By Ashley Jost
ST. LOUIS — Former Speaker of the House Steve Tilley — who now operates his own lobbying and consulting firm, Strategic Capitol Consulting — is not sure what his political future holds, which is exactly why his campaign fund, Friends of Tilley, remains open.
The fund has gained some attention after Tilley reported a $7,500 donation to 2016 gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.
Shortly after the report was made public, Tilley received some criticism from his fellow Republicans for donating money to an opposing party. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, posted on Twitter that he was displeased about the donation.
“Very disappointed to see money raised by a Republican Speaker going to a Democrat AG who recently pledged to fund Dem Legislative races,” Dempsey tweeted.
Dempsey’s tweet was seconded by House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, who added that “Republicans need to stick together for 2016.”
Tilley’s campaign finance reports since January 2011, before his most recent campaign for Lt. Governor in 2012, show about 9 percent of the $175,556.35 that was donated out going toward Democratic candidates or causes, including Koster.
“If you look at my history, even when I was the sitting Republican Speaker I gave to some Democrats,” Tilley said. “I gave to Democrats I thought I could work with and that were friends of mine. I’ve always been someone who looks beyond the party.”
Finance reports show the following Democrat donations, amounting to $15,400:
- -$7,5000 to Koster
- -$5,500 to Jamilah Nasheed
- -$1,000 for Penny Hubbard
- -$1,400 for the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus
Tilley said he never meant to disappoint any of his colleagues by who he chose to donate to.
“I’ve spent seven years of my life helping build and grow the Republican majority,” Tilley said. “There are very few people in the state that can say they spent as much time as me the past eight years doing that, and I think my giving really does reflect that.”
The other roundabout $160,000 — representing 91 percent of what he’s donated since the beginning of 2011 — has gone to Republicans, including $60,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee and multiple donations to Republican statewide candidates before the 2012 election.
Of the $1,224,211 in monetary contributions he has raised since 2011, about 6 percent of it — $71,800 — came from groups or organizations that are traditionally Democrat, including unions and several trial attorneys. Among the unions, which donated about $35,950, include groups like the Boilermakers Local 27, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 and Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562. Some of the attorneys or legal offices that donated, amounting to about $18,850, include Bartley Goffstein LLC, Stone, Leyton & Gershman and Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP.
“I think my open mindedness and willing to work with people even when we disagree rather than shut them out of the process has always been helpful with raising money from traditional Democratic areas, whether it be trial attorneys or unions,” Tilley said. “You can pull my voting record and see I have a record that’s probably not friendly to [either group] , but I was willing to work with them and find common ground rather than attacking them.”
Tilley said the money he’s received from Democrats could elicit the same “gripe” as their money likely went on to a Republican cause or candidate.
“If you look at where my money goes from a personal standpoint, from a business standpoint and from a campaign standpoint, you’ll see it’s overwhelmingly Republican,” he said.
The former House Speaker said he doesn’t know what he plans to do in the future, and until he figures that out he “clearly isn’t afraid to give [the money] away.” While currently he has no intentions to make more major donations to Democrats, he said it isn’t something he’s opposed to.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.