To the surprise of many oobservers, the Missouri Supreme Court decided that the limitless system as passed was unconstitutional. Since lawmakers had begun to take unlimited donations, it caused quite of bit of confusion throughout the Missouri political establishment.
Ultimately, lawmakers were forced to refund millions of dollars of "over limit" donations. This act was significant on paper, but many were able to either filter the money back through outside campaign committees. And many received much of the money back when limits were taken off again in 2008.
Still, the decision affected how the political class raised money for nearly an entire calendar year. And it provided a glimpse at the difficulties of curbing big money in politics.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I've always been fascinated with efforts to either curb or expand campaign finance limits. Republicans generally seem content with allowing huge donations if the act is "transparent." But Democrats and some Republicans often support a limited system that is easily circumventable and provides much more power to outside groups.
This challenge can be seen on a federal level. Groups like the Club for Growth or Emily's List can spend unlimited amount of money doing essentially the same thing a candidate's committee does on a daily basis. And if a federal legislative race gets competitive, you'll likely see the National Republican Campaign Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee get involved.
The Trout case was the latest chapter in the difficult history of controlling campaign contributions.
FUN FACT: Trout unexpectedly won a state Senate primary for a St. Louis County Senate seat. He was soundly defeated by Eric Schmitt, an attorney who is now in the Missouri Senate.
In news that should surprise no one, Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt raised tons of money for the soon-to-be open U.S. Senate seat in Missouri.
Once against, the longtime U.S. representative from Springfield raised roughly $1.3 million and has $2.27 million of cash on hand. Carnahan, the Democratic secretary of state, raised roughly $1.07 million and about $1.8 million of cash on hand.
Without disparaging either candidate's ability to fundraise, I contend that the outside committees - like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee - will be the biggest competitive gauge in this race. If both campaigns pour in money until the end of the campaign, then it's probably going to be a close race. If one campaign bails out before the end, then it's probably a sign of trouble.
Given Missouri's propensity for close contests and the fundraising abilities of both candidates, I say it's likely at this point that both committees will be committed to this race. Both candidates are obviously viable.
Other campaign finance tidbits from around the bend:
Travis Brown, a lobbyist for many in and around the Missouri Capitol, produced a neat service awhile ago that sends out Tweets whenever there's a donation over $5,000 logged into the Missouri Ethics Commission.
One Tweet that caught my attention was a $25,000 from the Supporters of Health Research & Treatments to House Majority Leader Steve Tilley's campaign committee. The Perryville Republican will likely become House Speaker if the GOP maintains a majority in the Missouri House.
That committee is notable because it's typically been a way for supporters of embryonic stem cell research to donate to the political process. The stem cell issue has been a thorny one for Missouri Republicans, prompting a split between those who support embryonic stem cell research and those who oppose it on religious or moral grounds. Socially conservative Democrats have also bucked their party on the issue as well.
Before I talking to Tilley about other topics yesterday, I asked him about the donation. He said he was a "moderate Republican" who supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from restricting any kind of stem cell research allowed by federal law.
"I don't mind that," Tilley said. "I think ethical research is good. I came to the conclusion that I support stem cell because I have two daughters. And I'll be honest with you. If one of them was sick and I think stem cells provided an opportunity - just a chance - to save them, I'd do it in a heartbeat. And beyond that, I think if you had a stem cell cure for cancer, I guarantee that people who are against stem cells would be happy to take the cure."
Tilley said that the "knock" on him when he was running for leadership in the House was that he was viewed as moderate on social issues.
"On social issues I'm certainly more of a moderate," Tilley said. "I think the Republican Party should be for smaller government. But you can't say you want government out of your lives and out of your business, but then preach to people how you should live."
Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, will likely become Speaker of the House if the Democrats take over during next year's election cycle.
With the flood of campaign finance information coming forward in the next couple of days, what better time for a KBIA Commentary about... campaign finances?
I would argue no time is better.
My commentary specifically looks at the federal and state campaign finance systems. It also takes a look how outside groups will affect next year's election cycle - including the U.S. Senate race in Missouri.
There hasn't been much talk about the U.S. Eighth District in recent years, mainly because it's been assumed that U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, would cruise to re-election.
It's not a bad assumption. Emerson has won her re-election bids with percentages well north of 60 to 70 percent of the vote. There also haven't been many Democratic opponents who have been able to raise enough money to vie for the seat.
But a Democratic challenger to Emerson - Rolla resident Tommy Sowers - may break the mold. The teacher at the Missouri University of Science and Technology announced raising roughly $200,000 for the quarter. Sowers officially entered the congressional contest 21 days before the fundraising filing deadline.
Sowers' release includes a quote from Missouri Democratic Party chairman Craig Hosmer stating that Sowers' haul "is about the strongest support I’ve seen for a
candidate - first timer or incumbent."
"These numbers demonstrate peoples’
belief that a strong leader who served his country in the US Army is exactly
the kind of leader we need to send to Congress to serve his fellow residents in
the 8th District,” Hosmer said in a statement.
Those type of numbers could make the Eighth District race worth watching during the election cycle. It follows the pattern of races - such as ones in the U.S. Fourth District and the U.S. Third District - that could be more eventful than in years past.
Southeast Missouri does have a Democratic history. It's the region that brought the state Warren Hearnes, a native of Charleston. Democrats hold Missouri House seats that encompass parts of the Bootheel. And Rolla, of course, is the home base of the Carnahan family, one of the most famous political clans in the state.
Democrats have been pushing the fact that U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, has taken more money from lobbyists than another candidate running for office this election cycle.
That's according to an article from USA Today, which features a chart showing Blunt's U.S. Senate campaign has scooped up $310,534 from lobbyists. In an e-mail to reporters, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Hobart pointed out that the figure is more than Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
But the top committee that received funds from lobbyists on USA Today's list is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. That committee - which has taken $731,800 from lobbyists - exists to help out Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate. The group's Republican counterpart has raised $408,500 from lobbyists, according to the article.
The question has to be asked: if the DSCC spends, say, $400,000 to help Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, wouldn't it stand to reason that the Democratic statewide official would benefit? That's especially the case if that money is used to fund ads attacking Blunt's congressional record. Conversely, Blunt would almost certainly benefit if the National Republican Senatorial Committee spends money to attack Carnahan.
The point is that lobbyist money - whether raised through candidate committees or through outside groups - will be flowing heavily in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri. That's one of the realities of running in a high-profile and tightly-contested race for an open U.S. Senate seat.
ADDENDUM: I asked Hobart about this issue and he sent me this response:
"The DSCC helps all Democratic Senate candidates, as does the NRSC and
similar Republican groups. The real distinction here is that
Congressman Blunt has raised over 300,000 dollars in lobbyist money
this year for his personal campaign - more than any other candidate. He
has even raised more lobbyist money than the Republican National
Committeeand the National Repubilcan Congressional Committee. It really shows that he is the quintessential Washington insider."