KOMU.com https://www.komu.com/ KOMU.com Target 8 Target 8 en-us Copyright 2018, KOMU.com. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 18 Dec 2018 HH:12:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 KOMU.com https://www.komu.com/ 144 25 TARGET 8: Residents of mobile home park don't know if their water is clean https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-residents-of-mobile-home-park-don-t-know-if-their-water-is-clean/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-residents-of-mobile-home-park-don-t-know-if-their-water-is-clean/ Target 8 Thu, 13 Dec 2018 2:07:04 PM Johannah Grenaway, KOMU 8 News TARGET 8: Residents of mobile home park don't know if their water is clean

PETTIS COUNTY - Tom Belsha has lived on Crestview Drive for twenty years. He has been questioning the quality of his water for 10.

"I don't drink it. I only drink bottled water and I boil water that I'm going to cook with," he said. 

Records show Crestview Mobile Home Park has a record of not testing its water system. Belsha said, for all he knows, he could be drinking garbage.

"It should be called Trash View Drive, not Crestview Drive," he said.

The park is privately-owned and a self-contained water system. Therefore, the Department of Natural Resources has no way to force it to test its water. All the department can do is continue to encourage management, help with financial assistance if needed and reach out to the attorney general for enforcement. 

The Safe Water Drinking Act. It requires monitoring once a month and maximum contaminant levels.

According to data from the Department of Natural Resources, Crestview Mobile Home Park has only tested twice this year. Both of those times, the sample was only collected because staff from the the department went to the site. Responsibility for testing lies on the property management.

Todd Eichholz, environmental specialist with the department, said every water system in Missouri tests monthly for bacteria to determine if the water is safe or not, but Crestview has struggled to sample its water.

"It's basically related to the technical and financial capability of that water system, so they have been in perpetual non-compliance and, you know, there has been some formal encouragement action to try to get them into compliance," he said.

Eichholz said trained officials simply take a sample of 100 milliliters from the tap and send it into a lab for results, which come in about a week. 

Crestview would have to hire such an official, who would drop off and pick a kit at The Pettis County Health Department. County records match the Department of Natural Resource's, showing the last time Crestview sampled its water was in June. 

Vickie Shackles, who is listed as Crestview's administrative contact on department data, said she tests the water regularly and has the records to prove it.

However, when asked to share her documentation and comment, she declined. Belsha said he is not surprised. 

"See, that tells you about how honest they are right there. That's why I don't believe them," Belsha said. "I don't believe anything anybody says out here unless they can prove it."

He shared documents, dating back to 2009, showing he has reached out to the prosecuting attorney, the sheriff, the Department of Natural Recourses and then-Attorney General Chris Koster.

Documentation from Koster's office said it wanted to work with the property and implored it to legally become a part of a home owner's association. However, Crestview still is not a legal member of an HOA and remains a chronic monitoring violator in 2018.

Current Attorney General Josh Hawley's office did not respond to inquires about Crestview.

The Department of Natural Resources can't do much more than notify the attorney general, but Eichholz said Missouri water is clean for the most part. 

"From the standpoint of how often a sample is positive for E Coli and such, it's very rare. So we have very safe water," Eichholz said. "But, at the same time, we do have to prove it. Perpetual non-compliance is not an option."

Belsha said he is concerned about not knowing if or when the water is safe to drink and wonders if it has made people sick. He said he doubts there will be change.

"I just gave up on it," he said. "I don't care anymore. I'm surprised to see you, somebody that cares."

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TARGET 8: Columbia looks for new transmission line project plans, again https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-columbia-looks-for-new-transmission-line-project-plans-again/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-columbia-looks-for-new-transmission-line-project-plans-again/ Target 8 Sun, 25 Nov 2018 4:21:25 PM Evan Dodson, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Columbia looks for new transmission line project plans, again

COLUMBIA – After years of research, spending millions of dollars and even a public vote, the city of Columbia is no longer looking into previous plans to expand the electricity supply for the city's south and southwest sides.

The problem

The issue boils down to the fact that more people have moved to Columbia’s south side over the years, and within the last decade, the city found the current available electric resources aren’t meeting the area's growing needs.

John Conway is a retired professional engineer. He’s followed this project since it was first introduced in 2007. He said this is an issue that needs attention sooner, rather than later.

“It needs to get fixed now. It’s been planned out, it’s been engineered,” he said.  

Conway said the city has eight substations, which distribute electricity. Transmission lines run around Columbia to connect the substations and distribute electricity. He said aging substations add to the issue, too. He also said neglecting to fix the problem now could lead to possible black outs and even transmission explosions, which could be costly.

"If it's significant, then it might be days or weeks before we're able to restore power,” he said.

Conway said there are several doctors’ offices and assisted living facilities on the south side of Columbia, which require consistent power, 24 hours a day.

Previously studied plans to solve the problem

The city has looked at and invested in several plans to fix the electricity resource issues. One of these plans, called Option A, included building a new substation on the south side of town. Conway said this substation would have relieved the electric load from the current substations. A map of Option A shows the new substation connecting to other substations with new transmission lines.

City council voted to go further with Option A in July 2013 and residents voted to pay for the project in April 2015. But later in 2015, people living near the site of this new substation raised concerns, and were afraid the transmission lines and substation would decrease property values in the area. Residents also argued the new structures could be dangerous for the nearby elementary school, Mill Creek Elementary. A petition was started to stop the project, and the city council voted 4-3 to delay moving forward with Option A in January 2016.

Millions spent on previous plans

However, at that point, the city had already spent more than $7 million dollars on the land, research and equipment for Option A, which was no longer pursued. A report shows $2 million dollars of this was lost.

But Fifth Ward City Councilman Matt Pitzer said the rest of that money didn’t go to waste.

"The costs are either recoverable, or the equipment is being uses elsewhere," he said. 

Later in 2016, another plan was proposed to city council by Mayor Brian Treece, known as Option E. This option would have connected the city’s substations to the Ameren transmission lines that run across the state, as well as connect substations from the northeast side of town to the southwest side with new transmission lines.

After receiving the cost estimates from a records request for Option A and Option E, KOMU 8 News found that Option E would have cost about $10 million more dollars than the previous plan, Option A. 

Pitzer and Treece told KOMU 8 News Columbia Water and Light determined the city’s growth hasn’t met expectations, and the demand for electric resources isn’t as high as once thought.

Pitzer said the city is no longer pursing Options A or E.

"There's really no need to move forward with any of the options at this time," he said. 

Ryan Williams, the assistant director of Columbia Water and Light, said it's true the city's growth hasn't met expectations, but he said Options A and E aren't "completely off the table."

"Part of that is true, yes, the load has not grown to a point to require the transmission lines. Staff has never claimed that either of those projects are, you know, dead, if you will," he said. 

No future plans, as of now

Both Pitzer and Treece told KOMU 8 News the city appointed an Integrated Electric Resource and Master Plan Task Force to look into future options to fix the electric resource issues for the south and southwest sides of the city.

KOMU 8 News reached out to the chair of this task force, Rachel Hassani, and she said the task force does not currently have a plan to specifically address the issue. She said the task force is starting from scratch. The group will instead look at ways to improve electric needs for the entire city, and it’s not focusing on one section of Columbia at this time.

“We as a task force are gonna look at every capacity need that we have in the area, which would include all areas of the service territory,” she said.

Hassani said the task force will look into consulting firms for the city’s electricity needs starting in early 2019.

Is the city being transparent? 

Retired energy lawyer, Sarah Read, said the city isn’t being transparent with residents about the status on this project, and she said it comes down to city leadership. 

“I think the public deserves a much more open, straightforward and honest dialogue than what it’s been getting,” she said. “Honestly, transparency and accountability are all very important for the public trust in government and without trust, it is very difficult to solve and move through very complicated issues, like how do we meet our infrastructure needs.”

And Conway said the city isn’t providing voters with enough information.

“The voters need to be updated as to what progress is being made, and what options are being pursued,” he said.

But Pitzer said transparency isn't an issue. 

"I think we've been pretty transparent with the acknowledgment that this new planning process will replace, you know, all of the previous planning that has been done," he said. "We'll update and move forward from there."

Read said the city needs to address this issue now. She said this process has gone on too long.

“As a taxpayer, it’s frustrating to know that we have spent millions of dollars as a city and we’re no closer to insuring our electric service reliability than we were.”

She also said it all comes down to having enough electricity for her city.

“I am definitely concerned about loss of power. A loss of power, especially in the middle of the summer, could be quite costly to both individuals and businesses,” she said.


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TARGET 8: Urgent cares disguised as emergency rooms https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-urgent-cares-disguised-as-emergency-rooms/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-urgent-cares-disguised-as-emergency-rooms/ Target 8 Wed, 14 Nov 2018 1:16:26 PM Mercedes Mackay, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Urgent cares disguised as emergency rooms

COLUMBIA - People expect fast service, convenient location and easy access when they enter the doors of an Urgent Care. They don't expect a bill doubled in price.

KOMU 8 News received a bill from a patient of Mizzou Urgent Care where the numbers aren't lining up. 

A healthcare expert said urgent cares billing patients as if they went to an emergency room is not uncommon across the country. 

Brian's story

Brian Russell went to Mizzou Urgent Care on September 6. 

"I was diagnosed with having sinusitis," he said. 

