A Missouri candidate’s disputed rape claim is opening a Pandora’s box of sexual, financial and partisan secrecy that could affect which party on Nov. 8 wins control of the U.S. Senate.
On Oct. 26, a St. Charles County prosecutor declined to press charges for a complaint brought by Democratic legislative nominee Cora Faith Walker against fellow Democratic nominee Steven Roberts Jr. — a bachelor who then filed a defamation suit Oct. 27 against the married Walker. Roberts said they had a consensual affair eight years ago, which rekindled at political functions in August after they became nominees.
The dispute between two candidates raises questions also about Walker's ties to a controversial tax referendum and its key backer Jason Kander, the Democratic nominee for a Missouri seat in the U.S. Senate.
Kander, now Missouri's secretary of state, was nearly tied in the latest voter poll with incumbent Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, 66, in a race that could help win U.S. Senate control for Democrats. The GOP holds 54 seats currently.
Kander, 35, gained prominence in the Republican-dominated state in part by supporting a referendum proposal Nov. 8 backed by a new group called “Raise Your Hand For Kids.” The plan, dubbed RYH4K for short, would increase state funds for education by raising cigarette taxes from 17 cents to 77 cents per pack, with higher taxes on smaller companies that did not participate in a 1990s settlement to users stricken with disease.
An anonymous attack on Kander called “The Kander Memo” filed this month with federal and state authorities claims that Kander worked secretly to sell the plan along with allies who included Walker. She is a lawyer who is listed as the secretary of the three-person board controlling millions of dollars in spending by RYH4K. Its main spending to date has been to acquire some 320,000 Missouri voter signatures that had to be approved by Kander as secretary of state over the objections of a Missouri appellate court to put the RYH4K measure on November's ballot.
The anti-Kander memo claimed that RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. helped fund the RYH4K ballot referendum in ways that would help Kander’s senate campaign with field operations and would also help "Big Tobacco" by raising taxes especially high on discount cigarette sellers.
The full-127 page memo is here, with the main section on RYH4K beginning on page 68 and extending for nearly 60 pages before an appendix.
Update: The allegations in the memo are "shocking" and untrue said RYH4K Executive Director Linda Rallo in a phone interview Nov. 2. "It find it highly offensive," continued Rallo, who assumed her post last fall. "This campaign has nothing to do with Jason Kander." She said RYH4K has complied with state filing requirements, and she was too busy in a meeting and preparing for the Nov. 8 balloting to describe more specifically her complaints about the memo. As of Nov. 3, the memo has received 8,100 views, mostly in recent days.
The memo claimed that Walker, who has a master's degree in health studies along with a law degree, was a relatively minor player and one of the attractive Missouri fronts along with Rallo and another woman on the RYH4K board involved with a secret strategic plan concocted by others, primarily natives of Kansas. The plan was, according to the memo, to use the millions of dollars raised in the RYH4K ballot initiative to help Democrats and "Big Tobacco" in their goals, coinciding with ostensible sole purpose of helping children obtain better education and health.
On Oct. 13, we reported that Kander (shown at right in an official photo) has orchestrated a variety of such deceptive campaign finance and organizational practices, according to the allegations in the memo, which was filed anonymously before seven federal and state oversight bodies. No actions have been reported by the bodies. We headlined that column Deceit Claims Lodged Against Missouri Democrat in Key Senate Race.
Today, the Justice Integrity Project (a non-partisan investigative reporting organization) first summarizes developments in Walker's rape claim, including context regarding other disputed rape allegations nationally. Then we report on the larger political issues, which we plan to amplify by additional pre-election coverage.
We predict more political and legal controversy before the election. Reaction is likely to raise questions also about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster, a ticket-mate of Kander.
Koster is the current state attorney general, and his office should have monitored any improprieties by Kander, the secretary of state whose team approved the RYH4K initiative. The referendum, including the signature drive, has been challenged repeatedly in court during the year. In April, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch separately reversed on other grounds its editorial backing of the plan.
The real issues remain largely below the surface. They include some that are so sensitive that few dare to publish first. [Update: Missouri's two largest newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star, published their senate endorsements Sunday, Oct. 30 but ignored the controversies reported here.]
But the scandals are too important to ignore in the long run, even for the deadline-driven mainstream media that dwell on polls and personalities — and not on why events occur, much less who really benefits.
Walker Charges Rape, Seeks Ban Legislative Ban On Roberts
Walker, 31, is shown below on her Twitter photo. She won the Democratic primary to represent the 77th legislative district centered in Ferguson, a majority-black community of some 21,000 in St. Louis County that became the scene of a nationally notorious police shooting of black resident Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Subsequent riots and protests in August 2014 resulted in more than 300 arrests.
On Sept. 30, she released a letter to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and other legislative leaders accusing Roberts of raping her Aug. 26 after he invited her to his apartment to discuss work and she consumed two glasses of wine and fell asleep. In the letter, she wrote that she was taking the unusual step of going public in order to help other women confront attackers. She asked that legislative leaders prevent Roberts from being seated.
Roberts, 27, who seeks election Nov. 8 to the nearby 74th district in St. Louis, denied her allegations. Both Walker and Roberts are seeking their first term as legislators. Roberts is a lawyer and former assistant prosecutor in St. Louis whose campaign website boasts that he once served in India to assist victims of sexual assault there.
Walker's public rape allegation shared with the media received national and international coverage as far away as London, including treatment highly sympathetic to Walker by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger.
But on Oct. 26, the Post-Dispatch reported No charges after incoming Missouri representative accused St. Louis colleague of rape.
St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar, appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, said, “We’re not going to file charges against Mr. Roberts. There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual.”
The next day, Roberts sued his accuser, as reported by Sarah Fenske of the St. Louis Riverfront Times in Steven Roberts Jr. Sues Cora Faith Walker, Alleging Defamation and Malicious Prosecution. She reported:
Roberts has filed a bombshell lawsuit against his fellow Democrat — accusing her of making up the case against him and saying that they had multiple consensual encounters.
Walker has told the media that the two had no prior romantic relationship. But in his lawsuit, Roberts alleges that they actually fooled around in his hotel room the very night before — and that he snapped a nude photo of her to prove it. He also says their encounters on the night in question weren't just consensual, but that they planned to hook up by purchasing wine, pizza and condoms together.
Fenske further reported:
Scott Rosenblum, the Clayton criminal defense attorney who represented Roberts in the police investigation, says the photo, as well as a receipt showing the grocery store purchases, were the "conclusive evidence" he referenced in arguing his client's innocence.
Walker Reaffirms Rape Claim
Walker has reaffirmed her rape allegation despite the special prosecutor's ruling. She says she owes it to other women to persist in her allegation. “I didn’t come forward expecting justice. I know that few sexual assault cases are ever prosecuted,” Walker told a Post-Dispatch reporter after the prosecutor's decision about Roberts. “I am angry and terrified that he is free.”
Messenger, the Post-Dispatch opinion writer, published a column Oct. 28 Opinion: Cora Faith Walker is 'no angel.' But I believe her. As reasons, the columnist cited both his observations, instincts and the nation's long history of shaming and disbelieving women who claim sexual assault.
Yet several reader critics of his column protested in the comment section. They noted other recent developments as false rape claims in 2006 against three Duke University lacrosse players and a now-discredited Rolling Stone Magazine story in 2014 alleging that a University of Virginia student named "Jackie" had been gang-raped by fellow students and that administrative staff had cruelly mishandled the victim's search for justice.
Roberts, shown at left, says he is looking for vindication in his lawsuit.
