After a string of mailers came out promoting one of the Republican candidates for an open state senate seat, the other GOP contender is raising questions regarding who paid for them.
At question are mailers that — at first glance — appear to be from Platte County Republican Tony Luetkemeyer’s campaign. They feature a photo also used on Luetkemeyer’s website, a logo similar to the one used by his campaign and phrases like “Meet Tony Luetkemeyer” and “Vote Luetkemeyer.” Despite outwardly promoting the candidate, the recent mailers are paid for by Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that is not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.
Luetkemeyer’s challenger, Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Harry Roberts, issued a press release denouncing the source of the $200,000-funded Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund group while claiming the mailers “may violate election laws.”
“It’s politics,” Roberts said. “But quite honestly this is about an establishment insider, young politician-lawyer who has those insider connections.”
The Roberts’ campaign points to photos of Luetkemeyer on the mailer as well as the use of a campaign logo as evidence the mailers were sent in coordination with the campaign, something Luetkemeyer called “patently untrue.”
“This is yet another desperate attempt by my career politician opponent to deflect from the real issues — that he’s a tax-and-spend liberal who voted to increase taxes by nearly $14 million, raise the pay of his fellow politicians and inflate the county’s budget by millions of dollars,” Luetkemeyer said in a statement. “This shows how out of touch he is with the hard-working citizens of Buchanan and Platte Counties.”
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, there has only one been one contribution made to Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund: a $200,000 check from U.S. Term Limits, Inc. on June, 28. The group is based in Washington D.C., and, as its name suggests, it advocates for the implementation of term limits at all levels of government. The first bullet point listed on the PAC-funded mailer says “Tony supports term limits for all politicians and banning lobbyist gifts.”
“It’s more money coming out of Washington D.C.,” Roberts said. “We need Jefferson City to operate more like Buchanan and Platte County and less like Washington D.C.”
While it’s legal for political committees to promote candidates and elections, Missouri law forbids collusion between candidates and PACs.
Luetkemeyer, an attorney, said nothing on his website is copyrighted and that all of the information — including campaign photos — is considered public domain.
Meanwhile, two high-profile political consultants with no direct connection to either campaign said Missouri’s campaign laws are loose in their interpretation and enforcement.
“Unfortunately, the ethics laws in Missouri are not great,” said Jane Dueker, a Democratic attorney who has served as both chief legal counsel and chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Holden. “(The Missouri Ethics Commission) could go look at this stuff, and I don’t think they do.”
John Hancock, former Missouri GOP Chairman, echoed Dueker’s analysis of the state’s campaign watchdog, saying he didn’t recall there ever being a case where coordination had been investigated. He did, however, make an overall prediction in the race.
“This will be the most watched State Senate primary in Missouri,” Hancock said.