Press "Enter" to skip to content

TWMP Column: I have a friend named Hannah, I’d like to see her again

I have a friend named Hannah, you know her as State Representative Hannah Kelly.

Hannah is one of the most genuine, sincere, honest people I’ve ever known in politics.

Goodness literally emanates out of her, and with a handshake that could crack a city slicker’s knuckles.

Her smile can disarm the most angry to the most jaded people in politics, and when she plays piano it fills the entire capitol with joy.

She came to Jefferson City with a famous name, the next generation of a famous southern Missourah family, and as the scripture says to whom much is given much is required.

And she has lived up to their lofty reputation, and then some.

She has left her mark on the State of Missouri in hundreds of ways, perhaps nowhere more so than in the lives of foster children.

Last year Hannah Kelly took on one of the worst jobs in state politics, Chairwoman of the House Ethics Committee.

It’s easily the most thankless job in town. Senators don’t run and tattle on each other, and the Senator’s staff actually works for the senators so if they fire them then….well then they are just fired, and that’s the end of the story.

However, house members, especially more junior house members, and the staff, live for this kind of drama, and the person who has to sort these matters out is ultimately the house ethics chair.

It takes time away from working on the things that they actually ran to do. It’s an awful process of dealing with very personal disputes where no one isn’t a biased witness.

It’s truly public service, and no matter how you do it some people will be put out.

Further, it has clearly taken a toll on the Chairwoman Kelly, as it would anyone.

The person I’ve observed as Chairwoman Kelly runs this ethics committee, and the Chairwoman Kelly that I saw in the hallway last week doesn’t seem much like the Hannah that I know.

There is no other way to put it. This ethics committee has become a dumpster fire that has devolved into getting trash on anyone around it.

It is supposedly a “closed door” and “confidential” process, but there are a handful of facts not in dispute:

  • Rep. Chris Sander, a consistent critic of…well everyone and everything, filed an ethics complaint about Speaker Plocher botching his expense reimbursement, totaling approximately $4,000.
  • That story broke in October of 2023.
  • There are some disgruntled former and current House staffers who are leaking information about House leadership to liberal advocacy groups.
  • Last year Speaker Plocher admitted his mistake, audited his entire time in the House, and reimbursed the house approximately $4,000.
  • The House ethics committee hired an outside lawyer and paid them $14,750 tax dollars in pursuit of the $4,000 they had already been repaid the year before.
  • The leadership of the House ethics committee has repeatedly attempted to go outside the original complaint in attempts to get at Speaker Plocher.
  • It is now April of 2024, 7 months later, and there is still no resolution.
  • It takes 6.5 months to conceive, carry, and birth a wombat.
  • Being chair of the ethics committee sucks.

Do I believe what most do that that Chairwoman Kelly has become a vessel for some current and former staffers to get at Plocher? I do.

Do I believe that she has come to see it as her mission as Chairwoman Kelly to deliver what they consider justice for those current and former staffers? I do.

Now, do I believe Chairwoman Kelly sincerely believes that the ends justify the means? I do.

Further, do I believe that Chairwoman Kelly has intentionally lied or deceived anyone in this endless process? I do not.

Regardless of whether you believe any of the preceding or you don’t, there is literally no one who believes that a competent investigation into what was a pretty simple complaint should have taken this long.

It has surprised me at the seemingly cavalier attitude that Chairwoman Kelly has taken toward the people who have been drug into this endless process.

Imagine being a Republican on that committee and week after week a growing chorus of your caucus is scratching their heads wondering what in the hell you could possibly be doing for seven months. Then how did you authorize spending that much money, and in the end each week you are more and more associated with incompetence and piling up enemies with anyone associated with this dumpster fire.

If you’re a Democrat you’re saddled with this process, you don’t get to decide how long this goes or who is maligned, and the smell of incompetence begins to get on you when week after week there are hearings, the content is leaked to the media and by now your caucus is catching on your being used as a pawn in a fight between Republican electeds and their staff.

Others in both caucuses are now openly wondering if the policies and procedures can be so easily manipulated what does that say if they are accused or for the institution in general?

Honestly, the endless efforts to expand their investigation beyond the complaint look more and more like what they did to Wiley every day, and what democrat today wants to be associated with that? Or republican for that matter.

Now, imagine being someone called to testify in a process that is only barely still passing the smell test, then they leak out that you’re coming to liberals in the press so they can drag anything in your past up to embarrass you?

Then to top it all off, this is such a comedic dumpster fire that the Post prints the story 15 minutes before the committee even gavels in.

You would assume the leakers would at least respect Chairwoman Kelly, who is carrying their water, enough to ask them to embargo the story until the committee starts, but clearly, they don’t even respect her or the process enough to do that.

That is perhaps the best example of the ridiculousness that this committee has been engulfed in.

Don’t blame Kurt Ericsson or The Independent they are just doing their jobs cultivating and using sources and doing it well. You can’t blame this one on fake news or a boogeyman in the media.

Imagine the next time there is an ethics complaint filed. Suppose this committee continues to devolve into a joke. How will the next member have any faith in the proceedings, or a potential victim have any faith that this process can produce anything except endless leaks and meeting after meeting?

After eight months of hearings, the Warren Commission was prepared to take a vote on who assassinated the President of the United States.

Using just plain Missouri common sense would dictate that after seven months and $14,750 spent this committee could present their findings and take a vote over $4,000.

If after that the duly elected members of the Missouri House of Representatives want to remove Speaker Plocher from office over this complaint, then that is their right to do so.

The problem is that while Dean made mistakes, and while the staff wants him gone there has simply been no evidence to shown that he did anything close to what it would take to have him booted from office.

In the end, it’s clear that Dean Plocher screwed up, and he has drank from a bitter cup over it.

It has also become clear that petty staff fights and false controversies over computer programs are simply distractions leaked to liberals to push a conservative speaker whom some in the staff do not like from office.

There’s no question that he should be admonished for his mistake. He is the speaker, the leader, and he should set the example for the body.

The buck stops with him, but at some point, the buck has to stop with this committee, hell there are fewer weeks in session than months that this committee has been investigating him.

The members of this committee have things to better the lives of the people of the state of Missouri they would like to get back to working on.

The institution of the Missouri House of Representatives has a standard of fairness and competence they should want to protect.

Hannah Kelly herself has an impressive legacy to be proud of, and deserves to spend her last weeks as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives finishing her work and being lauded for her accomplished career.

Again, ethics chair is an awful grueling job, but I hope that after this is over, whatever her committee decides whenever it finally decides it, that I see my friend Hannah again.

She may have such a dislike for my critique that it means that she never wishes to consider me a friend again, and if she does that is exclusively my loss.

However, I hope that one night this spring I’m walking through the halls during a senate filibuster and hear that piano in the rotunda.

I hope that I get to come to Wright County this summer to the Laura Ingalls Wilder House and interview her about her career, and keep it for history until the next member of the Kelly family comes to the capitol to serve the state.

More than that I hope to see my friend again.

Tune in Sunday for This Week in Missouri Politics on ABC 30 St. Louis – KDNL KMOS-TV Fox 26 Knpn NewsTalk STL MediaCom.