Thursday, April 20, 2017
Federal complaint charges Ron Richard with fraud
WASHINGTON – Wednesday, government watchdog group Campaign for Accountability (CfA) filed a complaint with Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tom Larson requesting an investigation into whether Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard violated federal law by accepting a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for legislative assistance.
Read the complaint here.
Richard accepted the contribution from TAMKO Building Products CEO and President David Humphrey, just six days after introducing legislation that could derail a class action lawsuit that could cost the company millions of dollars.
CfA Executive Director Dan Stevens stated, “Sen. Richard can’t expect anyone to believe it’s a coincidence that he introduced a bill that could save TAMKO millions and received $100,000 from the company’s CEO just a few days later. This situation begs for a grand jury investigation; it’s a crime for elected officials to accept benefits in exchange for official action.”
In 2014, TAMKO was sued for allegedly selling defective roofing shingles that wore out well before their 30-year warranty. In response to the class-action lawsuit, the company argued the plaintiffs could not sue because the shingles’ packaging states that warranty complaints must be settled through arbitration. After losing initially, TAMKO appealed, but the court ruled against the company, allowing the case to move forward. The company now is waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its case.
On December 7, 2016, Sen. Richard received a campaign contribution of $100,000. Six days earlier, he had introduced SB 5, a bill that would drastically cut back on the consumer protections in the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MPA). If enacted, the legislation likely would undercut the lawsuit against TAMKO. The senator also had received an additional $100,000 from Humphrey six months earlier.
The federal Travel Act prohibits using the mail or interstate commerce to promote unlawful activity. Among other things, “unlawful activity” includes bribery in violation of state law. Missouri state law prohibits a public servant from soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept any direct or indirect benefit in return for an official action. In addition, the federal Honest Services Fraud statute prohibits elected officials from depriving their constituents and the government the right of honest service, free of bribery and corruption.
Stevens continued, “Missouri residents are on the brink of losing a strong consumer protection law because a businessman who has gotten rich by engaging in exactly the sorts of practices prohibited by the law can now pay off a state senator to get the law killed. It is this sort of cynical pay-to-play activity that undermines Americans’ faith in government.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.