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A tale of two Democrats: Koster ramps up fundraising while Nixon scales way back

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 16, 2013: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is keeping up his financial momentum for his acknowledged bid for governor in 2016. His latest campaign-finance report shows that he already has banked $781,410 – with two-thirds of it raised just since April 1.

The fellow Democrat he hopes to succeed -- Gov. Jay Nixon – made news Monday of a different sort. His latest campaign report shows that Nixon appears to have virtually shut down what had been a prodigious campaign-finance operation for well over a decade.

In the first year of his second term, Nixon reported raising only $10,342 during the last three months. His campaign bank account now holds $386,358 – a considerable sum but far less than what he usually accumulates.

Just last year, Nixon set a fundraising record for a Missouri gubernatorial candidate.

Nixon can’t seek re-election, and he has said little about his political plans for 2016. Instead, his lack of fundraising backs up his assertion that he has spent most of his time this year focusing on policy matters.

Nixon vetoed the most bills of his tenure this legislative session.

Koster, meanwhile, has stepped up his political activity – for himself and other Democrats.  A Republican until 2007, Koster has sought to bolster his Democratic standing by campaigning for other Democrats.

(Still, Koster's money-raising created GOP buzz a few weeks ago when former state House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville -- and now a lobbyist -- donated $7,500 to Koster's campaign.)

Koster’s campaign report showed that he had raised $879,613 so far this year, with $505,513 raised since April 1. He has spent $276,423 overall, with expenses this quarter totaling $135,291.

Koster and a longtime political ally, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have in recent weeks begun wielding more influence within the state Democratic Party.

Traditionally, the governor has been the titular head of the party. Through the 2012 election, Nixon controlled all money-raising and spending within his party. But in recent weeks, he seems to have acquiesced to the change, apparently leaving more of the political decisionmaking to Koster and McCaskill.

Nixon's lack of money-raising may be the best evidence.

GOP statewide hopefuls fatten bank accounts

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, told the Beacon months ago that he's seriously considering a 2016 bid for Missouri attorney general. But his latest campaign report shows that the speaker has yet to kick his fund-raising into high gear.

Jones reported raising $71,277 during the past quarter ($167,343 overall this year), and spending $48,614 ($171,716 overall).  He also has distributed $29,744 of his money to other campaigns.

Even so, Jones has amassed an impressive bank account of $628,193 as of June 30, his report says.

Another potential 2016 statewide candidate -- state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale -- reported raising only $44,500 since April 1. Even so, Schmitt also has a fat bank account: $602, 874.

State Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, also has set up a campaign committee for a possible 2016 statewide bid. Dempsey reported raising $65,421 since April 1 ($99,110 overall this year), spending $31,936 ($73,113 overall), with a bank account of $211,443.

The Beacon earlier disclosed the campaign reports of another potential 2016 contender -- state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia -- and state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican who will head up the statewide ticket in 2014.

Meanwhile, the top Republican in the state Capitol -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder -- reported raising only $31,194 during the last quarter, spending $25,714, with $53,343 in the bank. Kinder still has a debt of $4,806 remaining from his hard-fought 2012 re-election.

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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