TARGET 8: Following the money in the Columbia mayoral race
COLUMBIA – Incumbent Mayor Brian Treece and his opponent Chris Kelly have been squaring off over money in advance of the April 2 election.
KOMU took a deep dive into the finances of both campaigns, finding stark differences.
HOW FUNDRAISING MEASURES UP
In a Tuesday interview, Kelley said, “I don’t have anywhere near as much money as he has, but I have a whole lot more Boone County people.”
Kelly’s financial report shows there are two donations from outside of Missouri. James Haines Jr. donated $1,000 from Lawrence, KS.
“Jim Hayes is my friend of 45 years who I canoe with,” Kelly said.
The second out-of-state donation is from Robin Rotman. Originally Kelly did not know who Rotman was, but later called KOMU and said her $100 donation came from her bank in Lake Bluff, IL. She now lives in Boone County.
Based on each campaign’s filings with the Missouri Ethic Commission, 40 days before the general election, Treece’s campaign reported it had raised $51,840 and Kelly reported $19,060.
The average donation for the Kelly campaign was $186.86, while the median donation was $100. For Treece, the average donation was higher, at $476.67, but the median donation was the same as Kelly's at $100.
Kelly said the extra money raised by Treece is being used, in part, to sling mud.
“When you have that kind of big money, it doesn’t contribute to public understanding or coming to know the positions of the candidates,” Kelly said. “It only contributes to effectively smear.”
Treece said the amount of money he received proves his impact on Columbia thus far.
“I think it’s an outpouring of support,” Treece said. “I think it supports the broad base of support I’ve received based on my accomplishments over the last three years.”
Treece's fundraising so far is on track with with the first time he ran for mayor.
“I’m proud of the campaign I’ve run and the amount of support I’ve received. Sometimes that takes financial support, sometimes that’s in the form of volunteers,” he said.
Kelly’s original filing stated he raised $20,010, but he had to delete a $950 in-kind contribution from Columbia Marketing Group. His amended report, submitted Tuesday evening, says the $950 will be marked as a monetary expenditure in the next report.
“At worst, we made a $950 technical violation, as compared to the acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in PAC checks,” Kelly said.
The mistake was brought to the attention of the Missouri Ethics Commission by the treasurer of “Treece for Mayor,” Chuck Graham.
In a previous KOMU story, Graham said Kelly is in the wrong.
"One of two things is true. Either he knew it was an illegal contribution and took it, or he was ignorant of the law and ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially for a judge," Graham said.
“The contribution from Columbia Marketing Group conceals the actual source of the contribution,” the complaint said.
When KOMU brought Kelly’s attention to that specific line in the complaint, he responded saying it was “silly.”
“Because it says right on it who it’s from,” Kelly said.
Columbia Marketing Group is not register with the Secretary of State’s office.
The Missouri Ethics Commission will not comment on whether there is or is not an investigation.
TREECE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH PAC’S
When KOMU sat down with Kelly Tuesday he pointed to Treece’s finances.
Of the 108 donations Treece reported, 18 came from PAC’s or other organizations. Eight of those came from local Teamsters groups throughout the state.
The largest donation Treece received is from the CHIPP Political Account. It donated $10,000 in December of last year.
Carpenters Help in the Political Process is registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission as a political action committee. The group was established in 1900.
According to CHIPP’s most recent 2019 January quarterly report it made more than $1.8 million in contributions during that quarter.
CHIPP’s pubic relations and marketing director said what it donated to Treece is "comparable" to how much its given to other mayoral campaigns.
Treece also accepted money from CHIPP in 2016, taking $10,000 from the PAC.
When we asked Treece if taking donations from PAC’s is contradictory to his campaign slogan “open, honest and transparent,” Treece said, “Not at all.”
“That’s the campaign finance law that we have now, that required corporations to contribute to a PAC to support political candidates,” he said.
The only out-of-state donation to Treece’s campaign was $1,000, which came from John Ashford in Alexandria, Virginia. Ashford is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of The Hawthorne Group.
The group describes itself as an international public affairs and public relations firm. Ashford’s biography said the Kansas City Star once called him a “political kingmaker”.
But Treece said Ashford's support has nothing to do with that. He said he grew up in the same town as Ashford.