Let us begin today’s thoughts on Missouri politics with a brief multiple-choice quiz.
1: Meddling multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield gave a $1 million campaign donation to Bev Randles, who is exploring a run for lieutenant governor on the GOP ticket, because:
a) He is into the holiday spirit in a big way.
b) The lieutenant governor’s office is the path to power in Missouri.
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c) State Republicans have been clamoring for Sinquefield to bankroll Randles.
2: Bev Randles is:
a) A dynamite state legislator who has earned her creds to run for statewide office.
b) A protégé of former GOP U.S. Sen. Kit Bond. Or maybe current Sen. Roy Blunt?
c) A washed-up show-biz personality looking for a new spotlight.
The answers are (drumroll or something) — NONE of the above.
On No. 1, Sinquefield doesn’t need a holiday to shower money on politicians. He does that year around.
The last Missouri lieutenant governor to be elected governor was Democrat Mel Carnahan in 1992.
And many Missouri Republicans are very nervous about Sinquefield’s ostentatious bankrolling of his personal slate of candidates for the 2016 statewide ticket.
As for Randles? According to her bio, she is a lawyer and communicator who has not held or worked in a political office.
She has not been in show-biz, but most Missourians have seen her on TV. Randles was the star of a much-aired ad this fall, looking like a newscaster and urging people to vote for Amendment 10, which will clip Gov. Jay Nixon’s authority to tamper with the legislature’s budget. Randles is chairwoman of Missouri Club for Growth, which Sinquefield bankrolls.
So here is a very rich guy plunking down $1 million for a political neophyte who wants to challenge an incumbent from her own party, Peter Kinder, for the privilege of occupying a mostly ceremonial office.
Congratulations, Missouri, home of the nation’s loosest ethics and campaign financing laws. You have descended to a new level of craziness.
Sinquefield isn’t being remotely subtle about his lust to buy Missouri politicians. He gave $750,000 in October to Catherine Hanaway, the former House speaker who is running to be the GOP nominee for governor. And he supplements that by adding $10,000 a week to Hanaway’s campaign fund, earning her the name in some quarters of “Catherine Layaway.”
Sinquefield also has given six-figure contributions to Republican politicians who have declared candidacies for treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state.
Hello, overreach? It would seem so.
Republican state auditor Tom Schweich, who is eyeing a challenge to Hanaway on the GOP ticket, has blasted Sinquefield’s excess. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who also might be considering a run for governor in 2016, is working with a group to put a campaign finance limit proposal on the statewide ballot.
A handful of Republican legislators have returned contributions from Sinquefield, apparently worried about appearing to be in his orbit. There is even talk about an honest run at ethics reform legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
“We are past the stage where anybody is refusing to acknowledge the problem,” said Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who has been championing ethics and campaign reform before it became semi-popular.
Except for Sinquefield’s big-time beneficiaries, of course. And if he has his way, they’ll be too busy doing his bidding as officeholders to worry about some small cause like making government work for all the people, not just the wealthiest.