Steve Kraske reports in today's Star about the curious financial arrangement of Speaker Ron Richard's legislative director, Tom Smith. Smith is a "key player" in the assigning of bills to House committees, and also happens to run a business that collected $500k last year from Republican candidates last year:
A top aide to the speaker of the Missouri House runs a political consulting business on the side that generated nearly $500,000 last year, records examined by The Kansas City Star show.
In his public job as legislative director, Tom Smith holds significant influence over the life or death of bills moving through the General Assembly. Critics said his political consulting business raises questions about the potential for a conflict of interest in one of the most powerful offices in state government.
Of course, Smith denies any hint of wrongdoing, and no Republican legislators remember an explicit demand from Smith. “I think it’s absurd that someone could buy 1,000 pieces (of mail) and somehow have a level of influence,” Smith says.
I think it's absurd to think that Smith's clients are only buying 1,000 pieces of mail.
“I cannot imagine how this doesn’t look wrong.” Connor said the situation with Smith was similar to one involving former House Speaker Rod Jetton last year.
“This is Speaker Jetton and his consulting firm all over again,” Connor said. “It seems to me the conflict of interest is glaring here. It has the appearance of impropriety.”
When Jetton was speaker, he performed consulting work for a series of lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and Luann Ridgeway of Smithville, and Rep. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis.
Kraske goes on to point out Lt. Governor Peter Kinder's concern with Rod Jetton's arrangement-- but Kinder may be less interested in taking on Tom Smith now, seeing how he's bought in to Smith's "Gateway to Victory Program."
Here is the Survey St. Louis Client List, as currently listed on the firm's website:
- Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder
- State Senator Tom Dempsey
- State Senator Eric Schmitt
- State Senator Jane Cunningham
- House Republican Campaign Committee
- Senate Majority Fund
- Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt
- State Representative Mark A. Parkinson
- State Representative Ryan Silvey
- State Representative Anne F. Zerr
- State Representative Chuck Gatschenberger
- State Representative Sally Faith
- State Representative Brian Nieves
- State Representative Bob Nance
- State Representative Jerry Nolte
- State Representative Doug Funderburk
- State Representative Joe Smith
You won't find Smith's name or bio anywhere on the site, though. Like any reputable campaign firm, Survey St. Louis doesn't have a single principal or staff member name anywhere on its website.
I guess his clients just know what they need to know.