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ETHICS BOO-BOOS MAR: CoMo Town Boss political war chest

A dog that thinks it's a cat

COLUMBIA, Mo 10/12/14 (Beat Byte) -- A group formed to oppose higher development fees in Columbia has already run afoul of at least two Missouri Ethics Commission rules.  

Major donors to Citizens for a Better Columbia (CBC) are wrongly representing it as a political action committee (PAC) that can use its sizable war chest to back City Council and other candidates in future elections.   "It's not a PAC," said MEC employee Glenda Elliott.  "It's a campaign committee that must be dissolved within 30 days after the Nov. 4 election." 

Group organizers also filed papers after a 30-day-before-election deadline via fax, a method the Commission forbids.  

The Statement of Committee organization must contain original signatures.   But CBC organizer Yancy Williams, an aide to State Senator Kurt Schaefer, faxed the statement to the MEC Oct. 6, two days after the deadline. 

That lapse, however, may be little more than procedural sloppiness. 

"They filed the organization statement with their local election board [the Boone County clerk] Oct. 3, so we accepted it by fax after the deadline," Elliott explained.  "They had to file with us because they're taking in so much money so quickly." 

State law defines at least six different political groups, described in an online FAQ called "What kind of committee am I?"   CBC is a dog that thinks it's a cat.   As a "campaign committee," it can only support or oppose a specific ballot measure.   A PAC -- aka a "continuing committee" -- can continue after any given election.       

Established to oppose Proposition 2, a local ballot issue supporters say will more fairly balance how much developers pay for street construction, Citizens for a Better Columbia has already raised $80,000 with a $10,000 Oct. 7 donation from Crockett Engineering.  

CBC will also use the money to support and oppose City Council candidates in future elections, donor and Columbia developer Bob Pugh told the Columbia Daily Tribune last week.  

"Although the group -- a political action committee -- is focusing on Proposition 2 now, it will 'keep on going' after November," Pugh told the Tribune.   A second Tribune story referred to Citizens for a Better Columbia as a "political action committee" Sunday. 

"It's definitely not a political action committee," Elliott explained, noting a box checked on the group's organization papers.  "It will have to be dissolved after the upcoming election."  Group members can re-organize as a PAC thereafter, she added.  

The campaign committee's donors include defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky, builder Mike Tompkins, Sapp brothers Elvin and Billy.   Pugh and the Sapps are among about 10 so-called "Town Bosses" who guide and control policy from behind the scenes. 


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