I was stunned and saddened when I read The Kansas City Star’s April 22 editorial, “U.S. attorney should investigate Senate leader Ron Richard,” calling for an investigation of Missouri Senate leader Ron Richard. The editorial casually impugns the character of two good men. The allegations are reckless, and your conclusions are flat wrong.
From 2001 to 2006, I served as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. In that capacity, I made the decisions about public corruption investigations of both Republicans and Democrats. Your editorial lead-in sentence says, “This Ron Richard thing is not going away.” As a legal matter, that is just exactly what “this Ron Richard thing” will do: go away.
Oh, The Star has banged the pots and pans loudly enough that there may be some questions asked. But mark my words: There will never be legal action from the U.S. attorney on this matter because there is nothing within a country mile of a criminal act.
The editorial points to the fact that Richards’ bill was filed in early December (when pre-filing opens and most bills are filed every year) and the fact that a contribution was made by David Humphreys, owner of Tamko Building Products, six days later (just before the new campaign finance law went into effect and when record contributions were made on both sides of the aisle). The editorial labels it “pay to play” but offers nothing other than a campaign contribution from a like-minded individual.
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In the FBI they call that “lack of predication,” which means they need more than anger, political allegations and supposition to open an investigation. It is hardly surprising that a conservative businessman contributes to the campaign of the conservative Senate leader from the same small city. To say that the businessman may somehow benefit in an already-filed case is ludicrous. The Star’s editorial board may long for the day when campaign contributions are illegal, but as of today, they are still protected by the First Amendment.
The editorial credits the Campaign for Accountability as a “government watchdog group.” The truth is that the Campaign for Accountability is a liberal group funded by Democrats, run by Democrats and investigating only Republicans. Don’t take it from me — take it from Alan Rappeport of The New York Times, who referred to the Campaign for Accountability as a “liberal group.” The fact that a bunch of Washington liberals called for an investigation of an effective conservative Missouri leader is hardly news. The fact that The Star has joined their call is shameful.
No doubt the measures now rolling through the legislative process in Jefferson City are distressing to those on the left. No doubt that time is short in this legislative session and the stakes are high and the pressure is great to derail any one or all of those measures. The Star’s editorial positions have made clear that you oppose many of those conservative reforms. Fair enough — but the call for a criminal investigation based on the facts before you says more about the editorial board’s bias than Ron Richard’s actions.
Todd Graves is chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.