Russell said the doctor prescribed him with a Z-Pak, antibiotics and an inhaler. 

"It was a very short visit. It wasn't really anything out of the ordinary," he said. 

A couple months later Russell received his bill from Mizzou Urgent Care.

"The total balance I have due is $165 whereas on my insurance card for an Urgent Care visit it's $75," he said. 

When the bill was sent to Russell's insurance company it was categorized under, "Medical Emergency Room."

"This is for all intensive purposes an urgent care. It says its an urgent care, there's signage all over the place when you walk in," he said. 

Russell went back and forth between his insurance company and the employees at Mizzou Urgent Care. 

"It was an unfortunate series of conversations that I had because quite literally the first conversation that I had, the individual I spoke with actually told me I had to take it with my insurance company and it had nothing to do with them," he said. 

Russell's insurance company told him it was how Mizzou Urgent Care was billing him. He then reached back out to Mizzou Urgent Care.

"That's when I started getting the runaround of, 'yeah we'll look into it.' You love that kind of response, it's the minimum expectation I would have hoped for," he said. 

It has now been two months and Russell still has a bill doubled in price. 

"It's frustrating because I know that it's not just me," he said. 

A lawyer says MU Health's billing is problematic

Mike Campbell is a Columbia lawyer and said he has had many clients who have expressed issues with incorrect billing. 

"There is an issue, I think, with the university billing process, yes," he said. 

Campbell said one of the major issues is the lack of easy access to MU's billing services. 

"They have these layers to make it really difficult to get in contact with someone inside the university's billing office," he said. 

Campbell said it needs to be fixed. 

"We are a community, we are a small community and University of Missouri is one of the largest employers of this community and you would think they would take an active step in ensuring that the people who come and receive their services are taken care of," he said. 

It is not just Mizzou Urgent Care

Dr. Eric Bricker is the Chief Medical Officer of Compass Professional Health Services and said he sees this all the time. 

"It happens all over the country. As you can imagine it's not by accident. It was a specific strategy to increase the income of the urgent care center," he said.

Compass Health Services helps patients navigate the healthcare system and it has members in all 50 states.  

"We have people contacting us all day, every day about the exact same thing," Bricker said. 

Bricker said this billing is tricky, common and legal. He said he has seen urgent care visits turn into a bill worth thousands of dollars. 

Bricker said they can do this in one of two ways:

  1. The urgent care will be affiliated with a hospital. It will bill through the hospital tax ID, which is like a license plate number for hospitals.
  2. The urgent care could be associated with an emergency room but could be an out-of-network urgent care, which costs more.

Bricker gives two options of what to do as consumers:

  1. Check with your insurance company before you're sick to see how they bill urgent care visits. Also, many insurance companies have an online list of in-network urgent care centers. 
  2. If you don't have time to do this before you walk in the door, ask an urgent care worker how they bill. Make sure to take their name and use that information just in case the billing doesn't match up. 

"I would say anytime you're receiving healthcare it should be assumed that your bill is going to be messed up until proven otherwise," Bricker said. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to Mizzou Urgent Care for a week talking to a spokesperson every work day asking if they would do an on interview with us about their billing. 

Mizzou Urgent Care responded by email initially when we asked about this type of billing and said, "When patients are seen at Urgent Care, their bills might have emergency services listed under the services provided, indicating the visit was urgent in nature. We understand this may be confusing to patients. MU Health Care currently is reviewing the way Urgent Care services are listed on patients' bills and exploring ways to minimize confusion."

After more days of back and forth, Mizzou Urgent Care sent KOMU 8 News an email stating what they initially said was false.

"As a rule, a patient visiting Urgent Care would not be billed for an Emergency Room visit. Furthermore, bills issued by MU Health Care for Urgent Care visits do not have wording related to emergency service and/or emergency room on the bill," they said.

Mizzou Urgent Care refused an on-camera interview. 


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TARGET 8 FACT CHECK: Ad attacks Hawley's job performance https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-attacks-hawley-s-job-performance/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-attacks-hawley-s-job-performance/ Target 8 Mon, 5 Nov 2018 5:54:53 PM Ian Nickens, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 FACT CHECK: Ad attacks Hawley's job performance

COLUMBIA - Ads have already gone after the Republican Senate candidate's views on healthcare coverage for pre-existing conditions and his political ambitions, and now one is going after his job performance as Missouri Attorney General, among other things.

Who made this ad?

The Senate Majority political action committee made this ad. Its goal is to win senate races for democrats. KOMU 8 has checked some of its work already.

Claim: Josh Hawley started his career at a lobbying firm in D.C. that represents big insurance companies.

Previous reporting shows Hawley did, in fact, used to work for a firm called Hogan Lovells, which has lobbied for companies like Aflac and USAA. His prior experience can be found on his LinkedIn page.
Verdict: True.
Claim: Hawley is backed by 18 million dollars in secret dark money.
KOMU 8 has already fact checked this one, too. Senate Majority clearly likes to hit the same notes in its ads. KOMU 8 has found the $18 million figure comes from two PACs: the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Those PACs are not inherently dark money groups. They could become dark money groups, but then again so could the Senate Majority PAC.
Verdict: This claim is misleading and needs context.
Claim: Hawley flies on a lobbyist's plane.
The Senate Majority PAC got this information from Politico, which pulled up some public records and found Hawley did, in fact, fly on a lobbyist's plane. That money and the plane came from Travis and Kelly Brown.
The plane is registered to the Browns' mailing address. A quick look at the Missouri Ethics Commission's records shows Brown is a registered lobbyist.
Verdict: True.
Claim: The New York Times says Hawley's term as the Missouri Attorney General has been mismanaged and chaotic.
This description comes from an article in the New York Times. The article does say both of those things, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
This report says Hawley's office has been slow in investigations and some of Hawley's staff question if the A.G. put in 40 -hour work weeks. Hawley responded to the article the next day on a Springfield TV station, refuting the report and saying his office has been aggressive in its work.
Verdict: True.
Overall verdict: Mostly true.
The news sources it cited has the facts right, but claiming a connection to dark money is too vague; and difficult to prove.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad says McCaskill works across the aisle https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-says-mccaskill-works-across-the-aisle/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-says-mccaskill-works-across-the-aisle/ Target 8 Thu, 1 Nov 2018 3:39:39 PM Eric Graves TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad says McCaskill works across the aisle

COLUMBIA - Senator Claire McCaskill has long claimed she is not a party line Democrat.

The senator says she can cross the aisle to compromise and does not always vote with her party.

Claim: Senator McCaskill is not a party line democrat.

Recently, in a radio ad the senator approved, two men call out Democrats, but say McCaskill works to cross party lines.

"And Claire's not afraid to stand up against her own party. Yup, and Claire's not one of those crazy Democrats. She works right in the middle and finds compromise," the ad said.

In an October debate in St. Louis, McCaskill and her Republican opponent Josh Hawley went back and forth on how often the senator votes.

"The fifth most likely senator to break with my party. That's because I look at every issue on its merits and not on a party line," said McCaskill.

Result: We find this claim needs context.

An article in a Washington, D.C. paper called Roll Call says McCaskill is the fourth most likely Democrat to side with President Trump.

But, ProPublica says McCaskill ranks eighth in terms of most likely democrats to vote against the party.
The same ProPublica ranking said McCaskill voted against her party 16.9 percent of the time, while the average senate democrat voted against the party 10 percent of the time.
Claim: McCaskill votes with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer 90% of the time.
At the same St. Louis debate, Hawley responded to McCaskill's bipartisan claim.
"Despite voting with Chuck Schumer 90% of the time, however. So apparently Chuck Schumer must be on that list," Hawley said.
McCaskill fired back with her own claim.
"And President Trump 50% of the time," she said.
Result: We find this claim needs context.
Both of these numbers are inflated.
ProPublica said McCaskill and Schumer agree 80 percent of the time and not 90 percent, like Hawley said.
On top of that, the blog FiveThirtyEight tracks lawmakers Trump score, how often someone votes in line with Trump's position.
McCaskill's Trump score is about 45 percent and not 50 percent like she said.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McDowell got evicted from Springfield home https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mcdowell-got-evicted-from-springfield-home/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mcdowell-got-evicted-from-springfield-home/ Target 8 Mon, 29 Oct 2018 11:40:25 AM Emma Claybrook, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McDowell got evicted from Springfield home

COLUMBIA - A new attack ad paid for by incumbent state auditor, Nicole Galloway, claims her opponent, Saundra McDowell, is unfit to hold the position because of her track record with finances. The Galloway campaign pulled information for the ad from public records detailing several lawsuits against McDowell. 

Claim: Saundra McDowell has been sued seven times. 

This claim stems from several lawsuits in which McDowell and her husband did not pay for a number of things, ranging from furniture to rent to utilities. 

The couple either refused to pay or failed to pay the fees they promised. 

Result: We find this claim to be true.

KOMU 8 News found McDowell was sued six times in Missouri and once in Kansas.

According to public records obtained on Missouri Case Net, a judge dismissed one of the lawsuits, but found McDowell needed to pay in the six others. 

Claim: McDowell was evicted from her home in Springfield. 

On December 16, 2014, the McDowells entered into a lease with a landlord in Florida.

They agreed to pay $3,600 a month in rent on a home located at 5118 South Chelsea Avenue in Springfield. 

