Government & Politics

Missouri Republican mega-donor threatens to sue Democrats who are criticizing him

Joplin businessman David Humphreys, whose family has donated more than $14.5 million for conservative causes in Missouri since the start of 2016, wants Democratic lawmakers to stop criticizing him.

This week, Humphreys issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Missouri House Democratic committee challenging what he calls “false statements” about him in an email and Facebook post. The Democrats held a news conference Thursday at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City at which they accused Humphreys of trying to silence them.

After the news conference, Humphreys wrote a check for $1 million to the House Republican Campaign Committee.

So ... make that more than $15.5 million.

The Democrats’ House Victory Fund email that Humphreys and his lawyers took fault with said that he “bought Right to Work in Missouri,” that his PAC “spent years buying off politicians” and that “the House GOP is bought and paid for by him.”

The cease-and-desist letter — which read “Confidential - Not For Publication or Attribution” in italics and bold at the top — said that those allegations were untrue and damaging to Humphreys’ reputation. The letter demanded that the Democrats retract the email and Facebook post and stop repeating their assertions.

That’s not going to happen, the Democrats said Thursday.

“I invite him to try to sue me,” Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, said at the news conference.

“It’s unfortunate that Humphreys can’t find anything better to do with his time and money than complain about hurt feelings,” Ellebracht added in a statement. “That is not going to stop us from telling the truth about what he’s been up to — his money can’t buy his way out of that.”

The Democrats brought up past accusations of wrongdoing by Humphreys to allege a pattern of misbehavior.

Humphreys gave $100,000 to Missouri Senate President Ron Richard six days after Richard filed legislation to reform parts of Missouri’s consumer protection law in a way that would’ve directly benefited Humphreys’ construction supply company. Humphreys has denied “pay-to-play” accusations regarding the timing of the donation.

A lobbyist was fined for illegally working on Humphreys’ behalf in 2017 without disclosing the relationship with the Missouri Ethics Commission; another complaint involving the same lobbyist was dismissed this year.

“I have spent my life advocating for ideas and policies that I believe will help the cause of individual liberty and I have no intention of backing down,” Humphreys said in a statement Thursday. “I have been attacked every day for months on end for having openly expressed my political beliefs. I am merely trying to challenge false statements when they are made about me and to protect my own reputation.”

Humphreys spokesman Ken Spain said that they had two employees at the Democrats’ news conference to hand out copies of the statement, but they were turned away.

It’s “sort of ironic given their First Amendment argument,” Spain said.

Democrats who were at the news conference denied turning anyone away.

Shortly after the new conference, Humphreys cut the $1 million check for the House Republican committee.

Asked whether the donation was related to the Democrats’ news conference or was meant to send a message, Spain wrote in a text message, “Let’s just say it wasn’t a coincidence.”