The Missouri Ethics Commission has fined Citizens for Responsible Government, a Kansas City political group, for violations related to its anti-tax mailers prior to the earnings tax election.
The commission issued a consent order, filed Sept. 28, that said the group and its treasurer Dan Coffey violated various sections of the Missouri ethics laws. It imposed a fine of $2,000, but all but $200 of that fine was stayed unless there are any further violations in the next two years.
The consent order came as a result of a complaint filed in April by Steve Glorioso, who helped run Kansas City’s successful campaign to renew the 1 percent earnings tax. While Citizens for Responsible Government opposed the earnings tax renewal, Kansas City voters approved that renewal by more than a 3-1 ratio on April 5.
Shortly after the April 5 election, Glorioso alleged that Citizens for Responsible Government had violated state law by failing to disclose in a timely way expenses for two anti-tax citywide mailers that it sent out before the election, and failed to disclose contributions that would have paid for the mailings.
Coffey said at the time that he hadn’t yet been billed for the mailers, so there was nothing yet to disclose.
But the commission found that the group did incur expenditures for fliers and a Kansas City Globe newspaper ad opposing the earnings tax ballot measure, totaling $26,850 in March 2016. The commission said the group failed to disclose those expenses and related indebtedness, as required in a report eight days before the April 5 election. Its report 30 days after the April election was also incorrect, the commission found.
An amended report from Citizens for Responsible Government, filed Sept. 22, showed monetary and in-kind contributions of $20,625 from a group called Better Government for Missouri.
That group’s president is Woody Cozad, who was a spokesman for the anti-earnings tax renewal campaign in Kansas City. The Citizens group also received $21,000 in monetary contributions from a group called United for Missouri, which includes Cozad as a board member. That group says on its website that it strives to mobilize citizens for limited government. The latest report disclosed $25,375 in spending for fliers and phone calls.
Coffey reiterated Monday that he hadn’t made the disclosures in a timely fashion because he didn’t have an invoice showing what the expenses were going to be. But he said the commission had made it clear that groups are supposed to file an “advance notice of what it’s going to cost you to do this.”
“This is all new for us,” Coffey said. “We’ve never done this before.”
He said he accepted the fine, and had already paid the $200.
“It’s done. It’s over with,” he said.
Glorioso said this violation should be embarrassing for Citizens for Responsible Government.
“Mr. Coffey and his irresponsible campaign committee got caught violating Missouri’s campaign disclosure laws,” Glorioso said, adding that the group criticizes City Hall for lack of transparency in its dealings but was guilty of the same problem in its campaign disclosures.