Rent payments were late for May and June of 2015. 

Result: We find this claim to be true. 

On July 8, 2015 the McDowells were evicted from their home. 

The final judgement said in part, "...Judgement is entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants for immediate possession of the property described in the Petition: 5118 South Chelsea Avenue, Springfield, Greene County, Missouri, for which execution shall issue." 

According to a Google Maps search of the address, the photo of the home in the ad is the same home the McDowells lived in.

Claim: McDowell has so much debt, the state of Missouri is garnishing her wages.

Garnishing wages means the court orders your employer to withold part of your paycheck to send directly to the person you owe. 

Result: We find this claim to be true. 

In the case D&B Legal Services, Inc. vs. McDowell & McDowell LLC, McDowell had to pay Karen Nations more than $1,000 in fees for breaching a contract with Nations's company. 

According to Case Net, McDowell's wages were garnished starting in July of 2015. The last garnishment reported in the docket entries was from May 10, 2018. 

Claim: McDowell "can't even balance her household checkbook, much less stand guard over billions in state expenditures". 

The ad quotes a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial opinion article that slams McDowell and the Republican Party's nomination. 

Result: We find this claim needs context and is misleading.

The editorial does say what the ad quotes, "McDowell, 38, a lawyer and military veteran, can’t seem to balance her household checkbook, much less stand guard over billions of dollars in state expenditures." 

KOMU 8 News finds this misleading because the article is an opinion piece not a news article. 

Claim: Galloway found over $300 million in government waste resulting in 37 criminal counts during her time as auditor. 

These claims come from the official 2017 State Auditor's report and numbers reported on the official Missouri State Auditor's website. 

According to the Galloway campaign, these numbers are compiled by auditors and executive staff in the auditor's office. 

Result: We find these claims to be true. 

According to data provided by the State Auditor's office, since her time in office, Galloway has uncovered $345,714,523 in waste, fraud and mismanagement of funds.

Some of the biggest numbers from audits include cases from the city of Joplin, the Missouri Department of Higher Education and the Putnum County Memorial Hospital. 

The 2017 State Auditor's report cites 30 criminal counts because of Galloway's audits. Additional data from the State Auditor's office details these counts, including seven more from 2018. 

The charges range from stealing to forgery to violations of ethics rules. 

KOMU 8 News reached out to both McDowell and Galloway's campaigns. 

A spokesperson for McDowell emailed a statement right before air time on Monday. The statement denied the ad's claims and touted a plan that would track every dollar the government spends. 

Galloway press contact Grace Haun responded saying quote, "I'll let the ad speak for itself." 

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the McDowell campaign's response to the fact check of the ad.)

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad questions Hawley's loyalties https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-ad-questions-hawley-s-loyalties/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-ad-questions-hawley-s-loyalties/ Target 8 Wed, 24 Oct 2018 2:53:39 PM Blake Sammann, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad questions Hawley's loyalties

COLUMBIA - Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley continues to face attacks for his stance on the Affordable Care Act.

An ad by the Senate Majority PAC paints Hawley as complicit with insurance companies in trying to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The PAC supports Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Who is responsible for the ad?

The Senate Majority Pac is a Democratic Super PAC with the sole stated goal of building a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Its YouTube page shows the group has put out a number of attack ads, many of them targeting Republicans for their stance on the ACA.

According to Open Secrets, SMP has spent more than $14 million on ads both attacking Hawley and supporting McCaskill.

Claim 1: Hawley worked as a lawyer for a corporate lobbying firm that represented insurance companies.

According to his LinkedIn page, Hawley worked for the law firm Hogan Lovells from 2008-2011 as an appellate litigator. 

Hogan Lovells receives millions of dollar each year to lobby for a number of different companies in a variety of industries.

For its lobbying efforts, Hogan Lovells got $10 million in 2016, $11.5 million in 2017 and just over $10 million so far this year.

Among the companies Hogan Lovells lobbies for are the insurance firms AFLAC, USAA, Zurich Financial Services and Lloyds of London.   

Verdict: We find this claim to be true.

Claim 2: Hawley is benefiting from $18 million of dark money.

The $18 million dollar figure is most likely coming from donations from two Republican organizations, the Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee PAC.

While this money does come from outside the state of Missouri, that doesn't mean it's dark money. 

According to Open Secrets, dark money comes from organizations who don't disclose the identity of their donors. Dark money groups are most likely to be political non-profits.

The SLF and the NRSC are both political action committees and are required to disclose their donors. But if they accept unlimited contributions from dark money groups, they become dark money groups themselves.

KOMU 8 News has no evidence that either the SLF or NRSC are accepting money from dark money groups.

It is important to note that the SMP, the group responsible for the ad, is on the same page as the SLF AND NRSC, and runs the same risk of becoming a dark money group.

Verdict: We find this claim to be misleading and needing context.

Claim 3: Hawley filed a lawsuit that would allow insurance companies to deny health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

We have already gone over this claim in an earlier Fact Check. Hawley's name is on a lawsuit filed in Texas that tried to get the ACA thrown out on the grounds of constitutionality. 

Verdict: We find this claim to be true.

FINAL VERDICT: We find this ad to be mostly true but needing context.

It's important to note the difference between dark money and outside money.

Both candidates are benefiting from millions of dollars from outside the state. A KOMU 8 News report found nearly 70 percent of the funds both candidates raised came from outside the state of Missouri.

How much of that money is coming from dark money groups is unclear.

A statement from the Hawley campaign said he has repeatedly voiced his support for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and attacked McCaskill for supporting a single payer healthcare system.

The McCaskill campaign had not responded by the time of publication.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: NRA claims Supreme Court could destroy right to self-defense https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-nra-claims-supreme-court-could-destroy-right-to-self-defense/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-nra-claims-supreme-court-could-destroy-right-to-self-defense/ Target 8 Thu, 18 Oct 2018 9:54:12 AM Ian Nickens, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: NRA claims Supreme Court could destroy right to self-defense

COLUMBIA – The National Rifle Association is backing Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley while claiming Senator Claire McCaskill will take away Americans' "right to self-defense" if she is re-elected. In addition, the NRA is claiming the Supreme Court is on the edge of destroying it, too.

Who made this ad?

The National Rifle Association is a well-known lobbying group that promotes the interests of gun manufacturers and staunchly supports the right to bear arms. This ad is made by the NRA's Political Victory Fund, a political action committee. It donates money and runs ad campaigns for candidates the NRA feels will support Second Amendment rights.

Claim: The Supreme Court is divided.

The Supreme Court is divided only in the sense that some of the justices lean left and others lean right. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all tend to vote liberally.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh all tend to vote conservatively.

The differences in judicial philosophy primarily come from how each justice interprets the Constitution. Some interpret it as written, others interpret it with more flexibility, using the principles presented by the document instead of words alone.

Many Supreme Court cases are narrowly decided; usually with a 5-4 vote.

Chief Justice Roberts recently spoke at the University of Minnesota Law School and insisted the Supreme Court serves the public without regard to political ideologies.

However, the records in cases like Trump v. Hawaii (the legality of Trump's immigration ban), Obergefell v. Hodges (the legality of gay marriage), and National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (the legality of the Affordable Care Act) say otherwise, because they were passed along party lines with one swing vote.

Verdict: True. The Supreme Court has voted along party lines for many big cases over the past decade, and each justice has been nominated by a president who holds the same political ideals. 

Claim: Our right to self-defense hangs in the balance.

When the NRA says "the right to self-defense," it probably means "the right to own guns." The last big Supreme Court case involving firearms was District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008.

In that case, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 that the Second Amendment allows individuals to bear firearms, even without connection to a militia or other lawful purposes.

Yes, those votes were along party lines.

While the issue of gun regulation and even the need for the Second Amendment have been frequently questioned after mass shootings like the ones in Las Vegas and Parkland, the Supreme Court has not heard another big case involving guns since 2008.

The Supreme Court has also never revisited a previous decision.

Verdict: Needs context. It's possible another case involving gun rights could come through the court, and the justices may vote along party lines, but there is not an impending case that would "take away our right to self-defense."

Claim: Claire McCaskill sided all four times with the liberal left on Supreme Court justices, against our right to self-defense.

McCaskill has voted with the Democrats on the past four Supreme Court justices. She voted yes on Sotomayor and Kagan, and no on Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

As stated above, the second part of that claim needs context.

However, McCaskill herself has voted in favor of tightening gun restrictions and against loosening them on many occasions.

According to NPR, she's voted along party lines for the last five major pieces of gun legislation.

Verdict: Mostly true. The NRA is correct about McCaskill's voting record, but voting for Supreme Court justices does not mean voting against a "right to self-defense."

As a final note, a CBS poll finds a majority of Missourians think America needs stronger gun control (51%), followed by people who think gun regulations should stay as they are (38%).

Final Verdict: This ad is half true. The NRA gets all of its solid facts about voting records correct, but is incredibly vague about how the Supreme Court would destroy "the right to self-defense," leaving people to fill in the gaps as they see fit.

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TARGET 8: Fact Check about the details of Proposition D https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-about-the-details-of-proposition-d/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-about-the-details-of-proposition-d/ Target 8 Sat, 13 Oct 2018 7:26:42 PM Jared Austin, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Fact Check about the details of Proposition D

COLUMBIA - Proposition D is a measure on the November ballot that would increase the gas tax throughout Missouri.

