Missouri Democrats gather at Lake of the Ozarks for state convention




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Missouri Senate Communications

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Collected/Archived for Saturday-Monday, June 2-4, 2012
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Missouri Democrats gather at Lake of the Ozarks for state convention

By Jo Mannies, Beacon political reporter

1:24 pm on Fri, 06.08.12

Updated at 10:31 am on Sat, 06.09.12

Updated at 12:50 pm on Sat, 06.09.12

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan exhorted hundreds of Missouri Democrats gathered for their state convention Saturday to use "your compassion, your devotion, your commitment'' to counter what she predicted would be unprecedented outside spending by conservative groups bent on defeating the state's top Democrats.

"We can beat the money with our passion. We can beat the money with our candidates,'' said Carnahan, who is not seeking re-election this fall. "But not if we're complacent.''

Carnahan asserted that the national media is painting an inaccurate portrait of Americans' concerns, and of President Barack Obama.

"We've got a president standing for conviction ... putting people ahead of politics at every turn," Carnahan said.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was missing the convention. She explained in a video aired in the hall that her mother just got out of the hospital and "is not doing so well right now."

Her mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, is featured in a powerful new McCaskill ad running statewide that cites the senator's efforts to help veterans and protect their benefits.

As the Beacon reported earlier:

Hundreds of Missouri Democrats are gathering at the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend to elect the final slate of delegates for the national presidential convention in Charlotte, N.C., this September and to rev up for the coming elections.

Gov. Jay Nixon is slated to lead a litany of statewide and regional officials and candidates who will address the state convention Saturday at the Lodge of the Four Seasons resort.

Many of the activists and delegates also are gathering for a party Friday night.

(Start of update) Saturday morning, delegates signed in while candidates milled among them. John Maxwell of St. Louis, a delegate from the 3rd District, said he was optimistic that Democrats will do well in the fall, once most voters began tuning in to the facts behind the parties' dueling messages.

"The Republican lines are 'cons,' " Maxwell said. "I think it will be a landslide for Obama in the fall."

The three best-known candidates for lieutenant governor -- state Rep. Sara Lampe, former state Auditor Susan Montee and former state Rep. Judy Baker -- were distributing stickers and fliers before Saturday's proceedings, while mingling with delegates as they registered. (End of update)

Democrats aren’t expecting much controversy at Saturday's gathering, unlike the Republican state convention last weekend in Springfield, Mo., where a battle over delegates ensued between the supporters of likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney and insurgent Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

Rather, said state Democratic Party chairman Mike Sanders, “This convention is about Democrats standing united behind our president, governor, U.S. senator and our statewide officials. We head toward the fall election with momentum, energy and unity."

Democrats hold the majority of statewide offices in Missouri, but most expect to face strong Republican challenges in November. Missouri Republicans hold huge majorities in the General Assembly and are trying to dominate statewide offices as they did in the 1980s.

State Republicans are trying to link Nixon and other Missouri Democrats to President Barack Obama, who is not expected to carry Missouri in November -- and who isn't expected to do much public campaigning in the state.

Nixon and many other statewide Democrats have, in turn, touted their own record and not talked much about Obama.

Some of the latest polls have been particularly disheartening for allies of Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who is shown in tight contests -- or trailing -- all three of her major Republican rivals: former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and St. Louis businessman John Brunner.

St. Louis Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee, said he was confident McCaskill will get stronger as more voters pay attention to the contest and her record.

"I think the electorate is really fluid right now,'' he said. "We don't even know who her (Republican) opponent will be yet."

At Saturday's state convention, members will elect 19 at-large delegates and seven alternates to the national convention. The Missouri delegation also includes 58 national convention delegates elected at the congressional-caucus meetings in April, 13 pledged delegates and 12 unpledged delegates.

During Saturday’s proceedings, the convention also will select four Missouri members to the Democratic National Committee and 10 presidential electors. The electors participate in the Electoral College that actually chooses the president.

Mo. Democrats to officially select delegates for Obama

Missouri News Horizon - Posted by: Eli Yokley
June 8, 2012

LAKE OZARK, Mo. — Missouri Democrats will meet this weekend to officially elect their delegates for the Democratic National Convention in support of President Obama.

The party will hold its state convention in Lake Ozark Saturday morning, where they will elect delegates to the DNC, members of the electoral college, and remaining members of the national delegation to the party.

Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to address attendees late Saturday afternoon, preceded by other state officials, as well as U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan – currently challenging Rep. Lacy Clay for his seat – earlier in the day.

Friday night, the party will host a reception for delegates and party supporters.

Conservatives Rally Downtown, Calling for Repeal of “Obamacare”

KMOX
June 8, 2012 3:43 PM

ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A crowd of about 200 conservatives turned out for a rally at a downtown park, calling for the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare reform act.

Speakers, including U.S. Senate hopeful Todd Akin, and conservative author Bill Federer, warned that America’s religious liberties are threatened by the law.

Listening to the speakers in the shade of a flowering crab tree, Bridget van Means, the President of  ThriVe St. Louis,  says she believes Obama’s healthcare reform law “violates the word of God.”

