MEC dismisses wide ranging complaint regarding activity during SD 34 GOP primary

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s ethics watchdog dismissed a wide ranging complaint that made a variety of accusations including circumventing campaign contribution limits and coordination between committees.

The Missouri Ethics Commission determined the “From the facts presented… no reasonable grounds exist to support” the accusations against the Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund, the Missouri Alliance for Freedom-Grace River PAC, US Term Limits Inc., James Thomas III, Jeffrey Roe, and Herzog Contracting Corp.

The lengthy complaint was formally dismissed on November 13, 2018.

A variety of allegations were made, including that contributions made to Missouri political action committees with a common treasurer, James Thomas III, were made to conceal the identity of the source and recipient of the contributions, and to avoid the $2,600 contribution limits to candidates for the Missouri General Assembly in the August 2018 primary election. The complaint also alleged that campaign management services provided by companies owned or controlled by Jeffrey Roe to the Missouri PACs as well as candidates supported by those PACs were coordinated in such a way to also constitute contributions to the candidates.

Some of the allegations were similar to those made in a previously dismissed complaint.

In the five-page letter detailing the MECs conclusion, the commission noted that “[e]xpenditures made in support of a specific candidate are not considered contributions to that candidate if those expenditures were not request to be made by, directed, or controlled by, or made in cooperation with, or made with the express or implied consent of the candidate.”

Committees that make expenditures on behalf of a candidate with “prior knowledge on the part of the candidate” and with “coordination or cooperation or the prior consent of the candidate” then the candidate is required to report expenditures by the committee as in-kind contributions.

The Federal Ethics Commission has adopted rules defining coordination to include activities by a common vendor, Missouri to date has no such law.

The complaint stated that US Term Limits made earmarked contributions to the Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund (MSCF) to be utilized in support of then-candidate Tony Luetkemeyer or in opposition to his Republican primary opponent Harry Roberts. The MEC noted that US Term Limits “produced evidence that it provided no instructions or entered into any agreement regarding how contributions it to the Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund would be spent.”

Also alleged in the complaint was that Herzog Contracting Corp. made a donation — which was passed to MSCF in order to circumvent contribution limits — to the Missouri Alliance for Freedom-Grace River PAC (Grace River) to be used in support of Luetkemeyer.

The  MEC investigation showed the Herzog made $99,978.72 donation to Grace River. And within two weeks on reporting that donation, contributed $100,000 to MSCF.

“The timing of the contributions, as well as the other activity by MSCF did not support the allegation that the $100,000 contribution from Grace River to MSCF was the same $99.978.72 originally contributed by Herzog,” stated the MEC.

Regarding a separate allegation, the MEC determined that “sufficient evidence was not found…to support the allegation that the  Axiom internal firewall policy was violated resulting in the coordination of campaign activity conducted on behalf of Luetkemeyer for Senate and MSCF, or that MSCF independent expenditures actually constituted contributions to Luetkemeyer for Senate.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.