As reported by the St. Louis Riverfront News: Roberts' attorneys said he would not be available for comment this week. They provided this written statement from Roberts: "What is most egregious is that Mrs. Walker has falsely positioned herself as an advocate for sexual assault victims. Victims do not lie. By making these false allegations, Mrs. Walker has undermined the true victims of sexual assault who deserve to be heard and believed."
"As a newly elected representative for the citizens of St. Louis, Mrs. Walker's false allegations of rape are, to say the least, disturbing. In an attempt to advance her own political career, Mrs. Walker has severely damaged the rights of the many actual victims of sexual assault. As a representative of the people, Mrs. Walker should know better.
Meanwhile, blogger Roger Shuler continued his close scrutiny of the case on his Legal Schnauzer site with an Oct. 28 column Missouri politico sues future colleague who accused him of rape, possibly shining light on scandal involving Jason Kander and U.S. Senate race against Roy Blunt. Blunt is shown in an official photo at right.
Shuler is a University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate who began blogging in 2007 to expose injustices in the legal system after a newspaper and university writing career. He highlighted as a cause for concern Walker's roles with the proponents of the RYH4K ballot initiative.
RYH4K is a 501 c-4 organization created in November 2014 under the federal tax code. The Kander Memo claims that an employee of Kander's at the secretary of state's office became RYH4K "field director" canvassing the state for referendum signatures in about November 2014, just prior to the time that Kander was preparing to announce his senatorial candidacy in February 2015.
That raises a question, the memo says, of whether Kander and his staffer used state-paid time to help plan the initiative, and nearly two years later also used Kander's official position as secretary of state to approve the disputed ballot signatures in a way that also helped his political campaign outreach.
In July, a Missouri appellate court disallowed the measure from the November ballot on the grounds that the description had been changed, confusing those signing petitions. But Kander and a higher-court approved the measure for the ballot, as reported here: Missouri tobacco tax hike proposal survives court challenge.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch approved, disapproved, and then finally approved the proposal in a Sept. 25 editorial Vote yes on Amendment 3, raising Missouri's tobacco tax. It summarizes the public elements of the proposal but not the Kander-orchestrated intrigues involving such allies as Walker. A column by David Martin of the Kansas City Pitch — Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country. Why does a tobacco company want to raise it? — explains the economics of how the proposal helps the biggest tobacco companies by raising taxes especially high on their discount competitors.
On Oct. 28, Shuler's column reported in way Walker's role with RYH4K, which received millions of dollars in donations (much of it from tobacco companies) and benefited from many hundreds of volunteers raising money and obtaining signatures in the state's 114 counties, plus the city of St. Louis:
Walker serves as one of three officers for Raise Your Hands for Kids (RYH4K), a Kander-controlled nonprofit that has raised about $5 million for a ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that would raise tobacco taxes supposedly to boost early-childhood education in Missouri.
According to a document called The Kander Memo, however, $3 million for RYH4K came from RJ Reynolds, the tobacco conglomerate that likely would benefit from enhanced market share and increased taxes on products from its discount competitors.
As an officer of RYH4K, Walker holds a fiduciary duty to ensure that $5 million in donations, $2 million of which came from individual contributors, is handled lawfully and actually goes to programs for children. The anonymous authors of The Kander Memo say the funds have been tainted with fraud and theft by deceit, serving partly as a political slush fund for Kander.
Walker, a lawyer, brought her rape allegations against Roberts less than 10 days after The Kander Memo was released to seven government oversight bodies. The 127-page memo repeatedly points to irregularities and alleged criminal conduct that could threaten Walker's legal and political careers. Evidence suggests she might have developed the rape allegations against Roberts as a way to deflect attention from The Kander Memo.
The Kander Memo was circulated among a number of mainstream and alternative journalists at the time of its filing with government agencies. Investigative reporter and political commentator Wayne Madsen first published the contents for the public in an Oct. 10 column on the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR): No Candor in Kander campaign for Senate.
Kander and his campaign have not responded to our requests for comment on the memo. Walker has declined comment to reporters aside from her initial statements. We are seeking any additional comment from her and others, including Attorney Gen. Chris Koster (shown in an official photo). We shall update this column if any new comment is received.
Looking ahead, Shuler wrote Oct. 28:
Could discovery in the Roberts lawsuit reveal information about Walker's motivations and her connections to RYH4K and the Kander campaign?
The answer appears to be yes. The Walker-Roberts story already has made national headlines, and the lawsuit figures to grab even more attention. Meanwhile, the Kander-Blunt race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate beginning in 2017.
Kander's opponent Blunt and the mainstream media have remained almost mute about the serious and varied allegations contained in The Kander Memo regarding RFYH4K. The editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch endorsed Kander over Blunt for senate in the newspaper's Oct. 30 Sunday print edition. Of all things, the editorial Jason Kander for U.S. Senate cited the Democrat's "honesty."
Kander's public relations campaign to win such an endorsement was long in the making. But disclosures should create a different momentum early this week.
Such situations naturally follow from the huge dollars required for political campaigning. Another factor is public apathy (including in the media) regarding any topic significantly more complex than poll results, official statements, and personal scandal.
The good news is that Missouri has been able to serve as an example, at least for those served by independent media, in what's wrong with the political system. Those problems have reached the point when they are becoming far too difficult to ignore.
The Kander Memo Coverage
Wayne Madsen Report, No Candor in Kander campaign for Senate, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 10, 2016. Wayne Madsen, shown below at left, is a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst. He has written 15 books and is a widely published op-ed and broadcast political commentator. His most recent book, which he launched with a lecture Oct. 26 at the National Press Club, is a 350-page encyclopedia "The Almost Classified Guide To CIA Front Companies and Proprietaries." His column breaking news of The Kander Memo is excerpted below
WMR is exclusively reporting on a copy of a document called "The Kander Memo," written by a group of Missouri voters who are concerned about the fraudulent activities of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander and his wife Diana Kagan Kander. Kander, the current Missouri Secretary of State, is running for the Senate against Republican incumbent Roy Blunt.
The Kander Memo, dated September 20, 2016, was sent to a number of federal and state agencies and offices, including the U.S. Senate, Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, the Missouri Ethics Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service.
The Missouri voters contend that Kander, an up-and-coming star in national Democratic Party politics, and his wife engaged in massive campaign funding fraud since 2014. The fraud included operating a fraudulent crowdfunding charity scheme that was actually intended to promote Diana Kagan's book to the New York Times bestseller list.
The campaign fraud also included the use of Jason Kander's non-profit "Raise Your Hands for Kids" (RYH4K) to create a $5 million political slush fund to be used for Kander's Senate campaign. Three of the five million dollars in donations to the "kids" charity came from corporate donors, particularly tobacco companies, while the remainder came from individual donors who were scammed by Kander into believing their donations were helping Missouri's children. Use of such non-profit funds by candidates in federal election campaigns is strictly forbidden by federal election and tax laws.
The scandal involving Kander, a trial lawyer, and his wife may throw a monkey wrench into the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee's decision to invest $3.5 million in the Missouri Democrat's campaign. The Blunt-Kander race is seen as one of the closest in the country and one in which the Democrats hope could be pivotal in returning to them control of the Senate.
Justice Integrity Project, Deceit Claims Lodged Against Missouri Democrat in Key Senate Race, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 13, 2016. Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senate nominee (above) has orchestrated deceptive campaign finance and organizational practices, according to allegations filed anonymously before seven federal and state oversight bodies. Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander, the Senate nominee shown in an official photo at left, and his allies allegedly created a controversial tobacco-industry charitable initiative on the state ballot in November, for example.
