A full three years out from the next election for Missouri attorney general, three state lawmakers eyeing the post have amassed more than a half-million dollars each for the fight, according to newly released campaign finance reports.
Meanwhile, incumbent Attorney General Chris Koster has raised more than $500,000 in three months toward his 2016 bid for governor — much of it in five-figure lump sums from lawyers.
And for further proof that the campaign money machine simply never stops these days, look to Illinois: Three candidates for a Metro East congressional seat that was filled just six months ago have together collected nearly $1 million.
Sitting elected officials and candidates for state and federal offices throughout Missouri and Illinois filed their second-quarter campaign finance reports Monday. The reports cover the months of April, May and June.
The story the reports tell has become familiar, though the numbers seem to rise with every election cycle: Opposing candidacies have declared on the very heels of inaugurations; dueling fundraising events are held before the new office-holder has even unpacked to take office; and six- and even seven-figure war chests are being spent to get jobs with much smaller annual salaries.
“You see candidates from the president on down raising enormous amounts of money early, trying to get a foothold. We’re seen that nationwide,” said Dave Robertson, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“Incumbents want to prevent anyone in their right minds from challenging them. Challengers want to be credible enough to continue attracting more and more money, like a magnet,” said Robertson. “The race continues to escalate.”
Nowhere is that escalation more evident than in the early start to Missouri’s 2016 gubernatorial race, and what is already a potential three-way Republican primary for the 2016 attorney general’s race.
Koster, the Democratic incumbent attorney general, confirmed in April — three months into his second term — that he was “making the necessary preparations and building consensus around the state” to run for governor in 2016. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, started his second term this year and can’t run for a third under Missouri’s term limits. Koster raised a startling $505,513 in the three-month period covered by Monday’s report, bringing his total cash on hand to $781,410. His fundraising this period included several donations of between $10,000 and $75,000 from law firms in Missouri and Illinois, records show.
Koster’s office was cited in a state audit last year that accused it of meddling in the state legal contract system, after more than a dozen firms that were Koster compaign donors bid on state legal contracts. Koster’s office responded to the audit by withdrawing the pending contract bids and agreeing to stay out of the contract bidding process in the future.
Koster’s campaign didn’t file his latest campaign disclosure documents until shortly before Monday’s 5 p.m. state deadline, and it was not immediately clear whether any of his current law-firm donors are state legal contractors.
Koster’s April confirmation that he will run for governor has became a starting gun for those interested in the attorney general’s seat he will vacate. Potential 2016 attorney general candidates include three Republican legislators. One of them, Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, raised $71,277 in the three-month reporting period, largely from business PACs and individual businesses. Added to what he already had in his coffers, he’s now sitting atop more than $628,000, records show.
Term limits will take Jones out of the House in 2014. As for what’s next, He recently told the website OzarksFirst.com that attorney general was “something that’s interested me. ... We’re taking a very hard look at that because I’m getting encouragement from all across the state to do so.”
Another potential attorney general contender, state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, raised just $44,500 this past period — more than half of it from one business, the Albrecht Group of St. Louis. Schmitt was already sitting on a large war chest that now totals $602,874.
And state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, whose name has also been mentioned for the office, had just $80,265 on hand when the reporting period ended June 30. But he bolstered that with a $500,000 donation received Monday from his family’s trust fund. A representative of the campaign couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
In Illinois, freshman U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, whose district stretches into the Metro East, is facing high-profile challenges from both parties barely half a year into his first term. And he is raising funds to respond — some $454,000 in the three-month reporting period alone, for a total campaign fund of $702,855 as of June 30.
Former Madison County Judge Ann Callis, a Democrat, is seeking Davis’ seat and has raised $225,000 during the reporting period. She still had $200,000 of that on hand as of June 30, according to her campaign.
The Federal Election Commission website posting for various candidates were still incomplete late Monday, and online records weren’t available for Davis’ announced GOP primary challenger, Urbana attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold. Harold’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
Records also were incomplete Monday evening in Illinois’ wide-ranging 2014 gubernatorial contest, which has six announced candidates (so far) in two parties. Unlike Missouri, which requires candidates to file by 5 p.m. on Monday’s deadline, Illinois gives them until midnight, and candidates routinely push that deadline.
Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, hadn’t posted his numbers by early evening, but his one announced primary challenger had. Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley raised $796,471 in the three-month reporting period, spending $2,132 and closing the period with $794,338.
In St. Louis County, records show County Executive Charlie Dooley took in $335,910 from April through June toward his 2014 re-election campaign, including a $100,000 contribution from Rex Sinquefeld, a St. Louis philanthropist and founder of the Show-Me Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Contributions to County Councilman Steve Stenger, an unannounced challenger for Dooley’s office, totaled $285,550. Stenger added $100,000 in the form of a personal loan over the weekend. Both Stenger and Dooley are Democrats.
In addition to Sinquefeld’s contribution, Dooley received 19 donations of $5,000 or more. Stenger had five contributions of exactly $5,000. The filings indicate Stenger has $421,000 on hand and Dooley has $336,000in his campaign chest.
Steve Giegerich of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that the transactions involving Attorney General Chris Koster's previous campaign contributors were requests for contract proposals, not completed contracts.