Crista Carr Shatz, a St. Louis activist, is worked up about this news:
Just a few days after announcing he would reject voucher supporter Derio Gambaro’s appointment to the State Board of Education, Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, filed his quarterly report showing he accepted $9,750 from 15 shell committees formed by retired billionaire voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield.
The disclosure documents, filed three days after the Jan. 15 deadline, showed Smith accepted maximum $650 contributions from 10 regional Public Charter Schools for Missouri committees (Smith has said he supports public charter schools), and five regional committees of Missourians Supporting Teaching Excellence.
So Crista asked me to post this account of her phone call to Jeff and her reaction to what he had to say:
I called Jeff’s office to demand an explanation. An excellent and sympathetic aide listened and wanted to reassure me Jeff opposes vouchers, which is ostensibly what the money is about, in my limited understanding. I insisted, it’s about laundered money and buying elections, not vouchers. I have no argument with Jeff on educational policy and support charter schools done right. She said she had no acceptable answer about funnelling cash through committees and took my number.
Jeff called me back within minutes.
He basically threw himself on his sword, said politics makes nice people do bad things and yes it’s disgusting but he has to raise the money any way he can to beat the republicans and regain control of the legislature. No excuses, it’s ugly but for now, we have no choice. The candidates who are not selling out obviously think differently.
He encouraged me to keep making it an issue. You can be sure I am. Democracy has become a commodity to be bought and sold because we, the voters, have allowed it to happen. That’s the bottom line. It will only change when public outcry makes it happen. How can a candidate be called progressive when they engage in the same old same old? I guess when it works.
Margaret Donnelley isn’t taking money laundered through committees.
In my 73rd district Stacey Newman isn’t, and feels VERY strongly about it. Steve Brown, her primary opponent and Jeff’s close friend is taking obscene amounts funnelled thru committees by his dad Mel Brown. Mel is also showering Koster with cash. I don’t know about Harris.
The reporting on cash in the website is excellent. Thank goodness for the Mo Ethics Commission site and the devoted folks who deliver the info on our blog. Should we make a gameplan for putting this more in front of the public? I called Jo Mannies about it this week and she agrees it’s sickening but nothing will change ’til voter’s attitudes change. Like all change, it will percolate up the bottom, not happen at the top, because knocking on doors, making calls and writing letters can beat TV ads at the local level.
Should we demand public campaign financing? Is that even an answer?
I just talked to Jeff and will publish a posting on this topic late Thursday or Friday.