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Political Rewind: Gov. Nixon Logs $600k in Taxpayer-Funded Travel Expenses

Patch prides itself on local coverage, but Missouri politics can have just as much an effect as local government. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week on the state political scene.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Missouri Watchdog.

McCaskill leads congressional candidates in out-of-state campaign donations

Although Claire McCaskill is Missouri’s senator, they seem to love her in such places as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

An examination of election donations shows that McCaskill, a Democrat, is the only Missouri congressional candidate who gets more individual campaign support from outside the Show Me State than from within its borders.

Fifty-seven percent of the $6.3 million that McCaskill has raised for the 2012campaign from individual donations comes from other states. The next highest is District 5 incumbent Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, who has raised 41 percents of his $269,000 from people in other states.

Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, whose website OpenSecrets.org tracks federal campaign finance, said incumbents who have spent time on Capitol Hill have built a wider network of contacts beyond their state’s borders.

Audit dings Nixon for high travel, office expenses

Gov. Jay Nixon’s office spent more than $600,000 for taxpayer-funded travel expenses and used $1.7 million from other state agencies to pay the costs of his office, an audit released Wednesday shows.

Republican State Auditor Thomas Schweich gave Democratic Nixon’s office a “fair” rating in the report, the second-to-lowest grade possible. The audit studied Nixon’s first 30 months in office.

Schweich said $565,000 of the travel budget went for flights on state planes, and the Governor’s Office had not evaluated whether taking commercial flights for out-of-state trips was more economical. The report noted two trips to Washington, D.C., in which the use of an airline might have saved about $15,000.

Nixon’s office did not respond to requests from Missouri Watchdog for comment.

Voters won’t get chance to lower payday loan interest rates

The fight to cap the interest rates charged by the payday lending industry will have to wait another year.

Not that state lawmakers — whose campaign coffers are lined with donations from the industry — are eager to join in the fray.

Missourians for Responsible Lending circulated petitions trying to get an initiative on the general election ballot that would cap the annual rates for these short-term loans at 36 percent, but Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said the group did not have enough valid signatures.

MRL, a grassroots campaign formed to fight the payday loan industry, argued that some signatures deemed invalid should have been counted and sued Carnahan. The group announced Monday it was withdrawing the challenge, because the legal fight wouldn’t end before ballots are certified in two weeks.

Koster: Start the presses! No appeal on health-care ballot summary

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan will not appeal a judge’s ruling that tossed out her health-care exchange ballot measure summary, removing any impediments to printing general election ballots.

Carnahan could not get her fellow Democrat, Attorney General Chris Koster, to file the appeal on behalf of her office.

Koster issued a statement that Cole Circuit Judge Daniel Green’s “summary more accurately reflects the legislative intent than does the secretary’s proposed language. My job is to call balls and strikes in an impartial manner. The argument is over.”

SOS spokeswoman Stacie Temple told Missouri Watchdog that Carnahan will certify the new language, which was written by top state Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and send the information to local election authorities within the next week.

Panel to study state’s growing tax incentives

Gov. Jay Nixon is reconvening a panel to study Missouri’s tax credit programs two years after a similar group’s recommendations were ignored by the Legislature.

Nixon, two months removed from a general election fight to keep his seat, said the Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission will begin meeting Sept. 12 in light of significant growth of the incentives.

During the Democrat’s past two years in office, the corporate welfare tally reached an all time high of $629 million. That’s an increase of more than 20 percent since the $523 million in tax credits Missouri offered business and industry in 2010, when the commission first met.

In a statement, Nixon said it was his duty to ensure that “Missouri taxpayers receive the greatest possible return on investment from these programs” and that the commission would “develop recommendations for making these programs more efficient.”

Washington D.C. think tank Good Jobs First released a report in April showing that two of Missouri’s incentive programs — the Quality Jobs Program and the Missouri Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act — allow employers to hold on to 100 percent of their employees’ state withholding taxes.

Only five such programs exist in the country.


 




 


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