The “Raise Your Hands 4 Kids” ballot referendum was concocted as a sweetheart deal for the tobacco companies, according to the 127-page memo, and also as an organizing tool in Republican-dominated Missouri for what pollsters say is surprisingly strong Senate race by Kander. Alleged manipulation of the New York Times best-seller list and crowd-funding for charitable purposes are among the other allegations.
A Kander victory in the Missouri Senate race over incumbent Republican Roy Blunt has the potential to help deliver Senate control to Democrats, who now trail Republicans 46-50 (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in support of the Democratic caucus. Therefore, the many serious new allegations against Kander and his wife — motivational speaker, lawyer and investment counselor Diana Kagan Kander — have both state and national importance.
Legal Schnauzer, Missouri Democrat Jason Kander has violated multiple laws while taking lead over Roy Blunt in key race to control U.S. Senate, newly released documents show, Roger Shuler, Oct. 19, 2016. A candidate in one of the nation's most-watched 2016 U.S. Senate races engaged in fund-raising fraud, theft by deceit of more than $2 million, and other campaign violations, according to documents that an anonymous citizens' group has compiled.
Democrat Jason Kander (shown in a file photo) is on the verge of what one newspaper calls an "astonishing upset" of Republican incumbent Roy Blunt in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri. The outcome of the race could help decide which party controls the Senate, beginning in January 2017.
A 127-page document called The Kander Memo, dated September 20 and distributed by a group of Missouri citizens to at least seven government oversight bodies, provides extensive evidence that Kander and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander, have violated multiple federal and state criminal laws.
Less than one week ago, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske, wrote that Kander stood "on the brink of an astonishing upset" of Blunt, who has held the Senate seat for six years and represented Missouri's 7th Congressional District for 14 years prior to that. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, now projects Kander to win the race, with an almost 60 percent likelihood of victory.
Update: Legal Schnauzer, Missouri Democrat Jason Kander beds down with "pro lifers" and "anti stem-cell research" crowd in effort to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in U.S. Senate, Roger Shuler, Nov. 2, 2016. Is a Missouri Democrat trying to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate by jumping in bed with social conservatives? Is Democrat Jason Kander attempting to attract rural votes, especially from farmers, by playing to their right-wing predilections on social issues? The fine print in Raise Your Hands For Kids (RYH4K), a nonprofit that Kander controls and which purports to boost child health in Missouri by raising taxes on cigarettes, indicates the answer is yes.
That suggests those who claim to be concerned about "life" and "child health" have formed an uneasy alliance with Big Tobacco, which probably causes more death and poor health than any other industry in America.
The Kander Memo, a heavily sourced, 127-page document released by a group of anonymous Missouri citizens, suggests that RYH4K is a glorified political slush fund for Kander — with $5 million coming from individual donors ($2 million) and R.J. Reynolds ($3 million), which is likely to benefit from enhanced market share and sharply increased taxes on its discount competitors.
RYH4K's willingness to cater to right-wing groups adds another level of intrigue to the battle over Amendment 3, which will be on the November 8 ballot.
Tony's Kansas City, Not Even Close, Tony Botello, Nov. 9, 2016. There's a lot of things to learn from Missouri SecState Jason Kander's defeat at the hands of incumbent Senator Roy Blunt but the most important thing might be the viral videos are neat but don't influence voters. In the aftermath of his sound defeat, Kander's gun trick was celebrated throughout the nation but amounted to little more than preaching to the choir and quick entertainment for Youtubers who didn't vote anyhow.
Sample Senate Race Coverage (Reverse chronological order)
Roll Call, Jason Kander May Have Made a Big Mistake, , Nathan L. Gonzales, Feb. 14, 2017. Missouri Democrat hits national stage with potential long-term consequences.
NBC News, Field of Candidates to Head Democratic Party Expands Quickly, Alex Seitz-Wald, Nov. 11 2016. The field of candidates interested in chairing the Democratic Party as it rebuilds after Donald Trump's surprise win is growing quickly, despite strong early support for Rep. Keith Ellison. The list expanded rapidly on Friday, and is likely to continue to grow, as Democrats consider who they want filling what will become a central role in shaping the Democratic Party's future.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez is considering the post, according to a source familiar with his thinking, as is former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, South Carolina Party Chair Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Chair Ray Buckley, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, and former DNC Chair Howard Dean.
Missouri Times, A Message from Jason Kander: Why You Won’t Get a Pass from Me, Nov. 10, 2016. This is the message where I’m supposed to thank you for all you’ve done for me, tell you how much it meant to me, and then say my goodbyes and wish you luck on your journey. I’m supposed to say something like, “Perhaps our paths will cross again.”
But that’s not how I roll. Of course, I am thankful to you and I’m forever grateful for this experience. But why wouldn’t I be? Let’s talk about something important.
We’re all disappointed about Tuesday night’s results. We lost an election. In fact, we – the Democrats – lost a whole mess of elections on Tuesday.
But please know that I’m going to be fine. If you’re going to be sad for someone, make it the single mom who has cancer and is scared to death about being unable to keep her insurance to continue treatments without Obamacare. Worry about the undocumented student who has only ever known this country and is worried about what happens to her now. Worry about the minimum wage worker trying to stretch $30 into a full grocery trip. Let your heart go out to the college student saddled with enormous debt and unable to get help from a parent whose own graduate degree has forced him into bankruptcy.
Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Yes, Donald Trump is going to be President and the Republicans control the House and the Senate, but I need that to double your resolve, not cause you to give up on our politics. America needs you now more than ever. So don’t quit! This generation is patriotic, creative, selfless, and – most importantly – numerous. My campaign might no longer be the vehicle for your activism, but that doesn’t mean you’re excused from standing up and making your voice heard.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Challenger Kander concedes to Blunt in Missouri Senate race, Jim Salter, Nov. 9, 2016. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander conceded early Wednesday, ending his spirited bid to unseat incumbent Republican Roy Blunt in a race both parties had eyed in the battle over control of the chamber.
Blunt, 66, served seven terms in the House before winning election to the Senate in 2010. He'd never faced a close race before, but polls showed this election was tight from the outset as Kander, Missouri's 35-year-old secretary of state and a former Army intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, emerged as one of the surprise candidates in any Senate race.
Associated Press via McClatchy DC, Greitens defeats Koster to win Missouri governor's race, Summer Ballentine, Nov. 9, 2016. Republican former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens defeated Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster Tuesday in the Missouri governor's race, as voters opted for the promise of a fresh start under the first-time candidate rather than his opponent's lengthy resume as a public servant.
The first-time candidate had touted himself as an outsider and pledged to tackle corruption in the state Capitol. Koster took the opposite approach, emphasizing that his nearly 22 years in elected office make him qualified to run state government.
Politico, Senate Dem hopes may rest on rising star Kander, Maggie Severns, Nov. 2, 2016. He poses a serious threat to Missouri incumbent Roy Blunt. For all the big names Democratic leaders recruited to help them take back the Senate, the key to victory could be the candidate who recruited himself. Just weeks after Democrats lost the chamber in 2014, a virtually unknown Missouri Democrat named Jason Kander hopped a plane to D.C. to meet Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester and his wife, Sharla, at a high-end Washington haunt.
Kansas City Star, Roy Blunt deserves re-election to the U.S. Senate, Editorial board, Oct. 29, 2016. Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has been a fixture in Missouri politics for more than 30 years. His experience and knowledge gained during his time as secretary of state, congressman and senator would be considered assets in most election years.
