If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen much of Missouri’s statewide candidates on the road this week, here’s the answer: They’re probably on the phone.
Friday is the money-raising deadline for the last major campaign-finance reports due before the Nov. 8 election. Although money can still be collected afterward, the reports – officially due Oct. 17 – often are seen as a way to create momentum for the final few weeks before the public heads to the polls.
As a result, many of the statewide contenders are engaging this week in “dialing for dollars.” They’re calling donors to either ask for money, or thank them for sending it.
Friday’s deadline also takes on a different aura because the October reports could be the last ones filed in Missouri without campaign donation limits, should voters decide Nov. 8 to approve a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate some sort of contribution restrictions for statewide and legislative candidates.
Missouri has been without donation limits since 2008 for all candidates, except those running for Congress.
The latest list of large donations (over $5,000 apiece) on the Missouri Ethics Commission’s website are evidence of the aggressive money-raising that has been underway since the Aug. 2 primary winnowed down the field of contenders.
The notable big-money contributions include:
- RAI Service Co., an arm of the RJ Reynolds tobacco company, has given more than $2.5 million since Aug. 2 to the campaign committees – recently renamed – charged with promoting Amendment 3, which seeks to increase Missouri’s tobacco tax by as much as $1.27 cents a pack.
- The Missouri Association of Realtors has donated more than $1.3 million since the primary to bankroll the campaign group seeking to pass Amendment 4, which would bar state sales taxes on services. (No such sales tax is imposed now, but some fear an expansion of the sales tax if the state General Assembly cuts or eliminates the state’s income tax.)
- Republican attorney general nominee Josh Hawley collected $1 million this week, combined, from Joplin businessman David Humphreys and his sister, Sarah Atkins.
- Since Aug. 2, the Humphreys/Atkins duo have doled out close to $6 million, far more than any other donors in the state. But about one-third of that money has not gone directly to candidates, but to a political action committee they set up called the Committee for Accountable Government, which seeks to advance Humphreys’ biggest issue: passage of a right-to-work law in Missouri.
- Missouri’s top donor, semi-retired financier Rex Sinquefield, has given no money to any candidate since the primary. A spokesman did not respond to a request for an explanation. (The major candidates Sinquefield had backed earlier lost their primary contests.)
- The Republican Governors Association has given $4.2 million since the primary to GOP gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens. His Democratic rival, Chris Koster, has gotten no direct donations from the Democratic Governors Association since the primary – but the association previously has been spending money on an independent ad campaign on his behalf.
Fox switches parties; Illinois governor jumps in
When it comes to large donations since the primary, Greitens has outraised Koster – but not by much, if the RGA money is excluded. As of Tuesday, Greitens had collected $2.5 million from other donors, compared to $2.4 million for Koster.
The bulk of Koster’s money has come from labor unions, while most of Greitens’ money has come from businesspeople around the state. Notably, most of the large donations Greitens received for the general election have not come from out-of-state financiers, who largely bankrolled his primary contest.
A couple of the duo’s large donations have particularly captured notice because of who wrote the checks, and who received them.
Clayton-based businessman Sam Fox, a major GOP donor for decades on the national and state level, has given $100,000 since the primary to Democratic nominee Koster.
In a statement, Fox said he was backing Koster for two reasons. “First, he shares my concern about protecting life-saving embryonic stem cell research in Missouri from the efforts of opponents of this research to bar or even criminalize it.,” Fox said, noting that issue was among the reasons Koster left the GOP in 2007.
Fox also cited Koster’s experience as “a competent, rational and well-meaning public servant. … In contrast, Mr. Greitens has never been involved in politics nor held public office of any kind.“
Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has sent $100,000 to Greitens. Rauner’s campaign arm declined to comment. But Greitens said Tuesday that he has talked to the Illinois governor, who has given him encouragement.
“I’m an outsider running against the political establishment,” Greitens said. “It’s very helpful to hear from someone who’s come from the outside, who’s had to take on the political establishment.”
Missouri's statewide candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate will be in Branson on Friday to participate in their first forums. The Missouri Press Association has invited all the candidates who will appear on the November 8 ballot.
The participants will include the major-party candidates for governor, Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens, as well as U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and his Democratic rival, Jason Kander. The third-party candidates also have been asked to participate.
Reporter Jason Rosenbaum contributed information for this article.