MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
Go to http://www.mdn.org/mpanews for the latest version.
Headline: A note from Jordan Shapiro [Entered: 10/26/2012]
With the election coming up in less than two weeks make sure to check out MDN’s campaign homepage [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/elect/bios.htm ] for candidate profiles.
Feel free to run all or part of the profiles on all the statewide candidates.
As always let me know (314-406-9528) if you have any comments, suggestions or questions.
Headline: Presidential candidates ignore Missouri with loss of swing-state status [Entered: 10/26/2012]
By Matthew Patane [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 314-239-1263 – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Missouri’s status as a swing state was established for a long time come election season, with the state voting for the candidate who went on to win the presidency all but twice in the last century.
Since the 2008 election where the Republican candidate — Arizona Sen. John McCain — won the state with about 5,000 votes, Missouri has lost its swing-state status, at least at the presidential level. The movement toward a more conservative voting base has been reflected on the state level as well with the election of large Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate.
With this shift many political scientists, reporters and candidates — including incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney — have written Missouri off as a swing and battleground state.
Neither Obama nor Romney has put up a substantial effort to campaign in Missouri during the 2012 election cycle, leaving much of the campaigning up to local groups and offices. Recent polls collected by three agencies, including one by Rasmussen Reports, show Romney with anywhere from a 6- to 14-point lead over Obama in the state. A Real Clear Politics average of these polls shows Romney with a 10.4-point lead.
The lack of campaigning from either presidential candidate is mirrored by a significant lack of campaign ads from Obama and Romney. While Missouri candidates for U.S. Senate and statewide offices continue to saturate the airwaves with their own ads, neither presidential candidate has sought to reserve air time on Missouri TV stations.
Officials at three mid-Missouri TV stations have said they have received no ad contracts reserving air time for either Obama or Romney, and they do not expect to, marking a significant step down since the 2008 race.
The lack of ad reservations is reflected statewide with no or minimal ad buys existing in much of the state. Numbers collected by the Washington Post show that while Romney spent about $127,000 to run ads in Missouri earlier in the election cycle, Obama has not spent a dime in the state on his own political ads.
This is in stark contrast to the 2008 race where more than $21 million was spent on ads in Missouri, according to ad spending numbers collected by CNN.
About $11.2 million of this sum came from the Obama campaign with McCain spending about $7.7 million. The remaining sum came from ad buys made by independent groups, such as various campaign and political action committees.
Headline: Akin, McCaskill enter home stretch of Senate campaign [Entered: 10/26/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
The race between incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin enters the final leg with less than two weeks until election day.
McCaskill, however, has slowed down her campaign efforts in order to be with her mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, who is in intensive care at a St. Louis hospital.
Claire McCaskill has cancelled a statewide “get out the vote” tour and her spokeswomen, Caitlin Legacki, said the senator will not leave St. Louis while her mother is in intensive care.
Betty Anne McCaskill, 84, was the first woman to serve on Columbia’s City Council and has been a fixture in her daughter’s campaigns.
Akin’s campaign Twitter account said the congressman’s “thoughts and prayers” are with McCaskill and her mother.
The St. Louis congressman has been traveling around the state trying to draw attention to $40 million from the 2009 stimulus law that went to companies affiliated with McCaskill’s husband, Joe Shephard.
Akin campaign spokesman Rick Tyler also published an e-mail exchange with a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter on Akin’s campaign website. Tyler’s e-mail urged the paper to report on the stimulus money as well as a sexual harassment complaint filed in Illinois against Sugar Creek Realty, a business venture of McCaskill and her husband. Neither the senator nor her husband are named in the lawsuit.
Tyler’s e-mail was a response to a message from Post-Dispatch reporter Kevin McDermott, who was seeking comment on a report of Akin’s three arrests in 1985 for protesting at abortion clinics.
Tyler also posted McDermott’s e-mail including the first part of the the Post’s article on Akin’s arrests, which had yet to be published.
Real Clear Politics, a poll aggregation website, has McCaskill leading Akin by 5 points.
Headline: Legislators suggest bond issues for infrastructure improvements [Entered: 10/25/2012]
By Nick Thompson
State lawmakers are exploring the possibility of using bond issues to pay for repairs at Missouri’s college campuses, mental health facilities, the state Capitol and highways.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said capital improvements will be a major theme in the next legislative session. He and Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, are working on a nearly $1 billion bonding bill to make those improvements.
Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said any options that allow more funding for highways and bridges should also be considered. Kehoe is the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
He said a bond issue should also be considered for a transportation project such as the rebuilding of bridges, or Interstate 70, which the state’s transportation department has said is in need of vital repairs.
The idea of a bond issue to make improvements is nothing new to Kelly or Schaefer. Kelly said this will be the fifth consecutive session he will push a bonding bill.
In 2009 Kelly proposed a $700 million higher education bond issue to make improvements on campuses. It passed the House but was filibustered in the Senate. Kelly and Schaefer also worked together to create a joint resolution in 2010 to issue bonds, but that bill never made it out of the House.
Kelly and Schaefer said they will have the bipartisan support necessary this time.
“In the preliminary conversations I’ve had with fellow legislators, I think there’s quite a bit of support for it,” Schaefer said.
However, a familiar opponent has emerged. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said while the state has a backlog of deferred maintenance, funding should come from the state’s general revenue stream as opposed to borrowed money.
Crowell, who is leaving the General Assembly due to term limits, said lawmakers would rather borrow money than fix issues in state spending, like tax credits and pensions. The state doled out 8 percent of its expenditure on tax credits alone in the last fiscal year.
“Why in the world would we open up a new credit card when we give out $700 million in tax credits?” Crowell said. “They want to steal from my grandchildren to pay for debt.”
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/BOND.HTM].
Headline: MU Athletics tightening rules on department credit cards after one staffer’s $7,600 strip club escapade last year [Entered: 10/24/2012]
By Alexander Mallin
According to a university-sponsored audit, University of Missouri Athletic Department Director of Video Operations Michael Schumacher repaid more than $7,600 he charged at a Las Vegas strip club in May 2011 while at a professional conference.
Athletic Department Spokesman Chad Moller said that Schumacher was the only University of Missouri representative at the conference. He added that the university is tightening down on employees using university-funded credit cards.
“It’s a good reminder that there are to be no purchases made of personal items or for personal services on a university purchasing card,” Moller said. “Even when you repay all the charges back, it’s just not supposed to happen that way.”
Moller would not say what disciplinary actions were taken, but said Schumacher is still currently working for the university.
Headline: Lawmakers hear from officials on higher education funding formula [Entered: 10/24/2012]
By Nick Thompson
Missouri education policymakers and university officials agree performance-based funding should be integral in the new higher education funding formula the Joint Committee on Education must develop by Dec. 31, 2013.
Witnesses testified at a hearing Oct. 23 at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. It was the second of three hearings the committee is holding to receive input for its new formula.
Brian Long of the Council on Public Higher Education said the council agrees with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s suggestion that half of any new appropriations to colleges and universities should be allocated based on performance.
“We strongly support performance funding as a way to achieve goals,” Long said.
Long said performance measures are common measures that universities, the state and students should agree to develop.
Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, the committees’ chair, said the goal of the hearings is to gain insight into the diverse goals and missions of the states’ institutions.
“What we need to do is to come up with a system where we are looking at certain things that are somewhat standard across the board, and the institutions can basically compare their own progress against themselves to see how they are doing,” Pearce said.
University of Central Missouri President Chuck Ambrose said he values job placement coupled with affordability.
Cheryl Riley, the Faculty Senate President at the University of Central Missouri, said, “increased access and degree completion is important to the economic well-being of our state.”
Riley said metrics could be the number of Missourians served, years to a degree, tuition rates and job placement into degree fields.
Lawmakers were charged with creating such a formula during the fiscal 2013 budget debate, where a dispute over college funding threatened to derail the entire budget process.
Headline: Former Mamtek CEO behind bars while his unused land and equipment are being sold in an online auction. [Entered: 10/23/2012]
By Jamie Ries
An auction to sell Bruce Cole’s unused land and equipment took place in Moberly on Wednesday (Oct. 24).
The auction followed a failed international business venture where Cole’s company defaulted on a bond payment to Moberly.
Gov. Jay Nixon and Cole announced the factory project in 2010.
Cole faces charges of theft and fraud after defaulting on the bond payments. Moberly had issued $39 million in bonds to build a factory for a sucralose plant in the city. The factory was only partially completed.
