A conservative organization announced Friday that it plans to use part of a $2.5 million donation from retired financier Rex Sinquefield to help pay for a new initiative launched by future Missouri House Speaker John Diehl.
The group, called Grow Missouri, is funded by Sinquefield and was formed last year to support a Republican-backed tax cut plan. The group announced Friday that it would use some of Sinquefield’s donation to support Diehl’s “100 Great Ideas for Missouri” initiative as well as “other efforts that promote pro-growth, smaller government policy initiatives.”
“… We are prepared to provide funding for the effort that is commensurate with its importance,” Aaron Willard, Grow Missouri’s treasurer, said in a news release.
The news was greeted with outrage by Democrats and liberal groups, which accused Diehl of being in Sinquefield’s pocket. Over the last six years, Sinquefield has donated more than $30 million to various candidates and political action committees in Missouri, typically to support his pet causes of revamping the state’s education system and eliminating the state income tax.
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Grow Missouri later clarified that the money is actually the group’s fall budget, which it will use to support various candidates and initiatives in addition to any assistance it can provide for Diehl.
Diehl, a Republican from the St. Louis area who is set to become speaker in January, announced his “100 Great Ideas for Missouri” initiative earlier this week as “an effort to encourage citizen involvement in state government by seeking new, innovate ideas from the people of Missouri about how to improve our state.”
He blamed the confusion over the donation on “a poorly worded press release” that gave the impression that all $2.5 million was going to be spent on his “100 Great Ideas for Missouri” initiative.
“I did not ask for a donation, nor do I need any donations for this,” Diehl said in an interview with The Star.
Diehl said he would will welcome anyone who wants to support the concept, but “the purpose of this is not to raise or solicit money. These are going to be largely organized by our members in their districts for their constituents. It’s not meant to be a big production or show.”
Sinquefield has donated $1.75 million to Grow Missouri so far this year and $1.7 million last year. In its latest financial disclosure report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Grow Missouri reported less than $1 million cash on hand.