Chris Kelly says illegal campaign contribution is a technicality

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COLUMBIA - Chris Kelly said his acceptance of an illegal campaign contribution was a technical error.

Chuck Graham, Treasurer for Treece for Mayor Committee, filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission Monday stating Kelly accepted an illegal campaign contribution.

The contribution in question is from Columbia Marketing Group on Feb. 16. According to the "40-day Before Report" on Feb. 22, Friends of Chris Kelly accepted a $950 contribution from the group on Feb. 16. 

The complaint lists a few reasons for why the contribution violates Missouri law:

  • It says Columbia Marketing Group is not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State. This means voters cannot see the actual source of the contribution.
  • Columbia Marketing Group is part of The Business Times Company. That company cannot contribute to Friends of Chris Kelly because it is a corporation. Corporations aren't allowed to contribute to candidate committees.

A news release from Graham said Columbia Marketing Group still produces advertisements for the Kelly campaign. 

Kelly said the issue has been resolved, and the Ethics Commission found it to be a technical violation. He said it has issued no violation against his campaign.

KOMU 8 News reached out to the Ethics Commission, but its Executive Director Elizabeth Ziegler said she could not give any information on the case.

"The complaint process of the investigation is closed, so I cannot even comment whether there is or is not a complaint," Ziegler said in a voicemail message.

Kelly said the complaint is dealt with; he said they already returned the money to the company.

KOMU 8 News spoke to Kelly before he said the process was complete. He said he was not aware it was a violation when he took the contribution. 

"This is Treece's business as usual. He wants to find something nit-picky," Kelly said.

Graham said the violation is unacceptable.

"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 election for Columbia mayor is on April 2. Graham said he doesn't know if the investigation will be complete by then.