I owe Tim Jones an apology.
A few months ago, I might have started what appears to be an ongoing Missouri Ethics Commission investigation into his finances.
It started in June, when I noticed something odd in the most recent quarterly report filed by Jones’ “Leadership for America” political action committee. Jones, a Republican from Eureka, started the PAC after his term as speaker of the Missouri House was up. For a while he flirted with running for higher office, but then he simply transferred the $657,000 he had in his Missourians for Tim Jones campaign account into the new PAC.
Every few months, I check the ethics commission records to see what the politician turned right wing radio host is up to. Why? Because campaign finance disclosures matter.
When he was speaker, Jones earned the nickname “Timmy Tickets” because of his propensity for taking freebies from lobbyists who sought legislative favor. Connecting the dots between donors and lawmakers helps voters see who is trying to influence elected officials. Even though he is out of office, Jones still regularly makes donations to candidates. Knowing where his money came from, and where it is going, is important.
In April, Jones posted a windfall.
Buried at the bottom of his ethics disclosure was $125,808 in interest income. Traditionally, campaign money is held in safe accounts such as money markets or certificates of deposit that produce a few dollars a month in interest, if any. In Jones’ case, the ethics commission filing didn’t say where his money was invested.
I emailed James Klahr, executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission, and asked whether PACs had to disclose where they deposited or invested their money. He said they did.
“We have verified the amount reported as committee income in the April Quarterly Report is in fact the correct amount reported by the committee,” Klahr wrote me back on June 29. “We are awaiting a call back from the committee for further clarification about this income.”
The next month, Leadership for America posted another big gain, this time reporting $82,407 in interest income. But the July filing, for what appears to be the first time, reports where Jones has invested his money. Most of it is in what the PAC calls a “mutual fund” called LRT Global Opportunities LP. According to Securities and Exchange Commission records, the fund has a Hong Kong address.
That’s because Lukasz Tomicki, the financial consultant who manages the limited partnership, used to live there.
Like Jones does now, Tomicki used to work for Pelopidas Inc., the political consulting and lobbying firm founded by Travis Brown that does the bulk of its work for its key benefactor, retired investor Rex Sinquefield. Tomicki started the fund — he says it’s more accurately termed a hedge fund — in 2012. For the past few months, he has lived in Austin, Texas.
Tomicki told me he couldn’t discuss any of his clients. But his firm, LRT Global Management LLC, manages just the one fund, and, he said, it has limited clients. The fund invests in publicly listed companies, most of them American. “It’s a fairly plain vanilla hedge fund,” Tomicki says. “This year has been exceptionally good.”
Indeed, it has.
In October, Leadership for America posted its biggest gain yet: $140,256. That got the attention of Dave Drebes, who publishes a political insider newsletter in Missouri.
“And the next time he does an offering, we should all buy in,” Drebes wrote.
Last week, the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock took notice, noting that with all this extra money coming in, without even fundraising, Jones is funding expensive golf trips, fancy dinners, travel all over the country, and thousands of dollars of remodeling to the office he maintains in Eureka.
Upon reading the Star’s story, I wondered: Was the Missouri Ethics Commission still paying attention?
After the July filing by Leadership for America, when the PAC started noting where it was investing its money, I asked Klahr if the ethics commission was investigating. Here’s what he said:
“We are still following up on this,” Klahr wrote in an email. “While I am not able to provide details about specific follow-up we are taking, I appreciate you bringing the issue to our attention.”
I don’t know what the ethics commission is looking into, but Tomicki provides a clue.
He told me that the way his fund works, every month, he sends notice to the investors or their representatives, posting losses or gains. The investors can keep the money invested in the fund, or make withdrawals of the original capital and any gains.
While Tomicki wouldn’t talk about any specific investors, it would seem that Jones isn’t actually posting interest income, but perhaps withdrawing some of his gains over time. Tomicki started the fund in 2012, when Jones still had his money in his old campaign account. I looked back at every filing between January 2012 and October 2017 and saw no record of when Jones made his initial investment.
The first time he started showing unusual gains was in January 2014, when Missourians for Tim Jones posted $7,147 in “investment income.” A year later, he reported a $6,500 loss.
You win some, you lose some.
Last week, I asked Klahr if his previous statement about Leadership for America is still accurate.
I think that means Jones and his committee have some work to do cleaning up their reports and answering some questions. That sort of government intrusion likely gets in the way of Jones, a rabid supporter of President Donald Trump, from making America great again.
So, for that, I just wanted to say:
Sorry, Mr. Speaker.