The Missouri Ethics Commission’s sanctions against two school board candidates and political meddler Clinton Adams Jr. are too little and too late.
But even a slap with a wet noodle is better than nothing.
Nearly 18 months after nasty, deceptive mailings targeted candidates in two local school board races in the spring of 2014, the state ethics commission has filed consent orders against Adams, former Hickman Mills school board member Breman Anderson and Kansas City school board member Melissa Robinson.
The three have admitted to their role in campaign violations and agreed to pay fines — $640 for Adams, $670 for Anderson and $240 for Robinson.
Investigators found that Adams, with the consent of Anderson and Robinson, prepared hit pieces against their opponents and worked with Print Media Design to produce and mail the material.
According to the consent orders, a representative of Print Media Design asked for the required “paid for by” information, which by state law must be a committee registered with the ethics commission. Adams claimed no such information was necessary. He proposed bogus names for some of the mailings, and one batch was sent out with no attribution.
In an interview with a Kansas City Star reporter this week, Adams preposterously alleged discrimination because the ethics panel sanctioned himself and the two school board candidates, who are African Americans, and took no action against “white printing and media companies.”
Yes, we might see fewer vile campaign materials if the ethics commission would crack down on printers and mailers who allow candidates and operatives to omit the required attribution.
But this is not a racial issue. This is a case of Adams and the two candidates hiding their identities in order to smear other candidates seeking to serve their schools and communities. The mailings were cowardly, personal attacks that deeply shook the targeted candidates, most of whom were African American. One target, Joseph Jackson, ended up losing his seat on the Kansas City school board. The targeted candidates in Hickman Mills won their races.
Larger fines and swifter action by the Missouri Ethics Commission are necessary to stop campaigns from hiding behind deceptive materials. But the consent orders at least expose how low some people will go to confuse voters.