The current gas tax has not been increased since 1996. It is currently 17 cents, but according to SaferMO.com, inflation puts the tax value closer to 7 cents. 

Missouri ranks 49th out of 50 states in gas tax, ahead of only Alaska. An increase in gas tax would allow the state to make improvements to the roads and highways including adding rumble strips, guard rails and highway dividers. The state would also look into making bridges safer in Missouri.

Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe both support Proposition D in order to fix infrastructure. 

Parson said, "It's about infrastructure. It's the number one priority every time you take that and work force development. We just need to be able to help to do our part as government and from a governor's role to see how we can help with those two issues."

A new ad, called "Makes Sense," calls for people to vote 'yes' on Proposition D in the election.

This ad claims: 2,000 Missouri bridges rated poor or have weight restrictions.

According to MoDOT, Missouri has 10,400 bridges, the most out of any neighboring state. The state only receives $49,000 in revenue from the bridges, second lowest out of all the neighboring states. 

The average state makes over $230,000 in bridge revenue per mile. Missouri is almost $200,000 short of the national average. 

MoDOT also says 922 bridges throughout Missouri are rated as "poor" by the Federal Highway Administration. 

There are also 1,194 bridges that have a weight restriction, meaning the bridge is unable to carry normal traffic. 

The total number of bridges that fall within this category is 2,116; Twenty percent of all bridges in Missouri.

This claim is: True

If the gas tax were implemented, the state would go from 49th in gas tax to 30th by 2023.

Some people may be concerned money from a higher gas tax may not go to road maintenance and repair.

This ad claims: Funds are regularly audited and constitutionally designated

According to Proposition D on Page 3, it says, "In order to ensure that the revenues generated by this section are used for their designated purposes, the state auditor shall biennially audit such funds and provide a report to the general assembly."

This means it is the state auditor's responsibility to make sure the funds are being spent on roads and highways. 

This claim is: True

Proposition D would look to increase all types of motorized fuel in Missouri.

From aviation fuel to propane, every type of gas would have a flat tax rate of 27 cents by 2025 if it is passed.

This ad claims: Prop D is a bargain, "keeping my family and yours safe."

If this proposition is passed, Missouri would go from 49th in the nation in gas tax to 30th. 

It would also give the state a projected revenue of $123 million after the 10 cent increase in tax. This state would distribute it throughout the state giving Boone County $2.8 million, Callaway County $1.1 million and Cole County $1.3 million. 

SaferMO.com says the average gas customer would pay an extra $5.10 per gallon of gas a month when the gas tax is increased by 10 cents.

Supporters said the tax money paying for road improvements would be a benefit to the state, as Missouri ranks in the top 20 in travel and total crashes, including fatal crashes.

This claim is: Open for Interpretation

Gov. Parson and Lt. Gov. Kehoe will travel the state talking about infrastructure and promoting Proposition D to Missourians. The final say on Proposition D will be made at the polls this November. 

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Super PACs hit Hawley on pre-existing conditions stance https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-super-pacs-hit-hawley-on-pre-existing-conditions-stance/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-super-pacs-hit-hawley-on-pre-existing-conditions-stance/ Target 8 Tue, 9 Oct 2018 6:10:31 PM Monica Harkins, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Super PACs hit Hawley on pre-existing conditions stance

COLUMBIA - A new ad that attacks Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley is no surprise, but the catch is: who's paying for it.

Slightly different versions are airing, one with a caption saying it's paid for by Senate Majority PAC and the other ending with "Women Vote! is responsible for this ad."

Who are the PACs involved?

KOMU 8 News has already covered other ads from the Senate Majority PAC and Women Vote!. They are both super PACs.

Open Secrets, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, tracks spending in U.S. politics. According to its website, neither Senate Majority PAC, nor Women Vote! are listed as donating to each other at this time, based on the Federal Election Commission's most recent September 24 data. They do however, have some cross over in donors.

Claim: Josh Hawley is "lying to our faces."

This ad is trying to reinforce a previous claim, made by both groups: Josh Hawley filed a lawsuit that removes protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In KOMU 8's previous reporting, we've ruled this claim to be true. Hawley is involved with a 20-state effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But, in this ad, it's important to look at why those states brought the case to court.

Hawley's involvement in the lawsuit follows a string of rulings starting six years ago. 

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled Congress has the power to impose a fine or a tax penalty for not enrolling for health insurance. That decision upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

Last year, in 2017, the Tax Act removed the penalty. Now, Hawley, along with the others backing the lawsuit, say, without the penalty, Congress doesn't have the authority to enforce the Affordable Care Act, so it is unconstitutional.

Verdict: Needs context

In regards to this ad, we can't confirm Hawley is lying about his position. But ultimately, Hawley fighting the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate based on constitutionality, could cause everything else, including pre-existing conditions coverage, to crumble with it -- if the lawsuit is successful.

Hawley wrote an op-ed in the Springfield News-Leader describing his plan to continue ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions.

"There are multiple ways to cover folks with chronic illnesses apart from Obamacare. Here’s one: a Federal Insurance Guarantee," Hawley wrote on October 3.

His idea would require individual insurance companies to provide coverage plans for people with pre-existing conditions at the same price as individuals without. The federal government would then pick up the slack if certain claims exceed the coverage allowed. In order to keep the insurance companies from gaming the system, Hawley said, they would have to pay the government most of the premiums the insurance company is collecting from these patients.

Beyond the fact check: Why focus on "pre-existing conditions?"

Hawley and his announcement of his support for coverage of pre-existing conditions has become a hot topic in this year's Senate race. 

University of Missouri law professor Bob Jerry specializes in insurance law. He said he's not surprised Hawley's statement about pre-existing conditions contrasted with the lawsuit is drawing attention.

"I have no way to know what Hawley is thinking about this, but the fact is, it would eliminate pre-existing conditions and that’s just a fact," Jerry said.

The fight over health care is deeply rooted, he said.

"Even going back to the 1950s and 60s, there were knock-down debates over whether Medicare should be enacted," Jerry said. "But, today’s issue viewed in the light of history is not that surprising."

Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, said, nationwide, democrats are hitting their republican competitors with health care topics in federal races.

"The democrats are using pre-existing conditions concerns around the country," he said. "And, certainly, this is one issue that works clearly to the democrat's advantage here in Missouri."

While it may seem like Hawley is getting repeatedly bashed for his pre-existing conditions stance, Squire said he thinks the Democratic Party can probably swing voters to its side with this one issue, but it's not for lack of other things to exploit about Hawley. 

"They have enough ammunition to use against him, even though he’s only been in politics for 2 years or so," Squire said.

Where does the Trump administration fit in?

In June, the Justice Department filed a brief in the Texas lawsuit Hawley is a part of, saying it would not try to save the Affordable Care Act if it is shut down in the lawsuit.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the decision has "the approval of the President of the United States."

"As you know, the Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense," Sessions said. "[But,] I have concluded that this is a rare case."

Why should people care about pre-existing conditions this election season?

Coverage for vulnerable groups began with the elderly and Medicare, Jerry said.

In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Probability and Accountability Act that required employers with 50 employees or more to provide health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Affordable Care Act, often derided as Obamacare, extended that premise to include everybody, Jerry said. 

"Well, it is a fact that the lawsuit would repeal the prohibition on pre-existing conditions and would put us back in a world that existed before 1996," he said. 

The Wesleyan Media Project tracks broadcast political ads in federal races and collects data on six key topics referenced in the ads, health care, ACA/health reform, jobs, taxes, tax reform, and immigration.

"Healthcare continues to dominate as the proportion of ad airings referencing the topic rose from 37 percent in August to 41 percent in September," the group said on its website.

It released its September data on Oct. 4. In the state of Missouri, there were 19,907 ads broadcast in September. Of the near 20,000 ads, 48 percent referenced health care and 22 percent referenced the Affordable Care Act or health reforms specifically.

Jerry said, "Health care is complicated and the way the different pieces come together is hard to for anyone to understand, but there’s a lot at stake."

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill cares more for family than Missouri https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-cares-more-for-family-than-missouri/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-cares-more-for-family-than-missouri/ Target 8 Sat, 6 Oct 2018 9:58:50 PM Mercedes Mackay, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill cares more for family than Missouri

COLUMBIA - A recent attack ad on Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, claims the senator has built a money machine over her 12 years in Washington.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is responsible for the ad.

The PAC pulled its information from multiple articles that appeared in the Kansas City Star and The Washington Free Beacon in June and July. KOMU 8 News found the ad lacks context with each claim.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the Senate Leadership Fund has spent $8 million attacking McCaskill in the 2018 election cycle. 

Claim: McCaskill and her husband earn up to $22 million personally.

The Senate Leadership Fund pulled this information from a Washington Free Beacon article. MediaBiasFactCheck.com says the Free Beacon has a right leaning bias.

According to the Kansas City Star, Shepard earns between $300 thousand and $1 million from investments in housing projects that receive federal subsidies. 

All together, it is a range between $5 million and $22 million. 

Result: We found this claim needs context. 

The figures are not in question, but the implication McCaskill and Shepard personally earn millions from the subsidies is false. 

Claim: Shepard put $1 million in a Cayman Islands Fund, an offshore tax haven. 