But it is his lengthy tenure in Washington — nearly 20 years — that could be Blunt’s greatest vulnerability in a year when being an outsider has been valuable for challengers. Democrat Jason Kander has hammered Blunt relentlessly for what allegedly has happened to Blunt after 20 years in Washington. Kander claims Blunt has lost touch with Missouri’s values, has become too close to Washington insiders, and by working the system to his own advantage is far removed from the reform-minded southwest Missourian who earned praise from Democrats and Republicans for his work as secretary of state.
Kander is an energetic challenger. With his impressive military record, eight years ago he won a state representative seat in Kansas City and then, in what appeared to be a brash move at the time, he sought the office of secretary of state that he won four years ago. It was considered unrealistic two years ago when Kander decided to take on the veteran Blunt. But in a chaotic election year, Kander’s lack of Washington experience has given him strong momentum.
Kander is in a hurry, and he will go places. But he has not demonstrated he deserves to go to Washington now instead of Blunt.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial: Jason Kander for U.S. Senate, Editorial Board, Oct. 29, 2016. The political balance of the U.S. Senate could hinge on Missourians’ vote on Nov. 8. The nation is watching the neck-and-neck race between Republican incumbent Roy Blunt and Democratic challenger Jason Kander, Missouri’s secretary of state.
Blunt, 66, is the consummate Washington insider. While that can work to Missouri’s benefit, he has repeatedly ignored conflicts of interest and allowed family lobby-related business interests to interfere with his legislative responsibilities. He embraces Donald Trump’s candidacy. Blunt defines the Washington problem, not the solution.
It’s time for him to go. Missourians cannot continue electing divisive politicians like Blunt, hoping they’ll heal the nation’s wounds.
This newspaper endorses Kander, 35, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan with a clear moral standard. Kander’s moderate political bent can help quell the partisan extremism ripping Washington apart.
Blunt has had chances to make big differences, but has failed. In 2013, he joined a small minority of 22 senators, all Republican, voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, Blunt voted against measures to impose reasonable background checks and limit sales of military-style assault weapons.
Blunt talks a lot about gun rights. Kander can easily assemble an assault weapon blindfolded while discussing why the Second Amendment would not be imperiled by reasonable regulations. Kander has carried military assault weapons in war and understands their killing power, especially when equipped with high-capacity magazines. They do not belong in the hands of civilians, as respected special operations military officers have argued.
Blunt walks in lockstep with the lobbyists whose dollars he gladly rakes in. Missourians should demand a senator capable of thinking independently of lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association. (Blunt, by the way, is the top recipient in Congress of NRA money.)
Blunt’s campaign ads assert that he understands the experience of war veterans. How so? He received three deferments to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Kander, by contrast, interrupted his own career to serve in Afghanistan. He understands military and veterans issues from the viewpoint of someone who’s been there.
RealClearPolitics, Blunt Fights to Survive as Kander Seeks Missouri Upset, James Arkin, Oct. 27, 2016. Jason Kander, the Democratic challenger in Missouri’s unexpectedly tight Senate race, invoked his military service at a crowded bar here Tuesday afternoon, rallying his troops for a final two-week push in one of the closest and most critical Senate races in the country. “I don’t know if you know this -- there’s only 14 days to go in this deal,” Kander said. “We have a saying in the Army: ‘You can stand on your head for 14 days.’ You can keep working for 14 days, right?”
Roll Call, The Surprise Senate Race: How Missouri Became a Key Battleground, Alex Roarty, Oct. 26, 2016. Last year, long before even most Democrats thought he could win, Jason Kander explained why he deserved to unseat Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. His message, delivered in a succinct video announcing his campaign, was blunt and personal. Whether he knew it or not, he had found a catchphrase that would 20 months later come to explain how he now appears on the brink of an improbable upset.
U.S. News & World Report, Watch This Senate Hopeful Assemble an Assault Rifle Blindfolded to Defend His Stance on Guns, Rachel Dicker, Sept. 19, 2016. Watch This Senate Hopeful Assemble an Assault Rifle Blindfolded to Defend His Stance on Guns. The Senate race in Missouri is a close one, but Democratic challenger Jason Kander is hoping a new campaign ad will give ammo to his effort to defeat Republican incumbent Roy Blunt. On Thursday, Kander released an ad in which he discusses his views on background checks for firearms while assembling an AR-15 assault rifle.
U.S. News & World Report, Watch This Senate Hopeful Assemble an Assault Rifle Blindfolded to Defend His Stance on Guns, Rachel Dicker, Sept. 19, 2016. Watch This Senate Hopeful Assemble an Assault Rifle Blindfolded to Defend His Stance on Guns. The Senate race in Missouri is a close one, but Democratic challenger Jason Kander is hoping a new campaign ad will give ammo to his effort to defeat Republican incumbent Roy Blunt. On Thursday, Kander released an ad in which he discusses his views on background checks for firearms while assembling an AR-15 assault rifle. Video.
Oh, and one more thing: He does it blindfolded. "Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns," Kander explains. "In the Army, I learned how to use and respect my rifle. In Afghanistan, I'd volunteer to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs, and in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights." As he speaks, his hands deftly find the different parts of the rifle, and he clicks them into place.
Related Rape Claim Coverage
Legal Schnauzer, Missouri politico sues future colleague who accused him of rape, possibly shining light on scandal involving Jason Kander and U.S. Senate race against Roy Blunt, Roger Shuler, Oct. 28, 2016. An incoming Missouri legislator has filed a defamation lawsuit against a future colleague who accused him of rape. The civil case could unlock secrets about the evolving scandal surrounding Jason Kander, the Democrat who is trying to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in one of the nation's most closely watched U.S. Senate races. Excerpts:
Steven Roberts Jr. (shown in a file photo) yesterday filed a lawsuit against Cora Faith Walker, accusing her of defamation, malicious prosecution, and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit comes two days after a special prosecutor announced he would not bring criminal charges against Roberts, based on Walker's rape complaint.
This much is certain: Roberts' lawsuit provides intimate details about his relationship with Walker, which he says was consensual. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Roberts’ civil suit claims the two actually had their first sexual contact at a political conference in Kansas City on Aug. 25, the day before Walker alleges she was raped. Roberts claims that Walker, who is married, initiated the contact in Kansas City by asking to keep her purse in Roberts’ hotel room while she attended an evening social function. The suit claims that once in Roberts’ room, Walker asked to use his shower and then undressed in front of him. Roberts said Walker posed for a nude photo and then the two had sexual contact. Walker left Roberts’ room about 2. a.m., the suit claims.
The following night, after returning to St. Louis from the conference in Kansas City, the two met up for drinks, according to the suit. Walker texted Roberts from a jazz bar and he went to meet her, the suit says. On leaving the bar about 10 p.m., Roberts said Walker turned down his invitation to go to another bar, but accepted his offer to go to his apartment. They stopped to pick up food and wine on the way to his apartment, the suit says.
While there, from about 10:30 p.m. to the early morning, Roberts claims, they had sex three times and then fell asleep. Roberts said Walker woke up about 6 a.m. when her cellphone rang, and she became agitated. When Roberts asked if everything was all right, Roberts said Walker stated that it was, except that she was supposed to have gone home the night before.
He says they exchanged cordial texts later in the day.
The Walker-Roberts story already has made national headlines, and the lawsuit figures to grab even more attention. Meanwhile, the Kander-Blunt race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate beginning in 2017.
The lawsuit and The Kander Memo, combined, might eventually expose a side of politics that is as ugly as it gets.
