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Sinquefield gives $2.5 million in new aid to effort to curb or eliminate local earnings taxes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 4, 2010 - Wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield is putting even more money where his mouth is, when it comes to opposing local earnings taxes.

As first noted by the Turner Report, Sinquefield gave $2.534 million this week to "Let Voters Decide," the campaign group trying to get on the fall statewide ballot a proposal to require voter approval to maintain the decades-old earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City, and bar earnings taxes in any additional communities in the state.

The donation was made public today by the Missouri Ethics Commission, the state agency that handles all campaign-finance reports.

That huge sum is in addition to $1 million that Sinquefield gave the group in January, and another $750,000 in April, to bankroll its signature-collection efforts. Since the petitions have been turned in, his new infusion of cash appears aimed at ads and other public-persuasion activities in the coming months.

His $4.28 million in total contributions make up virtually all the money that the group has raised.

The ballot proposal would require that voters in St. Louis and Kansas City decide every five years whether they want to retain their 1 percent earnings tax. If turned down, the cities would be required to phase out the tax over 10 years. And once rejected, the tax cannot be reinstated.

The campaign also appears to reflect how Sinquefield has changed his approach, donation-wise, since he -- or rather, his money -- burst onto Missouri's political scene just a few years ago, shortly after he moved back to his home state after decades elsewhere.

In 2009, Sinquefield was the state's largest single donor, giving out more than $1 million to various politicians. This year, most of his money has been directed at issues like the earnings tax -- not candidates.

In response to the Beacon's inquiry, Let Voters Decide issued a statement this afternoon from spokesman and lawyer Marc Ellinger:

"More than 210,000 Missouri voters signed petitions to qualify the Let Voters Decide Initiative for the November 2010 state ballot. That’s more than double the amount needed. This effort was successful thanks to the continuing financial support of retired Missouri philanthropist Rex Sinquefield. Rex wants to make sure the Let Voters Decide campaign has adequate resources to go up against the big corporate and public employee union interests that are expected to spend millions trying to prevent voters from having a say on earnings taxes. This important measure will allow Missouri voters to decide if they want to prohibit any new earnings taxes in our state and let voters in St. Louis and Kansas City decide in future local elections whether they want to keep or phase out the existing earnings taxes in their city."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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