Cole is also accused of transferring $204,167 from the project into his wife’s bank account and using the funds to avoid foreclosure at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home.
Headline: State officials react to the lack of TANF drug tests [Entered: 10/19/2012]
By Katie Kreider
The Missouri Department of Social Services has yet to issue a single Temporary Assistance for Needy Families drug test, despite the law being signed over a year ago.
Rebecca Woelfel, communications director of the department, said they are doing what they can to move the process along.
The budget was approved for the program in July, and the regulations mandated by the law have been opened up for public comment.
The public comment session will end on Nov. 15. Once it has finished, department heads will begin making contracts with the drug testing companies.
State officials said this delay shows some of the downfalls in the state’s bureaucracy.
“The wheels of government grind slowly,” said bill co-sponsor Melissa Leach, R-Springfield.
Scott Holste, spokesperson for Gov. Jay Nixon, said the department is trying to move things along.
Headline: The Pain of Loss [Entered: 10/25/2012]
By Phill Brooks
Every election night, I think back to the losers of past elections.
I remember how some have been magnanimous in defeat, while others have been bitter.
It is difficult, I think, to realize the emotional pain a candidate must feel at being rejected in such a public fashion.
It was expressed in 2010 when U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s spokesperson explained the absence of an election night appearance and concession by Susan Montee who had lost her bid for reelection as state auditor.
“Auditor Montee is at home trying to figure out and waiting on results in a private way…When close races happen, they are really hard to deal with,” Danny Rotert said.
The first statewide loser I covered was Haskell Holman. He remains the longest serving state auditor in Missouri history. But after 18 years in office, it was clear he would lose to Kit Bond and a re-energized Republican Party in 1970.
On election night, Holman had no election party or watch. Instead, he just went to his office to wait out the results alone. When I called him that night, he was cleaning out his files, clearly in expectation of defeat.
He actually asked me if it was time to concede. All I could do was give him the results so far — to which he gave, as best I know, the only official concession statement that night.
It was a sad interview. He had been an institution in Missouri government. But, time had passed him by. From that interview, I think he recognized the passing of an era. Holman died just a few years after his defeat.
The humility of Holman contrasts sharply to the reaction of Republicans at John Ashcroft’s loss for the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Ashcroft’s Senate colleague Kit Bond charged a “criminal enterprise” and called for a federal investigation into a judge’s decision to keep some polling places in St. Louis City open past legal closing hours. The state party’s chair charged there had been an organized effort to steal the election.
Eight years later, the Republican loser for governor took a quite different approach to defeat. “I love Missouri too much for our state to remain divided,” Kenny Hulshof said.
Campaign staffers are affected almost as deeply as the candidate in defeat. Many are dedicated to their candidates. They have sacrificed enormous hours and time on their candidate’s behalf.
Like their candidates, some are magnanimous in defeat. Often they become remarkably candid with reporters because they no longer are obligated to protect their employers. Or, for some, you almost sense a desire to distance themselves from a failed campaign by spilling dirt on how things would have been better if they had been in control.
But some staffers get bitter, even more bitter than their candidates.
Among the most bitter I’ve encountered were some of the campaign staff for the 1992 GOP candidate for governor, Bill Webster.
Arriving at the election-night watch for a campaign that clearly was going to lose, I was told by top staff that I would not be given any information by them because of how I had covered reports of a federal criminal investigation that had sunk Webster’s campaign.
The story actually had been broken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in what was one of the best investigative reporting efforts I’ve seen in Missouri. But in picking up on the newspaper’s investigations, I became the target of staff bitterness.
It turned out that it actually gave me a reporting advantage.
Seeing me excluded because of staff revenge, I was invited to the private table where sat the candidate’s mother and the long-term administrative assistant to the candidate’s father, the late Sen. Dick Webster, who had been one of the lions of the Missouri Senate.
From there I got a unique perspective on the passing of a major Missouri political dynasty and the pain that political loss inflicts on family. It reminded me of the pain I first encountered in Haskell Holman’s 1970 defeat.
We should not forget that Webster, his family and his staff suffered the pain of loss because of Webster’s own criminal activities for which he spent time in federal prison.
But for so many others, I’ve come to understand that part of the sacrifice paid by some public servants and their families is the pain of loss.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]