The Kansas City Star reported Shepard invested $1 million in a hedge fund tied to the Cayman Islands. 

In the article, it said Shepard has received between $230,000 and $2.1 million from his investment in Matrix Capital Management. It received this information from McCaskill's financial disclosure forms. 

Result: We found this claim needs context. 

The forms show the Matrix Capital Management location is in Waltham, Massachusetts. This U.S.-based fund goes into a "master fund" in the Caymans and that makes the actual investments. 

According to the Associated Press, this structure is common and legal for hedge funds. 

If Shepard declares his investments on his taxes, he does not receive much of a tax haven. These specific profits would be a matter of capital gains tax in the United States. 

Claim: McCaskill pulled her name from a bill targeting these tax havens. 

The Senate Leadership Fund received this information from another Washington Free Beacon article. 

The bill it refers to is the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which cracks down on offshore investments. 

In the article it references congressional records that show McCaskill was one of the five co-sponsors of the bill in 2009. These same records show her name was absent when the legislation was reintroduced in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Result: We found this claim to be incomplete. 

McCaskill's campaign team said, when a new Congress begins, every bill starts from scratch. Her name not being on the bill does not mean she does not support the legislation. 

McCaskill's campaign team said she is still in favor.

Claim: McCaskill's husband's businesses receives taxpayer funded subsidies. 

KOMU 8 News has fact checked this before.

According to analysis by the Kansas City Star, it shows the companies did receive $131 million during McCaskill's first two terms. 

However, Joseph Shepard, McCaskill's husband, does not receive these millions directly. He only receives a share of the products because he is a limited partner in the ownership companies.

Result: We found this claim needs context. 

The figures are correct, but Shepard does not decide how to use the money. 

Overall Assessment

FactCheck.org, the Associated Press and the Kansas City Star articles show that all of the claims need context.

McCaskill's campaign team responded with its own fact check and said "these attacks are 100% false."

The campaign of McCaskill's opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, said, "Missouri should reject McCaskill for caring more about her lavish lifestyle than she cares about middle class families."

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Target 8 Fact Check: Ads say Hawley took millions, ignored pay-to-play claims https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ads-say-hawley-took-millions-ignored-pay-to-play-claims/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ads-say-hawley-took-millions-ignored-pay-to-play-claims/ Target 8 Thu, 4 Oct 2018 5:01:43 PM Eric Graves, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8 Fact Check: Ads say Hawley took millions, ignored pay-to-play claims

COLUMBIA - These ads accuse Republican Senate Candidate Josh Hawley of ignoring calls for an investigation into a pay-to-play scheme.


The Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee, self described as "experienced, aggressive Democratic strategists with one mission: to win Senate races."


The pay-to-play allegations all started with complaints of faulty roof shingles sold to a Missouri church and Missouri homeowners by TAMKO Building Products, Inc., David Humphreys' company.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch the Jonesburg United Methodist Church in Jasper County bought roof shingles from TAMKO in 2007. By 2013, the church had a leaky roof and blamed TAMKO.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch said a Jasper County man, Lee Hobbs, was having similar problems with the same shingles. Several other homeowners reported the same problems, too.

The Jonesburg Church and Hobbs filed a class action lawsuit against TAMKO in April 2014. In the lawsuit, they alleged a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practicing ACT.

According to an article by the Kansas City Star, the pay-to-play allegations really started to heat up when Senate President Ron Richard filed legislation several times, most recently in December of 2016, that would limit plaintiffs' ability to sue in class action lawsuits under the Missouri Merchandise Act. This legislation would directly affect the suit involving Humphreys, according to the Star.

According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, just six days after the legislation was filed, Humphreys donated $100,000 to Richard. This prompted the pay-to-play allegations.

According to a Kansas City Star article, both Humphreys and Richard have denied the allegations.


According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, from September 2015 to December 2016, Humphreys gave Hawley nearly $2.9 million.



The second ad, "Golden", claims Humphreys and his family gave Hawley $4.5 million, which was 75 percent of individual contributions to Hawley's campaign.

According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, Humphreys, his mother Ethelmae and his sister Sarah Atkins gave Hawley $4.5 million in 2015 and 2016, which did make up approximately 75 percent of individual contributions to Hawley's campaign.



The ad also takes aim at Hawley's response to the pay-to-play allegations saying, "The Golden Boy refused to investigate, he even admitted he never looked at the evidence."

The Kansas City Star article cited by the ad says something different.

Hawley said in the article his office does not have criminal jurisdiction over pay-to-play allegations and it would have to go to a local prosecutor.

According to the Associated Press, "In Missouri, attorneys general have little initial authority to press criminal charges," in play-to-pay allegations.



As far as Hawley never checking the evidence, he claims his office has "received no evidence at all in this case," according to a Kansas City Star article.

But, in the same article, Meira Bernstein, the communications director for the Missouri Democratic Party, claimed, "Hawley ignored bipartisan calls to investigate the situation."

However, the Associated Press reported Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint to a U.S. Attorney in Missouri, but not to Hawley's office.


The Kansas City Star later reported: "Humphreys was cleared of any wrongdoing in the pay-to-play controversy and Humphreys is not and has never been the subject of any federal investigation."

In a letter to the Senate Majority PAC, the creator of the ads, representatives of Humphreys asked the SMP to take down the ads, "The SMP’s “Shingles” and “Golden” ads contain numerous defamatory and demonstrably false statements and implications about Mr. Humphreys."

The ad is not currently in TV circulation, but is still available online.

The letter states claims that Humphreys is involved in pay-to-play schemes, paying off lawmakers and selling faulty roofing shingles are all false.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad contends Hawley climbed the political ladder https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-contends-hawley-climbed-the-political-ladder/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-contends-hawley-climbed-the-political-ladder/ Target 8 Wed, 26 Sep 2018 11:11:21 AM David Estrada, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad contends Hawley climbed the political ladder

COLUMBIA – Majority Forward focuses on how U.S. Senate Republican candidate Josh Hawley funds his campaign, the timing of his U.S. senate race and his work as attorney general regarding people with preexisting health conditions.

Who is Majority Forward?

According to its website, "Majority Forward is a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) organization created to support voter registration and voter turnout efforts."

The non-profit works with 'Senate Majority PAC,' a super PAC, "to elect candidates whose policies represent the goals of the majority of Americans who want to move our country forward."

Between 2017-2018, Senate Majority PAC has spent $8,699,862 against Hawley and $1,420,858 in favor of U.S. Senate Democrat candidate Claire McCaskill.

As a super PAC, Senate Majority PAC "may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions and other PACs for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity," according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Also, the super PAC Majority Forward works with can "spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates."

However, super PACs cannot work with candidates or the candidates' campaigns to decide how to spend the group's money. They also have to disclose their donors to the FEC but can spend as much money as they want to advocate for or against a candidate.

For those reasons, it could be considered that Majority Forward works with a 'dark money' group.

Fact Checking Majority Forward's claims

Claim: Just months after been elected attorney general, Josh Hawley began running for U.S. Senate.

On September 19, U.S. Senate Republican candidate Josh Hawley told KOMU 8 News, "this is certainly not a race I had intended to run, but it's a race that needs to be run."

Majority Forward supports its claim with the filing of 'Hawley Senate Exploratory Committee,' back in August, 2017.

On August 3, 2017, treasurer Salvatore Purpura filed a statement of organization for the newly created Josh Hawley Senate Exploratory Committee. That came seven months after Hawley was officially sworn into office as attorney general, on January 9.

However, the FEC allows individuals to "test the waters or explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate" through a "testing-the-waters committee" or an "exploratory committee." At that point, Hawley did not have to register as a candidate under the election law.

It was on October 18, 2017 when treasurer Salvatore Purpura filed documents to change the name of the committee from Josh Hawley Senate Exploratory Committee to 'Josh Hawley for Senate.' Hawley filed to the certified candidate list on February 27, 2018.

Result: We found this claim needs context.

On August, 2017 Josh Hawley was 'testing the waters' to run as a candidate for U.S. Senate but he was still not officially registered as a candidate at that point.

Claim: Josh Hawley took 'huge contributions' from the insurance industry.

It is not clear what Majority Forward means by 'huge contributions'. 

According to records from the Center for Responsive Politics, a research nonprofit used as a source for the claim, during the 2017-2018 election cycle Hawley has received $53,000 from insurance donors.

Majority Forward told KOMU 8 News they consider that amount a huge one. 

However, in the same election cycle McCaskill has received $295,338 from insurance donors.

Between 2017-2018, according to FEC's data, Hawley has raised $5,320,513 and McCaskill $20,809,801. Insurance contributions represent 1 percent of what Hawley has raised and 1.42 percent of the total contributions McCaskill has received. 

Result: We found this claim also needs context.

Majority Forward does not make clear their point of comparison to make that claim.

Claim: Josh Hawley filed a lawsuit that removes protections for people with preexisting conditions.

On April 27, 2018 Missouri Attorney General's office announced, in a press release, "Josh Hawley, as part of a 20-state coalition, filed a motion seeking preliminary injunction against the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare."

In a statement from September 13, Hawley said "The Texas v. Azar lawsuit is about the individual mandate and Obamacare. It's unconstitutional for the government to force us to buy something we don't want."