KWSO (ABC-TV, News 4), Pizza, condoms and chardonnay; a glimpse into the night of alleged misconduct between candidates, Lauren Pozen, Oct. 28, 2016. (Video, with copy of the Steven Roberts lawsuit.)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Opinion: Cora Faith Walker is 'no angel.' But I believe her, Tony Messenger, Oct. 28, 2016. Two days after a special prosecutor declined to file charges in the allegations of rape she brought against a fellow state representative candidate, and one day after that man, Steve Roberts Jr., filed a defamation lawsuit against her, the 31-year-old lawyer turned her focus to the state Capitol. On Nov. 8, both she and Roberts are running unopposed as Democrats for seats in the Missouri House. She lives in Ferguson. Roberts lives in the city of St. Louis. In early January, if they both follow through with their plans to serve, they’ll be together in the state’s capital city for five months, working in a building in which they’ll cross paths every day and likely have desks mere feet from each other.
After filing a complaint with the police, and then taking the rare step of publicizing her sexual assault allegations — and putting her name on them for all to see in my column outlining her accusation — Walker was “devastated” that St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar didn’t file charges against Roberts. “I completely get why women don’t report,” she told me, in tears as she recounted a difficult couple of days. “I completely get it.”
In Roberts’ lawsuit against her, he describes in salacious detail the days and hours leading to the evening on Aug. 26 when Walker says she was raped, and Roberts says they had consensual sex. The events in the lawsuit don’t paint a positive picture of Walker, of how she treated her marriage, of the judgment she showed leading up to the moment that would change her life, and others’.
“I’m not an angel,” she had told me when I first interviewed her last month. It was a phrase I didn’t use in my column because it’s one of those narratives that all too often emerges after alleged sexual assault victims have their every move dissected in the sort of public way that serves to dehumanize them. Cora Faith Walker is no angel. But I believe her.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Trump leads Clinton, Blunt-Kander a virtual tie in Missouri, Chuck Raasch, Oct. 28, 2016. Countering national trends, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Missouri, while incumbent Republican Sen. Roy Blunt is in a virtual tie with Democratic challenger Jason Kander, a new Post-Dispatch poll shows.
Trump leads Clinton 47 percent to 42 percent, with 7 percent undecided, in the newspaper survey of 625 likely Missouri voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Taken Monday through Wednesday, the poll shows Blunt with 47 percent and Kander with 46 percent, with 5 percent undecided, reflecting a race that has been close for months and has drawn increasing national attention and money.
The Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that at least $26 million had been spent by outside groups trying to influence the Senate race on both sides, on top of more than $23 million raised by the candidates, with millions more spending to come.
Blunt, 66, has a strong following in rural Missouri and among older voters, segments where he has double-digit leads, the poll shows. Kander, 35, Missouri’s secretary of state, is winning voters under 35 decisively and carrying metro St. Louis and Kansas City, signaling that each candidate’s ability to get out the vote in these strongholds will be key to which one wins on Nov. 8. Kander is winning with women by 7 points; Blunt is winning with men by 11.
New York Daily News, Missouri state House candidate who said she was raped by fellow candidate sued for defamation, Tobias Salinger, Oct. 28, 2016. The Missouri state House candidate who said publicly that another state House candidate raped her now faces a lawsuit accusing her of defamation. Cora Faith Walker and Steven Roberts Jr., two Democrats running unopposed, had consensual sex while attending a conference in Kansas City and again the following night in St. Louis, according to the suit filed Thursday.
Roberts’ lawsuit asks for at least $25,000 for each count of defamation, malicious prosecution and emotional distress. “For the past month I have stood by watching as Mrs. Walker made false allegations against me over and over again,” Roberts said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Riverfront Times, Steven Roberts Jr. Sues Cora Faith Walker, Alleging Defamation and Malicious Prosecution, Sarah Fenske, Oct. 27, 2016. Roberts has filed a bombshell lawsuit against his fellow Democrat — accusing her of making up the case against him and saying that they had multiple consensual encounters. Walker has told the media that the two had no prior romantic relationship. But in his lawsuit, Roberts alleges that they actually fooled around in his hotel room the very night before — and that he snapped a nude photo of her to prove it. He also says their encounters on the night in question weren't just consensual, but that they planned to hook up by purchasing wine, pizza and condoms together.
He's now suing for defamation, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Scott Rosenblum, the Clayton criminal defense attorney who represented Roberts in the police investigation, says the photo, as well as a receipt showing the grocery store purchases, were the "conclusive evidence" he referenced in arguing his client's innocence.
Walker's allegations, which shook St. Louis' gossipy political scene and had many women blasting Roberts on social media, began when she reported in late September that she had been assaulted on August 26. In a letter to the Speaker of the House (and apparently in statements to police), she said she went to Roberts' apartment around 9 p.m. and, after two glasses of wine, woke up the next morning with no idea of what had happened. Her story was the subject of a sympathetic, and widely circulated, column by the Post-Dispatch's Tony Messenger.
In his lawsuit, filed by Jeremy D. Hollingshead of Hollingshead, Paulus, Eccher, and Fry, Roberts tells a much different story — with receipts and text messages attached as exhibits.
Roberts said the two had a sexual relationship eight years ago, and rekindled it after each won their respective primaries this August.
After a meeting of the Democratic Summer Caucus in Kansas City on August 25, his suit alleges, the two met up his room, undressed, cuddled and kissed. He says she told him her husband would not care because they have a "progressive marriage," but that "her boyfriend might," according to the suit. The suit also alleges that Walker posed for a nude photo in front of Roberts' bed.
On the following day, he alleges, they exchanged friendly text messages and separately returned to St. Louis before meeting up around 10 p.m. He had suggested Bar Napoli, but she didn't want to be out in public, so they went to his apartment.
But first they went to Straub's and Whole Foods to get food. Both were closed, so they arrived at Schnuck's and bought two bottles of Chardonnay, pizza, a toothbrush, toothpaste and condoms. Roberts says in the suit he has surveillance footage from Straub's showing the two together. His suit also includes as an exhibit a receipt from Schnuck's showing the purchases.
Roberts says they had three consensual sexual encounters that night — and woke up to her phone ringing hours later. She said "Oh fuck, oh fuck" and indicated that she was supposed to have gone home the night before, according to the lawsuit. She then left.
He said the photo taken by Roberts in his hotel room the morning before the alleged assault clearly shows Walker. "There is no question," he tells the RFT. In his lawsuit, filed by Jeremy D. Hollingshead of Hollingshead, Paulus, Eccher, and Fry, Roberts tells a much different story — with receipts and text messages attached as exhibits.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, No charges after incoming Missouri representative accused St. Louis colleague of rape, Staff report, Oct. 26, 2016. No charges will be filed after a candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives said she was sexually assaulted by a fellow candidate, a special prosecutor said Tuesday.
Cora Faith Walker, 31, Ferguson, a Democrat running unopposed in a district in north St. Louis County, outlined her claim in a letter she sent Sept. 30 to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and other legislative leaders. She made her accusation against Steven Roberts Jr., of St. Louis, who also is unopposed in his bid to become a Democratic representative for a city district.
But on Tuesday, St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar, who serves as a special prosecutor in the case, said, “We’re not going to file charges against Mr. Roberts (shown at right in a file photo). There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual.”
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce asked Lohmar to investigate the allegation because Roberts once worked in her office. Roberts previously denied the charges, calling them “completely and unequivocally false” and adding that he and Walker formerly had a consensual relationship.
Scott Rosenblum, attorney for Roberts, said his client was “thrilled” with Lohmar’s decision. “We believed from the beginning that her allegation was completely unfounded, and we have evidence to conclusively contradict her,” he said. “We submitted that to [Lohmar]. Having done so, I’m not surprised by his decision.”
Walker said she was “disappointed” by Lohmar’s decision, adding, “I didn’t come forward expecting justice. I know that few sexual assault cases are ever prosecuted. … I am angry and terrified that [Roberts] is free,” she said.
