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Dooley plays down merger talk, welcomes Sinquefield's checks

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 28, 2010 - Today marks Day 7 of the $5,001 checks from wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat seeking re-election this fall.

Dooley's campaign say they have no idea when the checks will stop -- but they welcome the money.

"They just started coming. They're still coming,'' said spokeswoman Katie Jamboretz.

Sinquefield's staff has yet to respond to requests for comment or to explain why he's doling out his Dooley support in daily amounts. But even without the latest gifts, the financier has been a big donor of Dooley's for some time, giving him $50,000 in December 2009 and $30,000 earlier in the year.

Sinquefield is apparently giving $5,001 so that his donations show up daily; under Missouri's campaign-donation laws, all donations larger than $5,000 are to be reported online within 48 hours.

The aid is significant because Sinquefield generally backs Republicans, although he also is a big donor to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat. Sinquefield recently gave $100,000 to state Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, likely the next speaker of the Missouri House.

Jamboretz said today that it's her understanding that Sinquefield sees Dooley as displaying "a strong business sense'' and is pleased with the county's AAA rating.

So far, Sinquefield hasn't contributed to the campaign of Dooley's Republican rival, Bill Corrigan.

In any case, Sinquefield isn't the only matter on the mind of Dooley's campaign. Spokeswoman Jamboretz said the campaign also is clarifying a report in the Post-Dispatch that Dooley is seeking a city-county merger.

"It was a misunderstanding,'' said Jamboretz. Dooley's view remains what it has always been, she said, that "it's a subject ripe for discussion with citizens'' in the county.

"He's open to talking about a city-county merger -- and it's possible pros and cons,'' Jamboretz. "I would not call him an advocate."

Dooley supports exploring the idea of merging some services, similar to the city-county public hospital district formed in the mid-1980s, Jamboretz said, He also is concerned about the city's financial problems, seen as more serious than those in the county.

But his spokeswoman emphasized that the county executive thinks it's premature to press for a full-blown merger.

A more welcome topic is all those checks from Sinquefield.

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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