To understand the issue at hand better, it is necessary to review the background of the claim.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to impose a fine, or what the Court saw as a tax, to people without minimum essential health coverage. That decision upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

However, in 2017 and through the 'Jobs Act,' Congress reduced that fine to zero percent, effective 2019. Because the government will no longer receive a revenue from people who violate the individual mandate, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session said he determined the state 20 attorneys general, including Hawley, are correct that the individual mandate will be unconstitutional once the Jobs Act's amendment becomes effective.

The coalition of attorneys general requested the Northern District Court of Texas to invalidate Obamacare as a whole because the individual mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

If the Texas court decides to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, 133 million people with pre-existing conditions may not be able to continue receiving insurance coverage, according to the filings of the lawsuit.

Result: We found this claim to be true.

Hawley filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. However, because that clause cannot be separated from the Act as a whole, individuals with pre-existing conditions would lose health coverage granted by Obamacare if it is invalidated as a whole.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad targets Hawley on pre-existing insurance claims https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-targets-hawley-on-pre-existing-insurance-claims/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-targets-hawley-on-pre-existing-insurance-claims/ Target 8 Thu, 20 Sep 2018 11:32:02 AM Ian Nickens, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad targets Hawley on pre-existing insurance claims

COLUMBIA - A new ad targeting Republican senate candidate Josh Hawley accuses him of trying to take away health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and receiving thousands of dollars from the insurance industry. 

Who made the ad?

It's called "Faces" and it was created by the Women Vote Project, which is a branch of an organization called Emily's List. It is an advocacy group whose mission can be found all over the website: "We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office." 

Claim: There are 2.5 million Missourians with pre-existing conditions.

Emily's List isn't the only organization using this number. The Missouri Democrats also do. When they tweeted about it, it caught the attention of PolitiFact, which looked into it.

PolitiFact found there are a lot of studies on how many Americans are living with pre-existing conditions and they all provide different numbers. The report the Missouri Democrats and Emily's List are citing has one of the highest estimates. That's because this study includes anyone who might be denied coverage or might get coverage, but be forced to pay higher premiums.

Studies that only include people who would definitely be denied insurance coverage say the number of Missourians with pre-existing conditions is closer to 1.1 million.

Verdict: Like PolitiFact says, half true.

Claim: Josh Hawley is ripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He filed a lawsuit to allow insurance companies to deny care.

The lawsuit the ad is referencing is case 4:18-cv-00167-O, filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Texas. That lawsuit was filed by 20 states and alleges the tax act of 2017 renders the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, so the court should immediately kill it.

One of the things that kept the Affordable Care Act in operation was the individual mandate, which forced people to pay a tax penalty for not enrolling for health insurance. The tax act of 2017 removed that penalty. The lawsuit claims, without the penalty, Congress doesn't have the authority to enforce the Affordable Care Act, so it is unconstitutional.

However, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to provide coverage to anybody who enrolls for it, pre-existing conditions and all. It also prevents insurance companies from charging people higher premiums because of their pre-existing conditions.

If the Texas lawsuit removes the Affordable Care Act, coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions will go with it.

Hawley's name is on page 33 of the lawsuit.

Verdict: True. By trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act, Josh Hawley would be allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Hawley says he wants people with pre-existing conditions to be able to buy coverage, but he thinks that can be done without the Affordable Care Act. At a conference on Wednesday, he denied trying to end protections.

"It's totally false. Listen, this is for me, this is a personal issue," he said. "I've got two little boys at home. One of my little boys, earlier this year, was diagnosed with a pre-existing condition. It's a rare bone disease, it's a chronic disease, we just found out about it. It's something that will require lots of treatment and it's a pre-existing condition. I will never support taking away insurance for folks with pre-existing conditions."

When asked why he was going through with the lawsuit even though he wants to keep those protections, he said the lawsuit was more about getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.

Claim: Josh Hawley is getting thousands of dollars from the insurance industry.

The Women Vote Project sources the Federal Election Commission and the National Institute on Money in Politics for this claim. Both websites allow people to view how much money a campaign or elected official has received and who is donating it.

By using these sites, one can see that Hawley has received $41,500 from people linked to the insurance industry during his time as Missouri Attorney General and another $27,950 for his senate campaign.

The donors on this list rank anywhere from insurance agents all the way up to agency owners, chairmen and executives.

Verdict: True. Hawley is getting thousands from the insurance industry.

It's not clear if he's receiving this money because of the Affordable Care Act lawsuit, but that's not what the ad claims. It merely says he's getting the money.

There's also the matter of political action committees, which don't always state their values or where they get their money from. Any of the PACs that have donated to Hawley could be connected to the insurance industry as well.

Final verdict: This ad is mostly true.

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill is weak on immigration https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-is-weak-on-immigration/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-is-weak-on-immigration/ Target 8 Mon, 24 Sep 2018 10:05:45 AM Emma Claybrook, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill is weak on immigration

COLUMBIA - Border security and immigration continue to be huge issues for Missouri's November senate race between Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley, R-Missouri. 

A new attack ad funded by the Senate Leadership Fund claims McCaskill is weak when it comes to immigration. The fund pulled its information from a 2006 Missouri Senate Debate and from the senator's voting records once she was elected to Congress. 

KOMU 8 News found it is true that McCaskill has changed her stance on immigration, but when we dug deeper into the voting records, we found the bills the ad used need more context. 

To add to all of this, a counterpoint ad in which the Border Patrol Council endorses McCaskill and President Donald Trump was released. 

Claim: Claire McCaskill said she was against amnesty for illegal immigrants. 

This claim was pulled from the senator's remarks in a 2006 Missouri Senate Debate. 

An audience member asked the candidates what plans or bills they would introduce to "fix the obvious problem we have now with illegal immigration". 

Former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, attacked McCaskill's stance on immigration, saying she is for amnesty and against fencing at the border. 

Result: We find this claim to be true. 

McCaskill responded to the question in the debate saying, "It’s like fingernails on a blackboard to have to sit and hear your positions misrepresented and it’s frankly not the way we campaign in Missouri. I have never said I was for amnesty, ever."

The senator goes on to say she is anxious to enforce the law against immigrants and their employers.

"I’m a prosecutor, I believe in enforcing the law. I do not believe amnesty is the right way to go on immigration. I also believe we must secure the borders," she said. 

Claim: McCaskill "joined the liberals" to give amnesty to 11 million immigrants. 

This claim is pulled from McCaskill's vote on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. 

The bill aimed to "establish a coherent and just system for integrating those who seek to join American society". It also established a Southern Border Security Commission to make border security policy recommendations. 

Result: We found this claim needs context. 

McCaskill did vote yes to pass this bill, but we found her vote was not a vote for amnesty, but rather a vote for larger immigration reform and increased border security. 

Claim: McCaskill voted for amnesty when there weren't border protections in place. 

The ad pulls voting records from several bills and amendments.

According to the Congressional Quarterly Press Library, McCaskill voted against amendments that would allow for border fencing and biometric security for immigrants. 

She also voted to table amendments that would increase border security. 

Result: We found this claim needs context. 

While McCaskill did vote against border control previously, it seems as if her position has changed. 

McCaskill for Missouri released an ad in which the Border Patrol Council endorses the senator. 

The BPC claims McCaskill voted for $600,000,000 for border security. The ad quotes a St. Louis Post Dispatch article that said, "McCaskill has been among those unwilling to go along with other Democrats amid efforts during the Obama administration to attempt the broader fix."

Claim: McCaskill repeatedly "sided with liberals" to protect sanctuary cities. 

This ad and another ad funded by another conservative PAC, One Nation, claim the senator supported sanctuary cities by opposing de-funding. 

It cites another string of McCaskill's votes on bills. 

Result: We found this claim is false. 

First, McCaskill did vote against ending a debate about sanctuary cities. KOMU 8 News cannot say this vote against the debate was a vote for sanctuary cities. 

The ad approved by McCaskill claims, "She was one of only four democrats to vote in ending sanctuary cities." According to another article by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this is true. McCaskill did vote yes to de-fund sanctuary cities. 

In the article, she referenced the death of Randy Nordman, a New Florence man who was killed by a person who was in the country illegally. 

"While there are arguments to be made on both sides of this issue, my experience learning the details surrounding the death of a Missourian at the hands of an undocumented immigrant pushed me to the side of trying to force as much cooperation as possible between state, local, and federal law enforcement authorities in this space," said McCaskill. 

McCaskill's campaign team responded to the ad with its own fact check saying the ad is "extremely misleading". 

The campaign of McCaskill's opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, released a statement saying, "Claire McCaskill will do anything to hold on to power, even lie to Missourians about her record on immigration."

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill awards husband millions in subsidies https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-awards-husband-millions-in-subsidies/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-ad-claims-mccaskill-awards-husband-millions-in-subsidies/ Target 8 Wed, 12 Sep 2018 6:04:25 PM Savannah Rudicel, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Ad claims McCaskill awards husband millions in subsidies

COLUMBIA - One of the latest attack ads on Sen. Claire McCaskill, D- Missouri, claims the senator is giving her husband millions in government subsidies. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled all of the information in the ad from an article that appeared in the Kansas City Star in July. KOMU 8 News found the ad lacks context and fails to mention what, specifically, is being subsidized.

McCaskill’s husband, Joseph Shepard, invests in companies that help provide low-income housing. Those companies receive subsidies, which are used to give incentives to landlords to provide affordable housing for low-income, elderly and disabled tenants.