Walker said she once considered Roberts “a colleague and a friend” but never had an intimate relationship with him. Roberts and Walker are on the Nov. 8 ballot and would serve together in the House beginning in January.
Legal Schnauzer, Prosecutor declines to bring rape charges in case with apparent ties to Jason Kander scandal surrounding Missouri U.S. Senate race against Roy Blunt, Roger Shuler, Oct. 26, 2016. Excerpts: A Missouri special prosecutor yesterday declined to bring criminal charges in the case of an incoming state representative who claimed one of her future colleagues raped her. Evidence suggests the rape allegations are connected to an evolving scandal surrounding Democrat Jason Kander (shown in a file photo), who is attempting to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in one of the nation's most closely watched U.S. Senate races.
We reported last week on The Kander Memo, which outlines a number of campaign-finance irregularities -- plus possible criminal acts such as theft by deceit and fraud -- against the candidate and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander. (The full-127 page memo is here.) How explosive could The Kander Memo become? The rape allegations involving two up-and-coming politicians from the St. Louis area seem to provide insight.
Cora Faith Walker, 31 (shown in a file photo), won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in the general election for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives from the Ferguson area. Steven Roberts Jr. also is running unopposed to become a Democratic representative from a metro St. Louis district. Both are expected to take office in January 2017.
But their relationship already has become the subject of national news. In a letter dated September 30 to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) and other legislative leaders, Walker accused Roberts of raping her. She said in the letter that she had filed a police report earlier that week against Roberts.
The story generated headlines well beyond Missouri over the past three weeks or so (as indicated in the Washington Post's story In ‘serious and disturbing’ letter, incoming Missouri lawmaker accuses another of raping her), but prosecutor Tim Lohmar announced yesterday that he could find no grounds to bring a case against Roberts.
How does the Kander scandal enter the picture?
Walker is one of three officers in Raise Your Hands for Kids (RYH4K), a Missouri nonprofit that Kander controls. It has raised approximately $5 million to, it appears, push for a ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that would raise tobacco taxes to help boost early-childhood education in Missouri. That sounds like a noble cause. But Big Tobacco, specifically RJ Reynolds, has contributed $3 million, and fine print in the ballot measure shows it would protect and likely increase Big Tobacco's market share, in part by imposing a particularly heavy tax on Reynolds' chief competitors -- cheap "discount brand" cigarettes.
Is that the only unseemly business behind the RYH4K scheme? Nope. According to The Kander Memo, RYH4K violates the Federal Campaign Act and operates as "a $5-million political slush fund, to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy and personal ambition . . . ."
Did Walker develop flimsy rape allegations against Stephen Roberts Jr. as a way to divert attention from the ugly questions The Kander Memo raises -- questions that could send state and federal investigators her way?
Washington Post, In ‘serious and disturbing’ letter, incoming Missouri lawmaker accuses another of raping her, Amy B. Wang, Oct. 2, 2016. The Ferguson, M0., attorney opened by introducing herself to her soon-to-be colleagues. "My name is Cora Faith Walker," she wrote in a letter to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson and two other House leaders. "I will be in the Capitol in January as the Representative of the 74th District."
But it was the next two sentences 31-year-old Walker penned that would upend a lawmaking body already embroiled in controversy. "Earlier this week, I reported a sexual assault to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department," Walker wrote. "I named my rapist as Steven Roberts, Jr., who hopes to be in the Capitol next year as the Representative of the 77th District."
The single-page letter, sent by email to Missouri House leadership on Friday and first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, again pointed the spotlight at a Missouri state house previously accused of having a "sexist culture." (A PDF and text of the full letter is available in the Post story via the link above) Both Walker and Roberts are Democrats who are running unopposed for their seats and are expected to be sworn in in January.
The day after Walker sent the letter, she told Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger that the alleged assault occurred sometime between the night of Aug. 26 and the morning of Aug. 27 after she met Roberts at a St. Louis apartment around 9:30 p.m.
The two of them would soon be the only black lawyers in the Missouri legislature, Walker told Messenger, and they had set up the meeting to discuss how they might work together.
They reportedly had two glasses of wine, Walker told the paper, and she woke up the next morning in a bed at the same apartment, with no memory of what happened after drinking the second glass of wine. "I had no recollection of why I was still there," she told Messenger. The following day, she informed her husband, Tim Walker, about the incident, but it took them several weeks to decide to go to police.
St. Louis Public Radio, Politically Speaking: Cora Faith Walker plans to be 'policy wonk' in Missouri House, Jason Rosenbaum and Jenny Simeone, Aug. 25, 2016. On the latest edition of the "Politically Speaking" podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jenny Simeone welcome state Rep.-elect Cora Faith Walker to the show for the first time.
Walker recently won a Democratic primary to represent the 74th District, which takes in portions of north St. Louis County. Because she has no Republican opponent, she will take office next year. (Even if she did have a GOP opponent, her district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so she most likely would have still won. Walker was born in St. Louis, but grew up in Alabama. She returned to the region to go to attend. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the school, she received her law degree and her health law certificate from Saint Louis University. She also received a master’s degree in public health from Washington University.
Before she ran for the state House, Walker was a policy associate at the Missouri Foundation of Health. She also was an instructor of health law at the Saint Louis University School of Law and an adjunct instructor at Lindenwood University.
Walker said she had a number of key mentors, including St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones. She says that female African-American politicians have made big strides in local and state legislative offices. “And I really feel what we are seeing in and around this area especially is a group of dynamic women of color who are supporting each other and really understanding that we need to be at the table.”
She expects “right to work” will be a big issue when she enters the legislature next year. "We need to have a strong working class to have a strong middle class to try to help even begin to tackle these growing poverty rates,” she said. “I am going to do everything that I can possibly do to keep Missouri from becoming a right-to-work state.” As someone who’s pushed for Medicaid expansion for the last few years, Walker is well aware that getting that policy accomplished isn’t going to be easy as long as Republicans are in charge of the legislature.
Walker said she’s accentuated a positive message throughout her tenure in politics, both in her campaigns and through social media. “I have been very fortunate that I have been able to stay in my policy-wonk lane,” she said. “And to be completely candid with you, I don’t see myself really going out of that.”
Sample 'Raise Your Hand 4 Kids' Referendum Coverage of Issue, Advocates (Reverse chronological order)
Ballotpedia, Missouri 60 Cent Cigarette Tax Increase Initiative (2016), The 60 Cent Cigarette Tax Increase Initiative may appear on the November 8, 2016 ballot in Missouri as an initiated state statute. The measure, upon voter approval, would increase the taxes on cigarette packs to 60 cents by 2020.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri cigarette taxes fail, voters support campaign contribution limits and voter ID requirements, Mark Schlinkmann, Nov. 9, 2016. Missourians on Tuesday appear to have overwhelmingly voted to reinstate campaign donation limits and to require photo identification for future elections but snuffed out two proposed cigarette tax increases. One unsuccessful tobacco proposal — Constitutional Amendment 3 —would have gradually raised the tax on cigarettes by 60 cents a pack, with the extra revenue earmarked for early childhood education.
That measure also would have created a 67-cents-per-pack fee for wholesalers on some discount-brand cigarettes. The other cigarette tax plan — Proposition A — would have phased in a 23-cent-per-pack increase over five years, with the proceeds used to repair roads and bridges.
