Shades of Blue

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Funding of state effort at issue (TABOR)

And the plot thickens...

By STEVE ROCK
The Kansas City Star

The group calls itself Missourians in Charge and is hoping to shape the state’s constitution, particularly as it pertains to government spending and eminent domain.

As it turns out, the group is bankrolled not by Missourians but by a wealthy New York developer named Howard Rich, a man who is not even sure how often he has been to Missouri.

“Oh, many times” he said.

The group he is supporting is led locally by Patrick Tuohey of Kansas City.

Tuohey, 34, recently turned in thousands of signatures to the Missouri secretary of state’s office. He hopes to get a pair of constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

One would prohibit eminent domain in most private development projects, and the other would require statewide voter approval for legislators to exceed certain spending limits.

Reports filed last month with the Missouri Ethics Commission showed that Tuohey’s group received $295,810.08 in donations between January and March. Just more than $810 came from the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian public interest group based in Virginia. The rest — a total of $295,000 — came from a New York group called Fund for Democracy. That group is headed by Rich.

“These are issues that are both very close to my heart,” Rich said. “I’ve been supporting them, not just in Missouri but … in other states.”

What that shows, according to Tom Kruckemeyer, is that Rich’s organization is not focusing specifically on Missouri’s situation.

“This is their standard anti-tax, anti-government agenda,” said Kruckemeyer, chief economist for the Missouri Budget Project, a St. Louis organization that analyzes budget issues and staunchly opposes the restraints on state spending. “These are people who don’t live in Missouri, aren’t familiar with our budget and aren’t familiar with the obstacles we’ve had.”

Tuohey, who has never met Rich, said the source of his organization’s seed money was immaterial. Tuohey sought assistance from a Chicago-based organization called Americans for Limited Government, which helped facilitate the financial arrangement with Rich.

All told, Tuohey’s group turned in more than 208,000 signatures for the eminent domain petition and 195,000 for the government spending amendment. On Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office turned down an attempt by Missourians in Charge to turn in more than 8,000 additional signatures for the two ballot initiatives, saying the law requires that signatures be turned in all at once.

“It’s great if people from other states want to support this discussion,” Tuohey said. “But the discussion itself, the debate itself, ultimately has to be conducted among Missourians.”

Besides, he said, an estimated “couple thousand” dollars in donations now are trickling in from Missourians.

For information on the two proposed amendments, go to .gov/elections/2006petitions/06init_pet.asp.

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