Shepard is a limited partner in the ownership companies and receives a share of the total profits. Law prevents Shepard and other investors from having any say in day-to-day operations or how government money is used.

Claim: Shepard earns up to $1 million per year.

The figure was pulled from the senator’s personal finance disclosure forms.

Members of congress report income only in a broad range of amounts, not exact amounts. The range Shepard’s profits fall in is anywhere from $365,374 to $1,118,158.

The committee's ad focuses on the highest possible estimate.

Result: We found this claim to be incomplete.

There is not enough reported information to accurately say how much Shepard earns annually.

Claim: Shepard’s investment companies received $131 million in federal subsidies since McCaskill took office.

According to the Kansas City Star, those companies received $62 million during McCaskill’s first term, and $69 million in her second.

However, those millions do not go directly into Shepard’s pocket. Shepard is a limited partner in the ownership companies and receives a share of the profits.

FactCheck.org confirmed the vast majority of the money goes to operating costs for government subsidized housing projects.

Result: We found this claim needs context.

This figure is correct, but the implication that Shepard personally earns millions from the subsidies is false.

Claim: McCaskill votes to give her husband subsidies.

McCaskill does not sit on committees that allocate those funds or government contracts.

The Senate committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs is partially in control of awarding government contracts. That committee is made up of 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Shepard’s businesses have received bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, McCaskill votes on big-picture budget and appropriation bills. The Kansas City Star said the Senator’s voting record is mixed. She has voted for bills that would benefit affordable housing programs, and against others.

Result: We found this claim to be mostly false.

McCaskill does not specifically allocate government contracts.

The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the sole article this ad is entirely  based on, all contend there is no evidence McCaskill directs federal funds to businesses connected to her husband.

McCaskill’s campaign team responded to the ad with their own fact check saying the claims are “dead wrong.”

The campaign of McCaskill's opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, has yet to respond.

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Target 8 Fact Check: Analyzing Prop A ad claims https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-analyzing-prop-a-ad-claims/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-analyzing-prop-a-ad-claims/ Target 8 Wed, 1 Aug 2018 3:40:24 PM Hannah Thomas, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8 Fact Check: Analyzing Prop A ad claims

COLUMBIA - Proposition A is a hotly contested initiative that is seeing controversial claims on both sides.  On August 7, Missouri voters will decide if Missouri will become a "right to work" state.

Supporters say right to work will draw business to the state and give workers the choice not to pay into a union. Opponents say it's an attempt to weaken unions and could lead to lower wages.

Twenty-seven states in the country are right to work states.

Rabindra Bhandari, a professor of economics at Westminster College, said, right now, ads for and against Prop A are heavily partisan.

"The ads released for right to work are more politically-based. They're not necessarily about how this would benefit the states," he said.

Bhandari said there are two main arguments when it comes to Prop A. First is the issue of individual freedoms, people being able to choose if they want to join labor unions or not. Second is the matter of economics and making the state more competitive.

“People who oppose Prop A, oppose it because it allows a certain group of people to free-ride on the dues are paid by somebody else.”

Bhandari called this “the tragedy of the commons,” a situation where some individuals gain short-term benefits at the expense of the majority.

He also said, while unions will still exist in right to work states, they will not have the same negotiating power.

KOMU 8 News fact-checked claims made in ads by We Are Missouri, an organization against Prop A and National Right to Work, an organization for Prop A.

This video, by National Right to Work, supports Proposition A.

Claim: Prop A outlaws forced political contributions and dues.

In response to this, We Are Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti says union dues, by law, are not allowed to go to political campaigns or candidates.

"All political contributions [from unions] are voluntary funds.They're kept in a completely separate fund and can only be done voluntarily," he said. 

The Federal Election Commission states campaigns may not accept contributions from labor organizations, the treasury funds of corporations or national banks. However, labor unions are allowed to pay administrative or operating costs of Political Action Committees or PACs.

Result: We find this claim false.

Labor unions cannot force their workers to contribute to political campaigns.

Claim: "...[unions] have funneled 1.1 billion dollars in forced worker dues to liberal causes and candidates.

National Right to Work was not available for an interview but responded in a statement, saying that number is now updated to $1.3 billion. The cited number comes from a website backed by union opponents. 

Some of the "liberal causes" named in the ad by National Right to Work are "pro-abortion, anti-second amendment and open borders." The "liberal candidates" named in the ad are former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

 Result: We find this claim incomplete.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy, says none of the top donors of Pelosi or Clinton's campaigns are labor unions.

In fact, PAC contributions to Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign accounted for only 0.31 percent of all donated funds.

In Pelosi's case, 27.39 percent of donated funds came from PACs.

Claim: State economies, jobs and worker buying power are all growing faster in freedom to work states.

Buying power is the money an investor has available to buy securities and equals the total cash held in the brokerage account plus all available margin. National Right to Work cited the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), which is a research institute funded by National Right to Work, according to the progressive Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit watchdog group.

NILRR said it finds that real purchasing power is higher in right to work states. National Right to Work claims its calculations used statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the NILRR fact sheet, right to work states have also seen higher economic growth. 

Result: We find this claim incomplete.

KOMU 8 News found this claim incomplete because of NILRR's affiliation with National Right to Work. 

This video, by We Are Missouri, opposes Proposition A

Claim: Wages go down in right to work states. Families make $8,740 less per year. 

Cardetti said We are Missouri used data from the 2016 US Census Bureau.

"If you add up the 27 right to work states and the other states that don't have right to work, including Missouri, and you look at median household income, it's really important to look at what the middle class is making," he said.

Result: We find this claim false

In right-to-work states like Kansas, the average median income is $2,000 less than Missouri, while in Iowa, the average median income is higher than Missouri.

Compared to right to work states like Alabama and Florida, Missouri makes more in average median income.

Claim: CEOs still make 361 times more than the average worker.

"All CEOs in Fortune 500 companies and publicly trade companies have to produce that type of information on their annual SEC filings. So that number comes straight out of their SEC filings," Cardetti said.

Result: We find this claim unconfirmed.

After lengthy research, KOMU 8 News could not see any evidence confirming nor denying the number associated with the claim.

Further arguments from both sides

In a statement, Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee, said the following about the anti-Right to Work ads:

“It’s unfortunate that union bosses won’t level with the people of Missouri about Right to Work’s real impact. It’s shameful that union bosses are spending so much money, much of it from forced dues, just to protect their power to have a worker fired simply for refusing to hand over part of their pay check to union officials.“

In response to the Vote Yes on Prop A ads, Cardetti said "What Prop A really is, is it’s a race to the bottom. We think it's very disingenuous that this Virginia-based special interest committee to make those type of claims. What they ought to be looking at is what the middle-class makes in right to work states compared to Missouri. That's the true apples to apples comparison."

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Target 8 compares Missouri senate fundraising numbers https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-compares-missouri-senate-fundraising-numbers/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-compares-missouri-senate-fundraising-numbers/ Target 8 Tue, 1 May 2018 10:22:49 PM Carolina Brigagao, KOMU 8 Reporter Target 8 compares Missouri senate fundraising numbers

COLUMBIA - With mid-term elections on the horizon, KOMU 8's Target 8 Team is taking a look at campaign finance data for Senator Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat and her Republican opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley.

First quarter data shows McCaskill has more money but Hawley has more money coming in from Missouri.

Hawley's campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, recognizes the challenges Hawley will be facing against McCaskill, whose been in politics for decades.

"And just being a politician for thirty-six years, you build up a lot of favors and you get a lot of money," Plotkin said. "So, Josh is introducing himself to Missourians, and his vision for what he wants to do in the Senate. It’s being welcomed with a lot of support both form the grass-root but also in terms of donations."

In early April, McCaskill's campaign sent out a press release detailing the highlight of her first quarter campaign report.

“Hard-working Missourians have made clear that they value Claire’s ability to break through the partisan gridlock in Washington and get things done for them,” said McCaskill for Missouri spokesperson Meira Bernstein. “The incredible grassroots momentum behind Claire’s campaign is proof that Missourians know Claire is a Senator who will always put them first.”

Candidates running for office are required to release their campaign fundraising data, which is separated into quarters. The first quarter ended on April 15. 

  • On Hawley's report, shows he has received more than $1.5 million during the first quarter. Senator McCaskill's report shows she received $3.9 million during the same period. 
  • Hawley has received money from more than 4,600 individual donors, while Senator McCaskill has received money from 128,000 individual donors. 
  • At the end of the first quarter, Hawley's campaign had more than $2.1 million cash-on-hand and McCaskill had more than $11.5 million cash-on-hand

Data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) only shows donations of $200 or more. After going through the reports, KOMU 8 found the following campaign fundraising patters: 

  • From the 997 donations Hawley's campaign received, 94 percent identified themselves as individuals out of more than  61,000 donations 
  • McCaskill's campaign received 59 percent of donor identified themselves as individuals.

Josh Hawley's campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, said most of Hawley's contributions come from within the state.

"Most of it comes from unique individuals donors. More than half of our donors are from the state of Missouri. Which is in contrast to Senator McCaskill’s donations," Plotkin said. 

MU Political Science Professor Peverill Squire said receiving donations from out of state is normal, and at the end of the election, it doesn't really matter where the money came from.