Missouri Times, Clashes over Amendment 3 continue as questions arise over appropriation of funds, Tim Curtis, Oct. 26, 2016. As polling shows Amendment 3 falling behind, a group supporting the amendment announced a new national endorsement while a group of educators called the amendment a potential slush fund for politicians and private schools. Missouri Times polling showed Wednesday that more Missourians favor a “no” on the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment by a 53-40, but with two weeks before election day, both campaigns remain active.
The amendment would raise the cigarette tax by 60 cents over a period of several years and add another 67 cent tax on small cigarette manufacturers to raise funds for early childhood health and education. Yes on 3 for Kids announced Wednesday that the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives has endorsed the amendment.
“Amendment 3 could not be more important for the future of Missouri’s kids, and for the future of the state as a whole. Study after study shows that children with access to early education programs are more likely to finish school and less likely to turn to crime or end up incarcerated,” said Perry Tarrant, president of the organization. “We should be educating and helping children as early as possible to create better citizens and ensure that every child has the opportunity to meet his or her potential.”
But the amendment has also received opposition from several education groups, including the Missouri National Education Association. MNEA president Charles E. Smith on Wednesday criticized claims that that funds raised by amendment would be protected by a ‘lock box.’
“As educators, we are committed to the success of every student,” he said. “Amendment 3 supporters are not leveling with voters. The funds are at the mercy of politicians and their hand-picked political appointees. There is no recourse to prevent Amendment 3 funds from being spent on politicians pet projects or elite parochial schools.”
Smith said that while most educators support early learning, the amendment has too many faults for MNEA to support.
Columbia Tribune, Amendment 3 is a scam, Ronald J. Leone, Oct. 9, 2016. Ronald J. Leone is the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or independent, there is something for everyone and every group not to like in Amendment 3. Here are the top six reasons to vote “no” on Amendment 3 on Nov. 8.
1. It’s about Big Tobacco’s profits, not kids. Amendment 3 is a scam. The major firms are funding Amendment 3 ($5.3 million and counting) because it increases their profits and market share by massively and unfairly taxing their competition. It’s not about helping kids. It’s like Coke asking Missouri voters to pass a special tax on Pepsi, or McDonald’s wanting to tax Burger King. It’s just not right.
2. Don’t put Big Tobacco’s schemes in our constitution. Amendment 3 would change our constitution and enshrine Big Tobacco’s secret schemes forever unless changed by a vote of the people. For example: Funds can’t be used for “tobacco-related research of any kind.” Funds can’t be used to lobby for any tobacco tax increase or any prohibition or limit on the sales or use of tobacco products. Does not increase the tax on Big Tobacco’s top sellers including cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco. A special, targeted 394 percent tax increase that applies only to Big Tobacco’s competition helps to settle old scores and automatically increases at least 3 percent every year forever without a vote of the people.
3. It’s a slush fund for greedy political insiders with no “lock box.” Amendment 3 creates a commission of 13 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who control hundreds of millions of dollars per year. There is no such thing as a “lock box” that guarantees the money will go to early childhood education. Remember the broken funding promises that came with the lottery and casinos? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
4. It is opposed by a diverse array of liberal and conservative groups including: Health care. The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids oppose Amendment 3....
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial: Vote yes on Amendment 3, raising Missouri's tobacco tax, Editorial board, Sept. 25, 2016. A constitutional amendment to increase the state’s tobacco tax is limping toward the November elections in Missouri, hobbled by multiple lawsuits aimed at keeping it off the ballot and confusion with a separate tobacco tax proposition.
Missouri’s 17-cents-a-pack tax is the lowest in the nation. Missouri and Virginia have the lowest price-per-pack costs in the nation — $5.25 on average — and among the highest numbers of smokers. By comparison, Chicago has the nation’s highest tax, at $6.16 per pack. Missouri’s low price encourages people to smoke and ruin their health. Increasing the tax by 60 cents creates a major financial smoking disincentive and discourages future smokers from embarking down a road of high medical expenses that ultimately get passed on to us all.
About 20.6 percent of Missouri adults smoke. The national average is 15.1 percent. The anti-smoking advocacy group, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says about 11,000 Missourians die from their own smoking every year, and that annual related health care costs are $3.03 billion.
Supporters say the proposition, Amendment 3, would raise about $305 million a year, with 75 percent of the revenue pledged to early education programs. Up to 15 percent would be used for children’s health care, and up to 10 percent to help people stop smoking.
This newspaper originally leaned in favor of the amendment but later determined that “poison-pill” wording could threaten funding for stem-cell research, making it unacceptable.
Since then, retired Missouri Court of Appeals Judge James Dowd issued a legal interpretation for the group supporting the tax, Raise Your Hands for Kids, that says the proposal will not affect stem-cell research. Dowd’s view is not legally binding, and the amendment may be challenged in court if approved, but the argument is persuasive.
Missouri Cures, a coalition that successfully campaigned for a constitutional amendment protecting stem-cell research in 2006, says the threat comes from a part of the amendment that says funds may not “be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stems cells.”
Dowd’s opinion says the amendment cannot restrict such research or limit patients’ access to stem-cell therapies already authorized by the state Constitution.
Confusion has also arisen because of Proposition A, a 23-cent-a-pack increase also slated for the November ballot. That increase would raise an estimated $100 million for transportation projects. The proposition is an effort by off-brand cigarette companies to fight Amendment 3, which would raise taxes on their products by $1.27 a pack.
That figure explains Big Tobacco’s support for Amendment 3. If both measures pass, the one with the most votes becomes law.
If we really want people to stop lighting up — and saddling the rest of us with medical costs — Amendment 3 is voters’ best option.
Kansas City Pitch, Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country. Why does a tobacco company want to raise it? David Martin, Aug. 23, 2016. Tobacco exemplifies the occasionally baroque nature of Missouri politics. The state’s current tax on cigarettes — 17 cents a pack — is the lowest in the country, even though Missouri is not a major tobacco-growing state. From 2000 to 2009, 46 states and the District of Columbia increased cigarette taxes, raising the average state cigarette tax by 92 cents a pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit group. Many of these tax hikes were passed via ballot initiative. But voters in Missouri rejected new taxes on cigarettes in 2002, 2006 and 2012.
Some background: In return for billions of dollars, the states agreed to drop the lawsuits they had filed against the major manufacturers to recover the costs of providing medical care to people suffering from smoking-related illnesses. Missouri receives about $130 million each year under the agreement.
States required cigarette manufacturers that were not part of the settlement to make escrow payments as security for possible future lawsuits against them. These “non-participating manufacturers,” as they’re known, sell mostly discount brands (Echo, Decade, etc.). In addition to setting aside funds for future judgments, the escrow laws protect the big manufacturers from being steeply undercut on price by companies not subject to the settlement agreement.
The 2012 ballot initiative proposed raising the tax on cigarettes by 73 cents a pack. It also contained language addressing the small-manufacturer loophole. Alas, the measure failed by fewer than 41,000 votes.
R.J. Reynolds was one of the big four (now big two) tobacco companies that settled with the states in 1998. So it’s not a coincidence that the constitutional amendment it’s now bankrolling speaks to that agreement. Among other things, the amendment promoted by Raise Your Hand for Kids imposes an “equity assessment fee” of 67 cents on each pack of cigarettes sold by non-participating manufacturers.
AP via McClatchy DC, Missouri tobacco tax hike proposal survives court challenge, Summer Ballentine, Aug. 23, 2016. A Missouri proposal to raise cigarette taxes to benefit early childhood programs can stay on the Nov. 8 ballot, a judge ruled Tuesday. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem dismissed efforts to remove the measure. His ruling, which opponents vowed to appeal, came the same day critics of another proposal that would reinstate campaign contribution limits in the state asked a different Cole County judge to take it off the ballot.
The cigarette proposal would phase in a 60-cent-per-pack increase between 2017 to 2020 and impose a 67-cent-a-pack fee, adjusted annually with inflation, on cigarettes sold by smaller companies that did not participate in a 1998 settlement between big tobacco companies and states. Missouri's cigarette tax is currently the lowest in the nation.
The issue went to Beetem after an appeals court decision earlier this summer that changed the wording of the proposal summary that voters will see on the ballot. Opponents — who include a group backing a competing ballot proposal to raise a 23-cent-a-pack cigarette tax that would fund transportation infrastructure — argued that petition signatures gathered under the original summary should be tossed out, a move that would have knocked the measure off the ballot.
But Beetem ruled that those signatures were valid and that Secretary of State Jason Kander followed the law when he put the measure on the ballot, despite the changed summary.
Fulton Sun, 'Raise Your Hand 4 Kids' tobacco tax at center of legal battle, Bob Watson, Aug. 21, 2016. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem expects to decide within a few days whether Missouri voters will be asked this Nov. 8 to change the state Constitution so the state's taxes on tobacco can be increased and the additional money directed to early childhood and health education. Secretary of State Jason Kander said earlier this month the measure had received enough valid signatures to be placed on the statewide general election ballot, and he labeled it as Amendment 3.
But opponents of the proposed amendment urged Beetem during hearing Friday to remove the proposal from the November ballot, arguing it didn't meet the legal standards for Kander to certify its ballot placement. Kander's office initially approved its circulation in January, and supporters gathered signatures even as opponents challenged the ballot language required to be on each page where signatures are placed.
On May 19 — after the petitions had been turned in to Kander's office — Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green ruled the secretary of state's ballot language was "fair and sufficient," but the state auditor's fiscal note wasn't and needed to be redone.
On July 8, a three-judge panel of the Missouri court of appeals' Western District in Kansas City reversed Green's ruling, saying the auditor's fiscal note was OK, but the secretary of state's language in the second bullet point wasn't good enough.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Today, 4 petitions certified for Missouri ballot, including tobacco tax hikes, campaign donation cap, Celeste Bott, Aug. 10, 2016. Secretary of State Jason Kander has certified four ballot initiatives to go before voters in November, including two controversial tobacco tax hikes and a limit on campaign contributions, he announced Tuesday. Several of the proposals considered for the ballot this year have been outlined in legislation previously rejected by GOP super-majorities in the Legislature, including tax increases, caps on political donations and the legalization of medical marijuana. For issues that face a difficult time getting through the Legislature, a ballot initiative can serve as an end-around.
The growing popularity of government by referendum — or gathering a required number of signatures for a petition and allowing voters to weigh in on changes to the state constitution — has been attributed both to frustration with political leaders and as a last resort for those who back causes they can’t get lawmakers to support.
One such effort, to raise Missouri’s 17-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes by 60 cents for early childhood programs, has been widely panned by education officials and politicians, including Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for governor.
Koster told St. Louis Public Radio on Saturday that the measure would create a new education bureaucracy by setting up a fund for the revenue it would bring in. It’s rare area of agreement between Koster and his GOP challenger, Eric Greitens, who criticized the initiative during a primary debate in June.
Opposing groups slammed the certified petition Tuesday. We Deserve Better Missouri said a misleading ballot summary made it a “disservice” to voters, and Missouri Cures warned a provision in the measure that prohibits revenue being used for stem cell research could lead to “damaging consequences” for patients and medical researchers.
Other advocates praised the measure in St. Louis on Tuesday, including state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and Ferguson Commission co-chair Starsky Wilson. “We recognize and know early intervention and support for children benefits not only those children and their well-being, but it pays off for the state with better economic outcomes,” Wilson said.'
Missouri Times, Kander finalizes RYH4K petition to be on ballot: Campaigns Featured Initiative Petitions, Travis Zimpfer, July 18, 2016. In a message to election authorities across Missouri, Secretary of State Jason Kander boldly stated he would certify the Early Childhood Education and Health Amendment is it attains the required number of signatures, despite its ordeal in the courts last week.
The Western District Court of Appeals determined in a court case that the summary statement of the initiative petition circulated to collect signatures was “unfair,” and the Supreme Court rejected calls by Kander and the petition’s sponsor, Raise Your Hands for Kids, to rehear the case.
Opponents of the initiative petition said that statute states that a petition that collected signatures found to have any kind of misleading language should have its signatures invalidated. However, Kander sided with calls for the petition to stay on the ballot, should the 300,000-plus signatures turned in by the organization be certified
“The intent of the law was not to disenfranchise Missourians after they have legally signed a petition,” Kander’s office wrote to election officials. “If this petition has enough valid signatures and meets the requirements for certification, the Secretary of State’s office will certify it for the ballot, just like every other petition.”
Supporters of the measure were understandably excited about Kander’s decision, especially given the uncertainty that surrounded the IP’s survival last week. Erin Brower, the board chair of RYH4K, thanked supporters and Kander in a statement.
“We owe our victories to the dedication of our supporters,” she said. “We look forward to passing the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment and providing more than $300 million each year in dedicated funding to Missouri’s kids.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial: Unacceptable poison pill in tobacco tax initiative, Editorial board, April 24, 2016. It pains us to reverse this newspaper’s support for what seemed like a worthy Missouri constitutional amendment, but we cannot advocate a clear attempt to deceive voters with what now appears to be a Trojan horse measure. We’re talking about a ballot initiative that aimed to raise $305 million a year for children’s health by hiking the state tobacco tax. Had the initiative’s language stopped there, we’d be 100 percent behind it today, as we were when we endorsed it in February. But the measure contains a clause with unacceptable long-term implications for important scientific research.
The group Raise Your Hands for Kids touted this initiative as a way to raise money for young children by increasing the state’s cigarette tax, the lowest in the nation, from 17 cents to 77 cents a pack. The poisonous part involves language stipulating the new tax revenue cannot be used for abortions, abortion services or for “human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem-cells.”
The stem-cell language has sent Missouri Cures, a coalition that successfully campaigned for a constitutional amendment protecting stem-cell research in 2006, running from this initiative. Likewise, Washington University has withdrawn support and is now lobbying against it.
Linda Rallo, executive director of Raise Your Hands for Kids, says her group inserted the language because of a Washington University report in 2013 about why a campaign the year before to raise the state’s tobacco tax had failed. The report suggested care should be taken to mitigate opposition by anti-abortion groups.
But the university said in a statement that “inferring that strong anti-research language should be included in future initiatives is a complete overreach of the authors’ intentions.”
The real shame is that children and needy families could lose access to an estimated $28 million a year from the tax, which would have gone for screenings, preventive health care and other services. The sharply higher tax would be a big incentive for smokers to quit, and some of the money from it was slated for smoking cessation.
Rallo insists the stem-cell and abortion language was added only to make it “crystal clear” that the taxes raised could be used solely for children and smoking cessation. She says objections were raised too late for her to take the language out of the proposal.
She accused opponents of not wanting to help kids but did not acknowledge her own role in alienating them — and, unfortunately, this newspaper.
Raise Your Hands 4 Kids, Tobacco tax-hike idea designates money for kids, not abortions, Linda Rallo, Feb. 16, 2016. Linda Rallo is executive director of the group that is promoting a tax increase on a pack of cigarettes from 17 cents — lowest in the nation — to 77 cents. She says money from the tax will be used solely for early childhood education and programs to help smokers kick the habit. From the Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A duplicitous effort is underway to mislead voters into thinking the Raise Your Hands for Kids campaign to boost the state sales tax on tobacco products would allow public funding for abortions."