This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 18, 2011 - A handful of area businessmen have helped one of their own, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dave Spence, outpace Gov. Jay Nixon in big donations for the first part of this month.
Since Nov. 29, Spence has collected $280,000 in contributions of more than $5,000, compared to $98,000 for Nixon, a Democrat who has been very successful in the fundraising department.
Nixon still maintains a large fiscal edge, with more than $4.22 million in the bank as of his last campaign report, filed Oct. 15. But Spence appears to be working hard to catch up early.
Spence will file his first campaign-finance report on Jan. 15, when Nixon also will report his latest numbers. Until then, neither candidate is reporting any donations of $5,000 or less.
Spence's early large donations came from seven area businessmen, two of whom -- Bill Koman and Robert O'Brien -- gave $100,000 apiece.
In addition, Spence donated $2 million of his own money to his campaign.
With exceptions of O'Brien and Koman, Spence's donors have not been major campaign contributors to other candidates.
The others are:
- Keith Strope, chief executive of Tricor Braun
- Kevin Maher, president of St. Charles Automotive
- John Tlapek, principal with Equity Group
- Mark Mays, with Clear Channel
- Daniel Creston, executive vice president with Alpha Packaging, a firm owned by Spence and an equity group
Although Spence is holding off on any public events or on-the-record interviews, he has been traveling the state to privately court fellow Republicans. Aside from the economic issues, Spence also is emphasizing his social conservative status.
A Catholic, Spence notes that he is opposed to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. That latter stance is underscored by his wife's donation of $2,500 in 2006 against Amendment 2, the constitutional change that protects all forms of stem-cell research allowed under federal law. Amendment 2 narrowly passed statewide in 2006.
That stance may help Spence with some area businesspeople, and hurt him with others, since many were involved on both sides of the Amendment 2 campaign.
Later Friday, the Missouri Democratic Party offered up its comments, as the party continued its attacks on Spence's side job as a board member for Reliance Bank:
"It's no surprise that Spence turned to his friends for money because it will be hard to convince anyone outside his close circle of friends to give their money to a candidate who took a $40 million bank bailout and refused to pay it back. Spence was a major shareholder of that bank, profited from the bailout money, and now expects folks to contribute to his campaign?"
UPDATE: A Spence spokesman said Saturday that the Democrats are continuing to misrepresent Spence's tenure at Reliance Bank, a bank which did accept $40 million in federal bailout money in early 2009.
Spence previously has said that although he was on the bank's board, he was not on the holding company that approved taking the federal bailout until a few months later. Spence left the bank board and the holding company last March, and says he did so, in part, because he objected to Reliance's decision not to make its first $2.2 million in repayment of the federal bailout aid.
Democrats note that Reliance's explanation of Spence's departure to the SEC did not cite any disagreements.