“Well, out of state contributions are always part of a campaign," Squire said. "It probably doesn't matter a great deal. It comes up in every campaign. Something that the candidate who raises less money from outside the state will make an issue out of it. But, both candidates are going to get a lot of money from a lot of people, a lot of organizations, and a lot of that money will come from out of state."

Based on the same data from the FEC, showing only donations of $200 or more, most of Hawley's contributions come from Missouri, with Florida and California donors also sending money his way. For McCaskill, the state most often mentioned on the FEC website is Massachusetts, because most donations were filtered by a Democratic fundraising non-profit based out of that state. The FEC website shows from were each of the donations filtered by ACTBLUE come from.

But when you compare overall donations, including those who donated less than $200, most of the contributors for both candidates come from Missouri.  

The Club for Growth PAC is Hawley's top contributor, while most of McCaskill's donations have come through ACTBLUE.

Squire said, in general, "things are lining up favorably for the Democrats."

"But we still have a long time between now and election day in November. So, lots can change," he said.

The next quarter will end July 15.

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TARGET 8: Patients need patience for mental health services in mid-Missouri https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-patients-need-patience-for-mental-health-services-in-mid-missouri/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-patients-need-patience-for-mental-health-services-in-mid-missouri/ Target 8 Tue, 24 Apr 2018 10:01:30 PM Sydney Olsen, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8: Patients need patience for mental health services in mid-Missouri

COLUMBIA - Many people in mid-Missouri have to wait weeks to see a physician for mental health. Some clinics have waits as long as several months. (See interactive map below for wait times by clinic.)

People who live in Columbia can either get care in the same day or have to wait as long as three months, depending on where they see their doctor. 

Tim Harlan, president of the National Alliance on Mental Health of Columbia, said long wait times can discourage people from seeking help. 

"I remember getting a phone call one time at 7 o'clock in the morning from somebody who said, 'My family member is willing to go to treatment, desperately need it, today.' Well, there's a month wait," Harlan said. "In a month they may easily have more problems or decide not to do it." 

He said people should not assume everyone will get help for their mental health needs.

"I think the big issue is people assume there's a safety net and everybody's going to get treatment if they really need it. And that's just not true," Harlan said. "They might get treatment, but it's not going to be appropriate because somebody has to pay for it." 

Some counties have very limited resources for mental health. A lack of psychologists and psychiatrists in rural areas creates longer wait times for patients. 

Megan Steen, senior vice president of the Central Region for Burrell Behavioral Health, said, "I think one of the biggest needs that we see throughout all of our communities is the access to care and the ability to quickly access care."

Burrell Behavioral Health of Sedalia had one of the shortest wait times for new patients to be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Burrell is contracted with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, qualifying it to be a federally Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. 

Such clinics receive funding to expand treatment through the Excellence in Mental Health Act.  Steen said the act has helped Burrell see more patients and hire more providers. 

"The CCBHC initiative is really what helped us in establishing open access to care in more of our satelite clinics and locations. It also has decreased our wait times," Steen said. 

Harlan said legislators need to get serious about providing funding for mental health resources if they want other clinics to shorten their wait for patients. 

"There isn't anything that can be done that doesn't involve money," he said.

Harlan said it's a public health issue.

"It involves all of us," he said. "It involves safety for all of us, and we need to communicate with the legislature that this is an important issue and they are the ones that can change this."

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TARGET 8 Fact Check: Only 4% of jail inmates held on marijuana charges https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-only-4-of-jail-inmates-held-on-marijuana-charges/ https://www.komu.com/news/target-8-fact-check-only-4-of-jail-inmates-held-on-marijuana-charges/ Target 8 Sat, 14 Apr 2018 12:50:58 PM Chris Joseph, KOMU 8 Reporter TARGET 8 Fact Check: Only 4% of jail inmates held on marijuana charges

COLUMBIA - A TARGET 8 fact check finds mid-Missouri county jails do not hold inmates charged with marijuana-related offenses in large numbers, despite some public opinion. 

Inmate rosters from the surrounding area showed very few inmates were being held on marijuana charges exclusively. Most charged with a marijuana-related offense had other aggravating charges. 

Public misconception of the situation

TARGET 8 decided to investigate after some expert and public opinion conflicted on the nature of the situation. 

In February, TARGET 8 published an investigation into Missouri's debt to its county jails. The story broke down why and how growing inmate populations are costing the state more money. 

As a result of the story, Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism and some KOMU 8 viewers shared different views on the idea of marijuana users filling jails.   

In a February interview related to the jail debt story, Chism told TARGET 8, "There is a misperception that our jail and many county jails are full of misdemeanor offenders, that is the furthest from the truth as it can be."

When KOMU published the story on its Facebook page later that month, there was a debate in the comment section on that issue. 

William Mountain commented, "Legalize marijuana and do away with a lot of those inmates while creating a larger tax base..seems like a no brainer to me.."

James Stodgell agreed with Mountain and commented in part, "Here's an idea: stop putting people in jail for victimless crimes..."

Tom Kridel cited a PolitiFact article and commented, "So legalize it. Just don't expect it to result in smaller prison populations..."

Here are the numbers

TARGET 8 collected the inmate rosters of the surrounding county jails over a period of two weeks. We used snapshot data, meaning random days were analyzed. In our analysis, the definition of a marijuana charge includes possession, delivery, distribution, misdemeanor and felony charges. 

As of the days the rosters were accessed, there were 700 inmates in 10 local county jails. 30 inmates faced marijuana charges.

Only eight of those inmates were held for a marijuana charge exclusively. 

All the inmates charged with a marijuana offense were held for a total of 1,165 days, or an average of 39 days per inmate. However, most of those inmates were held for under two weeks.

Inmates facing only a marijuana charge had been held in jail for a total of 85 days, or an average of 11 days per inmate.    

On April 4 (the day TARGET 8 accessed records for a sampling), we examined court documents of people arrested on drug charges and found the Boone County Jail had seven inmates who were arrested in possession of marijuana. 

But none of them were charged for possession of marijuana. Their charges included domestic assault, possession of meth and possession of heroin, among others. 

Howard, Cooper and Monroe county jails had zero inmates held for marijuana-related charges on the days TARGET 8 accessed their inmate rosters. 

Osage County held the most marijuana-related inmates per capita, with four out of the 19 inmates held on the day we accessed data in that county (March 21).

All four of those inmates were also charged with delivery of a controlled substance.

You can find the full breakdown of the inmate rosters here, complete with names, charges and dates of incarceration. 

Missouri law usually punishes casual smokers with fines

Casual smokers likely face misdemeanors if arrested. Here's a break down of maximum fines and sentences for misdemeanors in Missouri:

  • Possession up to 10 grams (1st offense): No incarceration, max $500 fine
  • Possession up to 10 grams (2nd offense): Max incarceration one year, max $2,000 fine
  • Possession 10-35 grams: Max incarceration one year, max $2,000 fine

Local prosecuting attorneys said they usually opt for fines, probation and/or supervision for misdemeanors.

Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Rodewald said most marijuana misdemeanor offenders in the county are released with a ticket and a court date.

"I don't think I've ever recommended jail time on a straight-up simple possession of misdemeanor marijuana," she said. 

Rodewald said even if it's a repeat offender, her office would likely only increase the fine. 

Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Fusselman said his office has a similar approach. 

"We realize a lot of these kids may want to go to college some day or want some form of employment where this type of conviction could impact them," he said. 

Fusselman said his Randolph county often uses an 'SIS', which stands for 'suspended imposition of sentence.' Misdemeanor offenders can have their record cleared if they go a court-appointed amount of time without an arrest. 

In Missouri, distribution of marijuana carries a felony charge. Felony offenders could face three years to life in prison depending on the amount, location and nature of the distribution.

Both prosecuting attorneys said marijuana felonies would likely carry jail or prison time if charged. 

"Special interests" and legalization going forward

Chism told TARGET 8 in February, and then again in April, "special interests" were spreading misinformation about marijuana in the area.

He was unable to give the name of a specific group. 

There are two marijuana advocacy groups actively working in mid-Missouri to put medicinal marijuana on the ballot this November.

Mid-Missouri NORML, its allies, and the Bradshaw Amendment are working to get two different versions of the medicinal marijuana question in front of voters.

Mid-Missouri NORML communications director and civil rights lawyer Dan Viets said jail time is a topic of discussion in his group's advocacy.

"Many, many times people who are clearly in legitimate need of marijuana as medicine are prosecuted as people who have no medical need," he said. 

When TARGET 8 presented Viets with its inmate roster findings, he said he was glad the number was low, but added the majority of the convicted marijuana users are in a Department of Corrections prison. 

"Most people charged with felonies have bonded out of jail, people who are in jail are poor people, for the most part," Viets said.  "They are people who can't afford to post bond."

He said when offenders fail a drug test on probation, they are often sent to state prison. They don't end up in jail. 

New Approach Missouri is an ally of NORML and is working on the same ballot measure. Spokesman Jack Cardetti said marijuana justice system issues are not something the group normally talks about.

"Ours is a medical issue, what we believe is you as a patient ought to be able to walk into the doctor's office and have a real open and honest conversation," he said.

Both Viets and Cardetti said their groups would get the signatures needed to put medicinal marijuana on the ballot.  

The Bradshaw Amendment did not return a request for comment. 

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