Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made more than $200,000 of profit on his inaugural celebration and, although he can't seek re-election, plans to keep the surplus money in a political committee to spend during his second term in office.
An accounting of Nixon's inaugural costs provided to The Associated Press shows his campaign committee spent about $156,000 on such things as hotel event space, invitations and food.
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Nixon's most recent finance report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows he took in about $389,000 in cash contributions from December through February, much of which his campaign manager says was related to the inaugural festivities in January. That means the Democratic governor came out ahead on his party – just as he did four years ago.
“The contributions came from folks who support Gov. Nixon's agenda and the principles he laid out in his Inaugural address, and it will be spent accordingly – in order to advance the Governor's agenda and cover political expenses,” Oren Shur, the campaign manager for Nixon's 2012 election, said in an emailed statement.
As of the start of April, Nixon had $427,531 in his campaign account – a balance built by a combination of the inaugural surplus and unspent money from his re-election campaign.
The Missouri Constitution limits governors to two terms, so Nixon cannot use that money to seek re-election.
State law allows elected officials to spend campaign money on official duties. But officeholders who cannot seek re-election can continue raising money only if they amend their campaign committees to indicate they are running for a different office in the future. Just weeks after winning re-election in November, Nixon changed the purpose of his political committee to note that he was seeking an unspecified statewide office in 2016 – even though he is unlikely to actually run for a lower office such as lieutenant governor or attorney general.
Because of differences in state and federal laws, Nixon cannot transfer the balance of his state campaign account to a potential run for a federal office.
Nixon's financial tactics are not unique. Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt, who left office in January 2009, still had an active campaign account with $127,717 at the start of April. Blunt's report indicates he is seeking an unspecified statewide office in 2016, even though he now lives in Virginia and is president of the American Automotive Policy Council.
Four years ago, Nixon raised about $400,000 more than he spent on his inaugural festivities.
One reason Nixon banked more than $200,000 from this year's inaugural is that taxpayers footed part of the cost.
The state spent about $39,000 on Nixon's inaugural, according to figures compiled for the AP by the Office of Administration. Those costs included almost $10,800 for printed materials, $9,050 for live-stream coverage of the event, about $5,500 for bunting and drapery, nearly $1,300 to rent chairs and nearly $1,800 for portable bathrooms and dumpsters. Those costs don't include the salaries of personnel who planned and staffed the event or any costs associated with the use of state facilities and equipment.
Nixon's campaign committee paid other bills, including about $58,000 to the Capitol Plaza Hotel, which hosted a post-inaugural event with free food and entertainment. His campaign paid more than $35,000 to St. Louis-based Contemporary Productions for such things as staging and equipment rental, nearly $16,000 to The Ink Spot based in St. Louis for costs associated with invitations and programs and more than $5,500 to several restaurants that supplied barbecued food. Members of Nixon's inaugural committee received commemorative medals and sponsors of his public barbecue were given special barbecue sets at a cost of about $10,800 paid to St. Louis-based T&P Incentives Inc.
“The Governor felt that the more taxpayer money we could save, the better, so the vast majority of the costs were picked up by his campaign committee,” Shur said.
Nixon's festivities fell far short of Missouri's costliest inaugural. Gov. Bob Holden's $1 million inaugural bash in 2001 took more than six months to pay off. Most of that money came from private contributions, but the state picked up $125,000 of the tab.