“One of the commandments says thou shall not kill, so I’m part of the majority that believes abortion is the intentional ending of an innocent life,” van Means said, “And I don’t want to be forced as an employer to provide that service to employees.”

Those in the crowd told KMOX the event was organized by email and word of mouth. Many attending brought their young children, some babies in arms.

Looking forward to the November election, Brian Westbrook, executive director of Coalition for Life in St. Louis, says the pro-life issue will be big with voters.

“This by far, the life issue and our religious freedoms, are by far the top issue we need to be talking about in this upcoming election,” Westbrook said.

Mo. rally criticizes federal health care policies

Southeast Missourian
Jun 8, 3:49 PM EDT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A rally at the Missouri Capitol has drawn about 200 people opposing a federal mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes coverage of contraception.

Friday's rally was one of dozens being held in cities throughout the country.

Speakers at the Jefferson City event said contraception, sterilization and abortion violate their moral beliefs. They said a government policy requiring insurance coverage for such things encroaches on religious freedom.

Bishop John Gaydos, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, was among those taking part. Gaydos says all Americans suffer without religious freedom and that the ability to have a free, creative and robust society is at stake.

Blunt urges White House to investigate classified leaks

Missouri News Horizon - Posted by: Eli Yokley
June 8, 2012

— U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has joined a chorus of Republicans in calling for a special investigation into leaks of classified national security information.

Blunt, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is urging the Obama administration to appoint a special prosecutor to look into leaks of classified national security information, and for them to be sure they are not facilitating the leaks.

Critics of the administration point to recent reporting regarding the United States’ use of cyber warfare against targets in Iran.

“Why would we tell anybody we were doing that? And why would we tell them that not only are we doing that, but we gave the same tools to Israel so they could do it,” Blunt asked. “I’m sure Israel wasn’t pleased to hear, read or see that.”

Blunt said he believes the leaks will eventually make it difficult for other nations and intelligence sources to assist the United States.

“It’s putting our current national security at risk, but it’s also absolutely making it harder for us to get people to work with us,” he said.

Speaking with reporters Friday, Obama rejected the notion that his administration was leaking classified national security information to reporters.

Steve Kraske | Cleaver wants to clean up ethics probes

THE KANSAS CITY STAR - STEVE KRASKE

June 11

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's latest cause has nothing to do with Kansas City or even Missouri, and he knows it's not going to win many points with some voters.

But here it is: Cleaver is calling for the dismissal of ethics charges against two prominent African-American members of Congress -- Maxine Waters of California and Charlie Rangel of New York, both Democrats.

Cleaver said he's also not backing off his bolt-out-of-the-blue remarks last month when he demanded to know why black lawmakers are being targeted in ethics probes at a higher rate than white lawmakers.

"The process has been tainted," the Kansas City Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said. "I've spoken to two judges here in D.C. who told me if this had happened in their courts or any court in the land, they would have thrown it out."

Waters has been accused of improperly intervening during the 2008 national economic crisis on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband held $350,000 in stock.

The House censured Rangel, a former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, after the ethics panel found him guilty of 11 violations that included charges that he had misused federal resources.

Cleaver is speaking out even though he knows the public couldn't care less about lawmakers who are battling ethics violations. He harkens back to the old Martin Luther King quote about injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere.

There's no question the ethics panel has endured waves of internal infighting, resignations and charges that investigators have violated procedures. One accusation is that two lead ethics staffers improperly shared findings.

Another is more explosive. An internal ethics document The Star obtained accused the same two staffers of making racist remarks. One staffer is quoted as saying that African-American prosecutors in Prince George's County are "not as smart" as white prosecutors.

According to the report, the same staffer also once wondered how a "blond-haired, blue-eyed prosecutor" like herself could be expected to get a Washington jury to convict a defendant.

That the two staffers and the panel's former director who leveled many of the charges are no longer with the committee doesn't matter, Cleaver said. The cases are damaged, and the House needs to move on.

"They should be thrown out," he said.

Republicans tell him privately all the time that they agree with him, Cleaver said. Committee members, however, are afraid to clear anyone because they'll be seen as soft on ethics, and that never sells with voters. The entire process needs to be reformed, Cleaver said.

"You just don't come to the defense of elected officials."

But he is. And in a big way. So you wonder: How will this play with 5th District voters?

Spence endorses 'right to work,' historic tax credit curbs in RCGA speech

By Jason Rosenbaum, Beacon staff

4:45 pm on Fri, 06.08.12

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Dave Spence endorsed “right to work” in Missouri, which would bar companies from operating "closed-union" shops where employees must pay dues if the majority has voted to be in a union.

Responding to a question at a forum Friday sponsored by the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association, Spence told a crowd of business leaders that he would support the proposal. 

“It’s time we explore it,” Spence said. “I know it’s a political hot potato. It’s kind of like the crazy political uncle in the closet that’s knocking at the door. Let him out, let’s talk about it, and let us see if there’s a common-sense solution. Doing nothing is wrong. And I know there are (two) sides to this argument. But it’s time we brought it out and started talking about it.”

