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New complaint filed with Missouri Ethics Commission against Davis brings up old issue

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2010 - Sarah Dawson, of Columbia, says the formal complaint she has filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission against state Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon -- alleging that the legislator has improperly spent campaign money for personal use -- stems from simple curiosity.

Dawson said she got curious a few months ago about the campaign billboard that Davis erected along Interstate 70 to promote her Aug. 3 bid for the 2nd District state Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Scott Rupp of Wentzville.

Dawson noticed the billboard states that the ad is paid for by Davis' campaign. She also noted that one side of the billboard advertises Davis' personal business.

When Dawson checked Davis' campaign reports, she could find no evidence that Davis had reported spending the money for the billboard. Failure to report such spending violates Missouri law.

Dawson said she also noticed something else in one of the reports: $5,280 that Davis reported spending for training last year at the St. Louis-based Broadcast Center. Dawson says the center's website indicates that the course costs $640.

Last Friday, Dawson laid out her concerns about both issues in a lengthy formal complaint she filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission against Davis. The Beacon obtained a copy of the complaint, which includes copies of Davis' old campaign reports.

Davis has yet to reply to a request for comment. Her husband said today she was out campaigning.

Dawson said the timing of her filing had nothing to do with the Aug. 3 primary. Dawson added that she also did not talk to the campaigns of Rupp or the only Democrat who has filed for the 2nd District post, Don Crozier.

Dawson, who describes herself as a moderate Democrat, does not live in the district of Davis or Rupp. It's also the first time Dawson, 30, says she has filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Dawson said that she filed the complaint simply out of concern over what she uncovered -- and the fact that she was aware that Davis faced similar accusations before.

Five years ago, the Missouri Democratic Party filed a complaint against Davis, alleging that she used campaign money to pay her property taxes and to buy a truck. Davis ended up paying a fine imposed by the commission.

Dawson said today that she wanted to emphasize that good government, not politics, was her motivation.

"I have a master's degree in public affairs," Dawson said. At the moment, she's also unemployed so "I have a lot of free time right now."

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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