A fundraising quarter before an election is when Missouri politics starts getting real.
And by “getting real,” I mean getting "realexpensive.”
Tuesday is the deadline for campaign committees to turn in their fund-raising reports. These are the documents showing how much money political candidates and ballot initiatives have for the final push to the Aug. 5 primary. They can also reveal how much cash is being shelled out in competitive primaries.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., contends that Missouri’s “Wild West” approach to politics — which imposes no restrictions on campaign donations or lobbyists — is partly to blame for her party’s lack of a candidate for state auditor this fall.
But the senator also asserts that the current state of affairs for Missouri campaigns isn’t good for anyone or any political party, calling it “bizarre and, frankly, not good for our government.”
When it comes to campaign financing, one name stands out: Rex Sinquefield.
In 2013, an off year politically, the retired financier gave millions in campaign contributions — primarily to ballot initiatives and political action committees. Most of Sinquefield's money went toward an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of tax cut legislation. Sinquefield also gave hundreds of thousands of dollars for ballot initiatives, including one to curtail teacher tenure.
For most intents and purposes, it was all quiet on Missouri's electoral front in 2013. But that didn’t stop the money from flowing to candidates and campaigns.
Throughout last year, a diverse group of donors gave well over $21 million worth of donations of $5,000 or more. That money flowed to candidates, political party committees, ballot initiatives and political action committees in all corners of the state.
The long-simmering fight over campaign contribution limits is heating up once again. The latest chapter: a Kansas City court is to hear oral arguments Wednesday in the case between Missouri Roundtable for Life, which supports contribution limits, and libertarian interests, headed up by Rex Sinquefield.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is once again pressing for ethics reform in state government, and for the resurrection of campaign donation limits. But this time, Nixon may be hoping for stronger interest in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, where some GOP legislators now share some of his views.