ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Missouri’s lack of limits on campaign contributions has delivered a race for governor costing tens of millions of dollars.
It is expected to be a record breaker when it comes to expenditures. Dozens of political commercials have flooded the Missouri airwaves, many purchased by the candidates’ campaign committees. But some come from independent political action committees (PACs).
Not-for-profit political action committees are allowed to conceal their donors and that has produced so-called “dark” money that is being spent right now on attack ads.
Both leading candidates for governor have come under fire for their records and their contributors.
Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who hopes to move up to the governor’s office, has been repeatedly targeted as a “corrupt politician.” Those charges reflect a New York Times newspaper article from October 2014. The Times reported a law firm was lobbying attorney generals from around the nation in hopes of getting them to drop investigations of a client, the 5-Hour Energy drink firm.
Koster took a donation from the law firm after ending an investigation his staff began into the firm’s product labeling and benefit claims. But Koster insists that was the right call on his part.
"Four states in the country sued a company called 5-Hour Energy; 46 states did not because they thought the case was frivolous. Missouri was one of the 46 states that did not,” Koster said. The attorney general added if he made a practice of filing frivolous lawsuits, companies would leave the state and take their jobs with them.
Retired Navy Seal and Republican candidate for Missouri governor, Eric Greitens, is criticized by the Democratic leadership for allegedly using a donor list from The Mission Continues, a charity he founded, to raise political dollars. Greitens fiercely denies that.
“When people who invested in The Mission Continues also saw I was running for office, they were patriotic, they were supporters of veterans, and I’m proud of the fact they are also investing in this campaign," he said Friday afternoon.
The Missouri Republican Party accused Koster of operating with a pay-to-play policy where they demand donations in order to connect with the officeholder. Party Chairman John Hancock said Koster does not prosecute firms that have given him political donations. According to Hancock, Koster has never sued a payday loan firm that has also donated to the Democrat’s campaign fund.
Koster responded: “No public official in the State of Missouri puts on themselves the type of conflict of interest scrutiny that we guard against. And we’ve turned back hundreds thousands of dollars in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety."