Recent Missouri editorials

The Kansas City Star, Feb. 14

The shortest-tenured Missouri governor in modern history is taking a victory lap after the long-awaited conclusion of the campaign finance complaint against him found “there were no reasonable grounds to believe that a violation exists under existing Missouri law” for most of its counts. And he’s taking full advantage of the fact that our campaign finance laws and the secretive moneyman networks that fund candidates weave a confusing and maddeningly impenetrable political spiderweb.

In a Thursday Facebook post seething with grievance and implied threats of revenge, Greitens parroted the tiresome language of our times: The Missouri Ethics Commission “released an order fully exonerating former Governor Eric Greitens.” “Lies were told and bribes were paid in a criminal effort to overturn the 2016 election.” “It was an attack designed for one purpose: to overturn your votes, because we were fighting for you.”

Greitens should save the theatrics for social media and talk radio, because the commission’s carefully-worded consent decree plainly lays out the facts — facts that the former governor’s own campaign doesn’t contest. That’s the very definition of a consent decree: Both parties agree to what it says. And here, both parties accepted a fine of $178,000, which can be settled if the former governor pays $38,000 and commits no further offenses. That’s an eye-popping dollar figure from a body more accustomed to levying penalties in the $100 range.

In six succinct pages, the commission addresses eight core complaints leveled against the Greitens for Missouri committee and A New Missouri, Inc., which is among the tens of thousands of 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits that fund candidates from all political parties with unlimited, untraceable dark money from anonymous donors.

Does this sound like the language of “exoneration”? The ethics commission “found reasonable grounds to support the allegations that the Greitens for Missouri committee failed to disclose the receipt of some in-kind contributions” from both A New Missouri and LG PAC, the Kansas-based conservative political action committee that gave Greitens’ campaign $4 million in 2016.

The devil in the details: The commission interviewed no firsthand witnesses about whether Greitens solicited or directed the donations personally. And that’s exactly how dark money is designed to work. The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t require most nonprofits to disclose their donors. Greitens’ is far from the only campaign to twist that system to maximum advantage. But under high-powered consultant Nick Ayers — who went on to serve as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and even turned down an offer to replace John Kelly in that same role for President Donald Trump — Greitens had a particularly sophisticated apparatus behind him.

It’s worth remembering that the “vicious, abusive, illegal political attacks” Greitens whined about on Facebook originated from within his own party. After he renounced Democrats, the newly-minted and highly ambitious Republican immediately began throwing elbows in his outsider campaign, making plenty of enemies in the Missouri GOP establishment.

The consent decree doesn’t mark the end of Greitens saga, either. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an aggressive liberal nonprofit that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics, is suing the Federal Elections Commission for its inaction on its own complaint about Greitens’ fundraising groups. Expect more developments there.

Greitens may have taken some heat off his campaign’s financial misdeeds when his political career fizzled in 2018 amid multiple scandals. His resignation in a pique of unrepentant self-pity and recrimination was part of a plea deal that ostensibly put behind him disturbing allegations that he tied up the woman who testified under oath about violence and sexual misconduct that most Missourians would prefer not to revisit.

But a man who would steal valor from his fellow Navy SEALs by not correcting Stephen Colbert’s false inference that he took part in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden clearly can’t be shamed by having to pay $38,000 (which surely will come out of his own pocket, right?). Regardless of how hard he rages, though, we all know better than to trust his word — and the Missouri Republican Party is better off with every day it puts between itself and Eric Greitens’ unending drama.

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The Southeast Missourian, Feb. 13

President Donald Trump recognized conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last Tuesday at the State of the Union address. According to our research, Limbaugh is the first Southeast Missourian to receive the medal, which is described as the highest civilian award of the United States.

The Cape Girardeau native, whose radio show is heard by tens of millions of listeners daily, was called by Trump the day before the address. Limbaugh later told listeners he knew the medal was coming but didn't expect it to be bestowed during the joint session of congress. Overcome with emotion by the award, Limbaugh, who is currently battling advanced lung cancer, motioned to his heart how touched he was by the honor.

Previous recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom range from athletes and entertainers to artists, civil rights activists and faith leaders. In recent decades, it is not uncommon for recipients to have strong partisan opinions or to provide vocal and monetary political support to the presidents who bestow the award. Such recipients include Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Charlton Heston, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Biden and more. The most recent Missourian to receive the award was beloved former St. Louis Cardinal slugger Stan Musial, who was recognized in 2011. In each case, the recipient usually excelled at something that influenced the fabric of the nation.

Limbaugh's voice has played a significant role in media over his 31-year career. Syndicated columnist Victor Davis Hanson wrote in National Review about how the conservative talker's trailblazing career uniquely paved the way for others.

"Perhaps the best clue is that Limbaugh was never just a talk-show host at all," Hanson wrote. "Or rather, he redefined the talk-radio three-hour format into something far more expansive than the critical arts of editorializing and answering impromptu listeners' calls. In his prime role as unyielding conservative explicator of the daily news without the filters of the Washington and New York commentariat, he combined the jobs of entertainer, stand-up comedian, psychologist, impressionist, satirist, provocateur, therapist, and listener to the nation."

In being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Limbaugh was cited for saving AM radio in the United States. That's a mega-impact.

What many people don't consider about Limbaugh is his philanthropic contributions. Whether it's the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or any number of other causes, Limbaugh has generously supported causes that transcend politics and make a difference.

Limbaugh is not without significant controversy. His humor -- especially quoted out of context -- can be damning. But who would have thought a young man from Cape Girardeau who started out simply loving radio would go onto win the nation's highest civilian award? It's the type of story uniquely American.

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The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Feb. 16

We oppose legislative attempts to extend voting rights to felons on probation or parole.

As we reported Thursday, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, both St. Louis Democrats, are pushing bills to restore voting rights to felons on probation/parole, except for those convicted of misdemeanor/felony voting offenses.

State law currently allows convicted felons — who have completed their sentence and probation or parole eligible — to vote, unless they've been convicted of an election-related felony or misdemeanor.

Nasheed and Aldridge say that leaves 60,000 people out of the political process.

"This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. To me, this is a human rights issue," Nasheed said.

While it may be a human rights issue to her, it's hard to ignore the reality it's also a partisan issue.

The common belief is the majority of those potential 60,000 voters would vote Democrat, given the opportunity. That's why you'll find more Democrats supporting such measures and Republicans opposing them.

Newsweek reported an influential 2002 study found 73 percent of felons and ex-felons would vote Democrat. If they had been able to vote in 2000, they would have decisively carried Al Gore to victory in Florida and to the White House, the story said.

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has pushed for voting rights for felons still in prison.

It's not just Democrats that have tried to manipulate laws that would — incidentally, at least — give them an edge at the ballot box. Republicans do it, too.

So the question becomes, regardless of which political party benefits, is it the right thing to do?

In this case, it's not.

Voting is one of our most important liberties, something that is a right and responsibility.

But those who are still on parole or probation haven't finished paying their debt to society. Until they do, they've forfeited their vote. It's as simple as that.