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Government, Politics & Issues

Potential presidential hopeful helps attract big crowd for Kinder

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2011 - Republican organizers for Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's private fundraiser Tuesday night say that the gathering attracted about 500 people, representing the largest non-presidential fundraising event ever held at Hunter Farms, the west St. Louis County estate of former Ambassador (and Hunter Engineering chief) Stephen and Kimmy Brauer.

A key attraction? Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible 2012 presidential hopeful, who flew in as the headliner for Kinder, a Republican who is seeking to amass as much campaign cash as possible before announcing his expected challenge of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Said state Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith: "We are excited to hear from Gov. Rick Perry, who, unlike Jay Nixon, has exhibited tremendous leadership during the economic downturn."

Continued Smith: "The results could not be more clear: Rick Perry's Texas is growing and prospering, while Jay Nixon's Missouri is falling behind. Rick Perry is an example of the kind of responsible, conservative, job-creating leadership that Peter Kinder would provide for Missouri."

UPDATE: According to Tweets from the event, Kinder told the crowd that he would be more attuned to the St. Louis area than Nixon has been. "We need a governor who appreciates (the) city of St. Louis' role as the economic engine of Missouri -- not a governor who shuns it," Kinder is quoted as saying.

Brauer is quoted, again via Tweet, as praising Kinder as "a Rick Perry-type governor."

Meanwhile, Perry told the crowd -- which included a number of legislators -- that Missouri needs to follow Texas' lead and get rid of its personal income tax. (Click here to view a video of Perry's comments on the subject.)

Perry's stance is in line with one of the event's cohosts, wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield.

The state Democratic Party shot back by dubbing Kinder and Perry as "two undeclared candidates who think they deserve promotions."

The party contended that their joint appearance also "draws attention to their shared tendency for mismanaging public funds and living extravagantly at the expense of taxpayers."

The difference between the two, said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki, is that "you can find Republicans who actually want Rick Perry to run. Peter Kinder's been nothing short of an embarrassment, still fumbling to explain why he hangs out at five-star hotels and sends the bill to taxpayers."

Attacks Set Up Story Lines for 2012

The competing lines of attack fit in with each side's attempted narrative. Missouri Republicans are seeking to tag Nixon with the state's sputtering economy; his allies say it was the Republican-controlled General Assembly that failed to pass a jobs bill last session.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been attacking Kinder for months after controversy arose this spring over more than $35,000 in state-covered hotel bills that he had amassed during his five-plus years in office. In St. Louis, many of those stays were at the Chase-Park Plaza or other luxury hotels, although at a special price.

(In Perry's case, the Democrats are referring to the state's $9,000-a-month cost to house the governor in a gated mansion and Texas' projected $27 billion budget shortfall for 2012.)

Kinder has maintained that all of his overnight stays were properly tied to official events, but opted to pay the state $52,000, representing all of his in-state hotel bills while in office, in hopes of ending the dispute. 

In any case, Kinder's allies contend that the controversy over his lodging was prompted by the longstanding Republican attacks against Nixon's $400,000-plus travel costs since taking office in January 2009.

The GOP-controlled legislature also jabbed Nixon by knocking out the veteran chef for the governor's mansion out of the state budget for the coming fiscal year.

Back to Tuesday's fundraising event at Hunter Farms, a favorite site for Republican events -- including several for a previous Texas governor, George W. Bush, who did make it to the White House.

Kinder's tally will presumably be in addition to the $150,000-plus that he already has collected this month, including several donations of $25,000 apiece.

Nixon also has had a strong fundraising month so far in June, including $35,000 collected this week from the personal-injury law firm of Langdon & Emison of Lexington, Mo.

UPDATE:

The Missouri Democratic Party today attacked state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, because he attended Kinder's event while his office is investigating the lieutenant governor's travel expenses. The party now is calling for an independent investigator to be assigned to redo the Kinder probe.

"Tom Schweich has made it clear that he's a politician first, state auditor second and has compromised any ability for his office to conduct a real investigation as to how much taxpayer money Peter Kinder wasted," said Caitlin Legacki, Missouri Democratic Party spokeswoman. "Schweich needs to appoint a third-party, independent auditor to conduct an appropriate investigation of how much taxpayer money Peter Kinder wasted to facilitate his lavish lifestyle."

Schweich's staff replied with a jab at state Democratic Party chairwoman Susan Montee, who had been state auditor until she was ousted last fall by Schweich.

"This is typical hypocrisy from Ms. Montee," said a statement from Schweich's office. "This is coming from the same person who raised cash, hand-in-hand last year, with the governor while conducting significant audits of his administration. Keep in mind, Auditor Schweich recused himself from all matters involving the lieutenant governor just weeks after taking office. Ms. Montee had no such recusal."

Countered Legacki: "Kinder gave Schweich's campaign $200,000. Schweich's office is 'investigating' whether Kinder improperly used taxpayer dollars at an event benefitting SCHWEICH. Montee's audits were regularly scheduled audits that the office conducts of all state agencies. Schweich's office is  'reviewing' very specific situations where Kinder has acknowledged misusing taxpayer funds."

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