JEFFERSON CITY - In an ironic twist, the backers of tax-supported political campaign initiative Proposition B have been hit with a lawsuit charging campaign finance violations.
Associated Industries of Missouri filed a lawsuit in St. Louis City Circuit Court against Missouri Voters for Fair Elections.
The suit claims that Missouri Voters for Fair Elections has illegally obtained more than $475,000 in out-of-state contributions. It will be amended to include another $590,000, said Diane Rothermich, spokeswoman for Associated Industries.
"Supporters of Proposition B have been the most egregious violators of Missouri campaign finance laws in recent years and this is something the voters need to know about before they go to the polls," said Chris Long, president of Associated Industries.
In the suit filed Oct. 16, Long charges that several large contributors to Missouri Voters for Fair Elections, including Public Campaign, the Proteus Fund and Rockefeller Family Fund, did not file campaign finance committee reports in the state. State law requires out-of-state committees to file regular reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Gerald Greiman, attorney for Missouri Voters for Fair Elections, said the contributions in question were included in the organization's campaign finance reports, but that he does not know what the contributing organizations have filed. That is not the responsibility of the Missouri-based organization, Greiman said.
"I haven't seen the lawsuit," said Doug Gray, campaign manager for Missouri Voters for Fair Elections. "But this is just the latest in a series of things they have done to try and deflect attention away from campaign finance reform."
Gray said the lawsuit was not surprising and it came down to simple self-preservation.
"The large corporate contributors and lobbyists do not want to lose the influence they have with the checkbook," Gray said. "They do not want to yield any power to average Missourians."
Greiman questioned the timing of the lawsuit.
"This kind of lawsuit is very surprising to me as a lawyer because what they are trying to do is get a prior restraint against the campaign--which goes against the First Amendment," Greiman added.
Long said Associated Industries also filed two complaints with the ethics commission.
Mike Reid, director of compliance for the commission, said he could not comment on investigations, or whether complaints had been filed. However, he said any complaints would have to resolved within 90 days.
Long said his organization had been reviewing documents at the ethics commission for some time.
"We wanted to have a complete list of violations before we filed the lawsuit," Long said.
The most recent campaign finance report, Oct. 14, shows that Missouri Voters for Fair Elections has raised more than $1 million. No Tax Dollars for Politicians, which is backed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries, has raised $192,000.
Proposition B would set up a tax-supported system of campaign financing for state candidates. It would be funded by an increase in the corporate franchise tax.