After affirming his support for "right to work," Spence noted that several surrounding states – mainly in the South – had adopted the policy. “And they are growing and are getting more businesses and we are not,” he added.

While Republicans in the legislature have called "right to work" as a priority, it has often gone nowhere in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. (It also failed to pass in the 1970s when it was put up for a public vote.)

Even if it did make it through the legislative process, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, would almost certainly veto it. 

While supporters of "right to work" – generally Republicans – argue that the proposal would make the state more attractive to potential businesses, opponents, including organized labor, say it drives down wages and curbs workers' clout.

In response to Spence's remarks, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Isaac Wright said, "Going after Missouri workers is not a job-creation strategy, but it isn’t surprising coming from a dishonest guy who’s only ever looked after himself.”

Spence also added that other needed policy changes – including altering workers’ compensation and workplace discrimination laws – would make the state more competitive. Spence was critical of Nixon’s decision to veto legislation on both those issues.

He also said the state should reexamine unemployment benefits, saying that “we’ve made it way too easy to stay unemployed in our state.”

“We need a safety net, but we’ve created a hammock,” Spence said. “And we have got to simply start bringing it in, tightening it up and bringing people back to work. There are jobs out there. It may not be the job that you left. It may not be the job that you want. But if it’s between putting food on your table and not putting food on your table, there are jobs."

In an interview with the Beacon after his remarks, Spence said he would support a cap and a sunset on the historic preservation tax credit. That’s the incentive used to rehab older buildings, especially in urban areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City. Some Republicans have pushed to curtail the incentive, arguing that it's too costly during a time of budgetary woes. 

“Historic (tax credits) have done a good job of revitalizing our city,” Spence said. “Right now, if we don’t tweak some things, all of sudden buildings built in the ‘60s are going to be eligible. I don’t know about you, but we ought to put a cap on that and put some common-sense limitations. And I think we should also have sunsets on them so they come into review.”

Spence has made re-examining tax credits a big part of his campaign. He said during the forum that he would use savings from curtailing tax credits to invest in areas such as higher education.

(Democrats noted that Spence's former company -- Alpha Plastics Inc. -- got tax credits in the 2000s. Spence's spokesman told the Beacon that Spence wasn't calling for an end to state tax breaks to businesses, rather a review of what works, a point he emphasized during his speech.)

When asked whether he would support raising gasoline or tobacco taxes to raise revenue, Spence said, “I don’t support anything that cuts into net income right now.” He also said he doesn’t support enacting toll roads to collect revenue to fix the state’s highways.

Even if Spence supported any of those options, a public vote – and not the governor’s approval – would most likely be required to enact any tax increases.

Into the frying pan

While Spence devoted most of his speech to policy, he touched on his rationale for getting intopolitics after several decades in the private sector. Spence emerged as a major candidate for the Republican nomination after Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder bowed out of the governor’s race and decided to run for re-election.

Spence said that one motivation was his feeling that areas of the state – including Missouri’s cities – had fallen into disrepair. When he was younger, he said, people had a “a sense of wonderment” about St. Louis.

“Most of St. Louis had more optimism and had more businesses,” Spence said. “They were building new buildings, people were moving here, home prices were stabilized. You know, the north and south St. Louis weren’t the war zones that they are now. Our schools were much better.

“Right now, I just don’t see that,” he added. “We are stakeholders of Missouri. Everybody in this room is a stakeholder of Missouri. And we are a stakeholder of St. Louis. And this business is failing.”

Spence faces several Republicans in the Aug. 7 primary, including Kansas City consultant Bill Randles and anti-abortion activist Fred Sauer. However, state Democrats and Gov. Jay Nixon are focusing primarily on Spence, who is wealthy and the chief contributor to his own campaign.

Spence himself even quipped “if someone had said I’d be speaking before the RCGA as the presumptive nominee for the Republican candidate for governor, I would have said you’re crazy.”

Spence has come under fire over missteps involving his college background and his tenure on the board of Reliance Bancshares, which took $40 million in federal bailout money.  He later told the Associated Press that he voted for the  bank’s decision in 2011 to delay paying back the moneybecause of the bank's continued financial struggles.

Democrats recently set up a website this week featuring a web video of Randles criticizing Spence on the issue.

“Republicans and Democrats alike are disturbed and confused by Dave Spence’s refusal to repay his bank’s $40 million bailout from Washington,” said Wright in a statement earlier this week.

Spence campaign spokesman Jared Craighead asserted that the Democrats were focusing on "a ridiculous issue." Spence said Democratic critics are going over “plowed turf.”

"I wasn't on the board when they took the vote to take the TARP funds. I joined the board later," Spence said, noting that he invested in the bank when other board members didn't. "I had other things going on in my life. I resigned. I got no preferential treatment. I lost my tail in the investment."

Asked if he would have done anything differently so far in his first foray into elective office, Spence said, “I don’t think anything can be gained by looking in the rear-view mirror.”

Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies contributed information to this article.

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