Missouri Republican hacks are touting the creation of a "conservative activist group" called the Adam Smith Foundation that announced its own launch Tuesday as, in its words, "an organization committed to promoting conservative principals and individual liberties."
But close examination indicates that the Foundation is actually a corporate non-profit front group organized by Blunt-associated GOP operatives James Harris and Jeff Roe through which they plan to run ballot campaigns that attack Missouri courts and public services as well as assault certain state judges who face re-election votes.
The Adam Smith Foundation, though it makes every attempt to put up a veneer of independence from Missouri's Matt Blunt regime and GOP criminal establishment, is manned by specially chosen placeholders each with ties to stalwart Republican operatives with a history political thuggery and malfeasance. This is true, sadly, even of the organization's frontmen, whom one suspects would be clean of any taint.
The Adam Smith Foundation puts two men right up front as spokespeople in its initial release: John Elliott and Tom Shupe. Both have ties to key BluntCo. political operators.
John Elliott, a small-time player in Republican Party politics in Platte County who serves as the Adam Smith Foundation President, was engaged in the disastrous 2006 statewide campaign of Sandra Thomas for State Auditor. Thomas, who was Matt Blunt's hand-picked candidate for the GOP nod in that race, had Jeff Roe as her key advisor and manager and James Harris as her fundraising consultant on that race. It was John Elliott who was the registrar and holder of the domain name for Sandra Thomas's campaign website, the now defunct www.SandraThomasCPA.com. (Interestingly, someone tried to cover over Elliott's ownership of the domain name later on, engaging a masking service to hold the domain and remove his name from the current record.)
For his part, Tom Shupe goes way back with James Harris. During the heady days of their adventures in higher ed, Shupe and Harris served as two of the four state officers of something called the Missouri Federation of College Republicans. One of the other officers in that organization was the now infamous Nathan Cooper, several of whose clients received fee offices and pumped money to James Harris through a legislative committee controlled by Cooper. Shupe's political pedigree, then --whatever his own well-hidden accomplishments might be-- isn't enhanced by his friendship with Harris and Cooper.
And these are just the guys that Roe and Harris want us to know about. The Adam Smith Foundation has others.
Because the Adam Smith Foundation is organized as a 501(c)(4) entity under the federal tax code it must have an underlying corporate entity. Theirs has listed, on its creation filings, three initial directors of the corporation. One is the aforementioned John Elliott, the others are William Clark Hardin IV (better known as "Buddy") of St. Charles and Michael F. Lair of Chillicothe.
Buddy is a hard case if ever there was one; a first rate buffoon with an almost unlimited appetite for engaging in business that he ought not. Hardin is one of the Blunt fee agents who passed cash through Nathan Cooper's 158th legislative district Republican committee and into the hands of James Harris while he was still serving as Blunt administration appointment secretary. He used the trappings of his own O'Fallon license office to engage in cheap political pandering by making himself a fawning, pro-Blunt license tag (I guess he paid himself the fee for the vanity plates...).
Hardin is also fond of blogs, as he runs an unreadable site he says is devoted to "organizing Republican Mormons in Missouri" but which exists just to shill for Matt Blunt's favored presidential candidate, Mormon Mitt Romney. And for a time, he took to posting comments at other blogs under the handle "Porter Rockwell" --a reference to a prophecy-crazed 19th Century Mormon gunslinger who once made an attempt on the life of a Missouri Governor. Strange guy, Hardin.
But perhaps most compellingly, Hardin worked with consultant Jeff Roe on the St. Charles senate special election in which Roe, working for Scott Rupp, made false and slanderous allegations about opponent Joe Brazil which are now the subject of litigation after Brazil filed suit. The fee agent apparently considers himself a GOP political operative of some sort, modeled after the famously scruple-free Roe. In recent months he's become --along with another fee agent-- the treasurer for the Senate Republican caucus's new strongarm committee, The Majority Fund, Inc. and is on a very short list of suspects who may be responsible for anonymous and illegal campaign mailings attacking a St. Charles Councilman. Hardin, it seems, is a chip right off Roe's ample block.
And the Adam Smith Foundation's third director is a part of the family, literally, of key BluntCo. political operatives. Michael F. Lair, a schoolteacher in Chillicothe, is the father-in-law of former Blunt appointments secretary James Harris. Lair is the father of Jillian Lair who --besides being married to Harris-- is also a lobbying and consulting associate of key fee office figure Jewell Patek. Their firm has noted ties to Jeff Roe's consulting operation. The particular fact of Lair's involvement would seem to clinch the validity of suggestions that James Harris is at least partially responsible for devising the Adam Smith Foundation and assisting in its creation.
And beyond his connections to many of the individuals involved in the Foundation, there are still other reasons that strongly indicate Jeff Roe's involvement in the venture. The attorney who serves as incorporator of the Adam Smith Foundation, for instance, is Russell Jones of Lathrop & Gage's Kansas City office. Lathrop & Gage is the law firm whose building at 2345 Grand Blvd. in KC contains the offices of Jeff Roe's Axiom Strategies consulting firm, and whose attorneys have also incorporated Roe's Axiom Strategies LLC, as well as the system of management and holding companies that facilitate the Blunt fee office scheme.
Further, the Adam Smith Foundation's stated mission sounds like a euphemistic version of a scurrilous attack campaign that Jeff Roe has already been running through the past cycle. The Foundation's press release reads:
"The Missouri Judiciary has been overtaken by liberal trial attorney's who are working with Judge Teitelman and Judge Wolff to rewrite the Missouri Constitution. We plan to educate the citizens of Missouri and work to stop their judicial activism."
Though the "judicial activism" cry is well-worn and ordinary by this point, the insistence of this group on "educating" citizens about judges is reminiscent of the disgustingly false and malicious campaign against Cole County Circuit Judge Tom Brown quarterbacked by Jeff Roe in 2006. In that campaign, funded with out of state money that came in only late in the cycle, Roe had to rely on use of a hastily created Missouri Ethics Commission campaign committee administered by local figures with axes to grind. Though the campaign was ultimately "effective" (in a perverse way), it lacked any viable pretense that it was anything but a nationally funded and consultant driven smear campaign. This cycle, Roe and pals are getting an early start.
The Adam Smith Foundation is, in many ways, the entity that Roe would have liked to have available to attack Judges like Brown in 2006, but which he couldn't get put together until now.
The creation of this Foundation, complete with stated interests in "judicial accountability", "education reform", "government spending" and so forth, also indicates an effort by consultants Harris and Roe to get a jump on potential ballot initiative business by setting up a multi-purpose front-group 501(c)(4) organization through which funders can pump dollars and remain anonymous. Any evildoer, in state or out, who wants to get some destructive measure on the 2008 ballot can simply write a check to the Adam Smith Foundation and let Roe and Harris do the rest. Truly frightening.
But as always, members of our media (when they're done writing about salad dressing and dinner rolls) will be unable to resist the temptation to report on the Adam Smith Foundation as though it were a real "grassroots" organization. They should see it for what it is. The Adam Smith Foundation is just the latest iteration --cobbled together by the same group of GOP operatives and retreads who've birddogged every other political smearjob in the state over the last three years-- of a Republican establishment bent on co-opting every last portion of state government in a program designed to build in a permanent political advantage. Same crew, same game, new name.
One thing that the press corps might want to look into is the funding of the Adam Smith Foundation. Will the group, like "Citizens for Judicial Reform" before it, be bankrolled by out of state millionaires like Howard Rich? Or, given the preponderance of fee office related figures among the players in the Foundation, is some of the fee office money that's being siphoned off via management companies being pumped back into politics via the Adam Smith Foundation?