kinder’s 2008 re-election campaign. [AP, 12/30/10; Kansas City Star, 1/9/2011]

Otto and Schweich have already gone out of their way to lower expectations about the veracity and integrity of their “audit,” but here’s what we can expect:

•Otto Will Have Access to the Calendars. Otto said the auditor's office has the technical experts needed to deal with any technical issues, and access the calendars. The auditor's office also plans to make its findings public -- without charge. [St. Louis Beacon, 4/28/11]


•Otto Will Not Review Appropriateness of Kinder’s Stays. Deputy Auditor Harry Otto said the review will focus primarily on Kinder’s math and methodology in determining his payment — not on whether each reimbursement Kinder had received for lodging, meals or travel was appropriate based on the breakdown of official, political or personal functions he attended. “We don’t intend to drill into a calendar and make a determination with respect to whether a trip was 82.5 percent state and 17.5 percent non-state business,” Otto said. Rather, he added, “We want to see the supporting documents that justify the calculation that office has made.” [AP, 4/28/11]

•Otto Will Not Delve Deeply into Whether Trips Were Personal or State Business. Otto said the audit would not delve too deeply into examining whether or not trips were for personal or state business purposes, unless contradictions were obvious. “A statewide elected official has some discretion with respect to determining what or what is not in the best of interest of the state government when it comes to traveling,” Otto said. “We don’t second guess every trip.” [Missouri News Horizon, 4/28/11]

•Otto Will Not Evaluate Whether Kinder Mixed Political & Personal. The deputy auditor assigned to the inquiry, Harry Otto, said the focus is not whether Kinder mixed official business and political activity. Instead, "we want to see the supporting documents that justify the calculations that were made," Otto said. But, Otto said, if auditors notice a trip that was overtly personal or political, "we'll make the appropriate adjustments." It's also possible, the auditor's office said, that the review could find Kinder paid too much, in which case he could get money back. [St. Louis Post Dispatch, 4/28/11]
Meanwhile, Kinder Continues to Give Missourians the Run-Around:

•Kinder’s Calendar “Perfectly Intact” and Accessible…But Not to Missourians. According to the Post-Dispatch, Kinder’s calendar “is perfectly intact, with more than 18,000 entries from 2005 to the present.” All of the calendar entries "have been and remain accessible to the staff of the Lt. Governor's Office," said the Department of Administration's Deputy Director, Renee Slusher. “But viewing the calendar comes with a price tag, at least for the public. Kinder's office said it will cost "well over several thousand dollars" and take several weeks for the office to release the lieutenant governor's calendar.” [St. Louis Post Dispatch, 4/27/11]

•Post-Dispatch Editorial Calls Kinder’s Explanation “Ludicrous.” In an editorial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called for an independent audit of Kinder’s records, given “the lieutenant governor’s evolving story.”… “One of the key records in determining whether Mr. Kinder's payment is accurate would be his official state calendar. When asked for his calendar by reporters, Mr. Kinder's office said it had been destroyed by the Office of Administration. But that office says the record is intact. Now Mr. Kinder's office is suggesting that it would cost several thousand dollars to comply with a Sunshine Law request to examine the calendar. That response is ludicrous on its face.” [St. Louis Post Dispatch, 4/27/11]

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