Last week, the First Capitol News of St. Charles kicked over some rocks to take a closer look at the intricate system of money-shuffling and pocket-lining going on in St. Charles GOP circles. The First Capitol piece draws a bead on Republican House floor leader Tom Dempsey's aide Thomas Smith, who also serves as treasurer for quite a few St. Charles area legislative district and campaign finance committees. In relevant part, the News writes:
To circumvent political contribution limits, Legislative Party Committees have been formed. Unlimited contributions are given to these Legislative District Committees and are then funneled through backdoors making it almost impossible for the public to know who is giving and who is receiving. ...
The First Capitol News has discovered TEN of those back door funding Legislative Committees being operated out of a home at 320 Monroe Street in St. Charles with the only treasurer for each committee listed as Thomas W. Smith, Jr. We have also discovered several fictitious registered companies, apparently unlicensed, owned and operated by Smith, receiving funds from these same committees.
While the story does well to point out the fact that Smith draws an annual salary of more than $53,000 from the public till as legislative aide to Dempsey, it's possible that the piece actually understates the financial benefit to Smith of the current arrangement.
An independent review of campaign finance filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission reveals that since February of 2003, companies owned by Tom Smith have been the recipient of more than $94,000 in "fees" paid by campaign finance committees controlled by Smith.
Over that period, outfits called Advisors in Finance, Survey Saint Louis and Gateway to Victory LLC --all fictitious names registered to Smith's Display Stuff LLC-- were the recipient of "fees" from 12 different Smith-led committees (most prominently the 2nd Senatorial, 16th and 18th Republican Legislative District Committees) totaling $94,257.71.
In other words, over the last three years Smith has skimmed an average of more than $30,000 annually off the tops of the committees he controls. Good work, if you can get it --without too many people noticing.
And Smith isn't just profiting from his own committees. In fact, over a period of fewer than two months in spring of 2005, Smith's outfits (listed as "SSL, 320 Monroe St." on the reports) took a sum of $25,000 in three separate payments from a prominent GOP committee called the Senate Majority Fund. One can easily imagine the brand of malfeasance that could be stoked when Senate leaders are paying "consulting fees" to individuals whose official posts on the staff of House leaders put them in the position to affect what happens to legislation from the other chamber.
Perhaps next week Dempsey will issue an ethics manual that sets forth for his staff the limits for acceptable levels of graft. Until then, we have no choice but to assume that Dempsey's silence represents tacit approval or ownership of his aide's business activities and possible sale of his office's influence.