Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ethics Commission documents: Nodler received nearly $10K from Sinquefield

Missouri Ethics Commission records show that newly-appointed Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Gary Nodler accepted nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions from shell committees formed by retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield to allow him to avoid campaign contribution limits.

Sinquefield has long been an opponent of public education and notoriously said at one point that public education was started by the Ku Klux Klan. Nodler was chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Other Ethics Commission documents indicate that Sinquefield's lobbyist, Travis Brown, provided $1,135.98 in meals and lodging for Nodler and his wife, Joncee, on November 7 and 8, 2008. On November 7, each of the Nodlers received $162.13 worth of meals, with the total increasing to $286.21 apiece the following day. Nodler received lodging totaling $239.30 on November 7.

 Nodler's April 2008 campaign disclosure report shows that he received $9,750 from political action committees established by Sinquefield. He received maximum contributions from Missourians Supporting Teaching Excellence for five regions- North, South, East, West, and Bootheel, and from 11 Your School, Your Choice committees- Central, Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, West, Statewide, South, East, and North.

In the February 24, 2008, Kansas City Star, Nodler defended Sinquefield's evasion of Missouri's campaign finance laws.

Several senators were criticizing conservative political financier Rex Sinquefield, who last year set up and funded 100 fundraising committees so he could get around the current law, which limits contributions to $1,350 to each statewide candidate. Under the law, each committee is considered a different person and can give the maximum amount.

Nodler disputed the notion that it showed that Sinquefield was deliberately evading the campaign finance law. On the contrary, Nodler said: Sinquefield was demonstrating how to follow the law to the letter.

The area's newspaper of record, the Joplin Globe, knew about Sinquefield's contributions to Nodler months before it finally printed the information in its pages.

In the April 13, 2008, Globe, reporter Joe Hadsall, who was writing an occasional column on campaign finance, wrote, "Sen. Gary Nodler called me in mid-January and told me that he received some donations from political groups organized by Rex Sinquefield, the retired financial analyst who made news by creating and funding 100 political action committees.

"Nodler, a Joplin Republican, received the donations after the January reporting deadline, he said. He called to explain why I might see records of those donations elsewhere, before showing up in his committee fundraising reports."

From all appearances, Nodler knew this was not going to look good and was attempting to fire a pre-emptive strike by convincing the Globe to spin the news to put him in a more positive light. The senator told Hadsall that Sinquefield had made the contributions because of an earlier column Hadsall had written in which he quoted Nodler as being favorably inclined toward Sinquefield's efforts to pour his money into pro-voucher candidates. Nodler told Hadsall he held those beliefs before Sinquefield formed his political action committees.

Of course, Sinquefield made those contributions because of an article that was published in the Joplin Globe. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Nodler was chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Despite having information that Nodler had received nearly $10,000 from the controversial Sinquefield, the Globe did not even mention a word about it for nearly three months.

Ethics Commission documents indicate Sinquefield was not the only one who violated the spirit of Missouri's campaign finance laws in an effort to influence Nodler.

As I wrote in the July 15, 2006 Turner Report:

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, told school counselors attending a May meeting at the Southwest Center for Educational Excellence in Webb City that he supported a proposal to require school districts to start the school year after Labor Day, something that the tourism industry has pushed for years.
Nodler said school administrators had given him "no credible reason" why schools should start earlier than Labor Day.

While school administrators couldn't provide Nodler with a credible reason, Branson tourism industries found nearly three thousand of them, according to Nodler's quarterly campaign disclosure report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Out of $4,850 he reported receiving from donors during the past three months, $2,925 came from Branson interests, all of it on June 28, according to the report. Among those contributing were:

-$625 from American Council of Travel, Branson
-$200 from Denver Wood, Vacation Services of America, Branson
-$200 from Cindy Wood, Vacation Services of America, Branson
-$200 from Roark Travel Service Network, LLC, Branson
-$200 from Vacation Services of America, Inc., Branson
-$300 from Travel Access, Branson
-$200 from Thomas Wood, Vacation Services of America, Branson
-$200 from Deborah Wood, Vacation Services of America, Branson
-$200 from Crystal Hedrick, Vacation Services of America, Branson
-$200 from Brant Hedrick, Vacation Services of America, Branson

The $1,400 from various people associated with Vacation Services of America showed another method special interests used to contribute more money than the law allowed at that time.

The contributions were the only ones made by anyone associated with Vacation Services of America that year. The company was already in trouble with the law at that time and had to pay $10,391 in restitution following an action taken against it by then Attorney General Jay Nixon.
According to the Kansas City Star, Vacation Services of America and others were described by Nixon as "allegedly unscrupulous vacation and travel companies."

The article said the companies "made false promises that people would save money, used tough pressure tactics to sell travel packages, claiming high upfront fees and then failed to provide services, and refused to let customers cancel orders."


Anonymous said...

Mission Accomplished!

Anonymous said...

Branson vacation club sued by state

"Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 8:14 pm
FORSYTH — The state’s attorney general has filed a petition in Taney County claiming that a Branson vacation club business charged high prices to customers without providing benefits that were promoted to the customers.

In the petition, Attorney General Chris Koster is asking Taney County Associate Circuit Court to force the company to stop doing business in Missouri and to pay full restitution to customers, among other actions.

The petition for a permanent injunction was filed against several company names, including VSA, LLC; VSA Holdings; Vacation Services of America, LLC; and International Travel Solutions, LLC. The suit also names two individuals as defendants: Thomas Wood, of Orlando, Florida; and Denver Wood, of Branson."

Anonymous said...

Ex-travel club owners in Branson get federal prison terms for evading taxes

"September 07, 2011|by KY3 News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Three men from Branson received federal prison sentences and orders to make substantial restitutions for evading federal income taxes when they ran a travel business in Branson in the early 2000s. They learned their sentences on Wednesday after pleading guilty several months ago.

David Large received a one-year sentence and must pay $198,517 in restitution. Denver Wood received a two-year sentence and must pay $181,103 in restitution. His father, Thomas Wood, received an 18-month sentence and must pay $198,517 in restitution."

Link to that indictment:

Page 3 of the indictment alleges that "Vacation Services of America was incorporated as a non-profit domestic corporation with the State of Missouri on July 11, 2003..."

Can non-profits make campaign contributions?

Anonymous said...

Does not mater that much, after tonight the new 3 will be gone.

Anonymous said...

The only non-profits I know of that can make campaign contributions are Political Action Committees (PACs), which of course are set up for that express purpose. Oh, and unions, of course.

However, looking at the only Form 990s they filed, for 2003 and 2004 (start here), I suspect they tried to get non-profit status back then and failed. There's also a Vacation Travel, LLC involved in there somewhere....

Anonymous said...

@11:23 It's almost enough to think they wanted people a little confuzzled. Guess in the end the only ones fooled were the ones they grifted from. Definitely the kind of folks that like favors from politicians. It's a good thing Noodler gave all that tainted money back. After he pushed away from the buffet!

Anonymous said...

Judge joe Hensley and his partner/firm John Nicholas represented the Joplin school district for the last several years. The fact that he has not recused himself is discouraging and questionable.