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Messenger: Top adviser on airport privatization faces questions for his work with the NRA

Messenger: Top adviser on airport privatization faces questions for his work with the NRA

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The Federal Aviation Administration agreed earlier this year to include St. Louis Lambert International Airport in a pilot program studying whether private management might be a good fit. Photo by Cristina Fletes,

The highest paid consultant advising the city of St. Louis on the process of privatizing its airport is somebody you’ve probably never heard of.

That’s the way Andrew J. McKenna likes it.

McKenna is the founder, president and CEO of McKenna and Associates, a Virginia-based consulting company that was tapped by St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield and his top lobbyist, Travis Brown, to help guide the process by which St. Louis Lambert International Airport is eventually auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Sinquefield is paying a bevy of consultants about $800,000 a month at the city’s behest to prepare a request for qualifications that could lead to bids from companies seeking to make Lambert the first privatized commercial airport in the mainland U.S.

Much of that money is going to McKenna. He’s being paid more than the financial advisers, more than the Beltway law firms, more than the high-dollar public relations consultants.

According to city records, McKenna’s firm has been paid more than $1.2 million so far for his advice.

So what is his expertise?

He is a Republican fundraiser who specializes in dark money.

McKenna raises money for the National Rifle Association.

He raises money for anti-worker organizations run by Rick Berman, the notorious pioneer of fake grassroots efforts.

He has worked for Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the American Future Fund, two of the biggest GOP dark money campaign committees.

This is the man whom Mayor Lyda Krewson and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed — both pro-labor, pro-gun-control Democrats — are depending on to give the city valuable advice on the future of its airport.

What Krewson and Reed might want to know is that at least one of McKenna’s clients have questions about his invoices.

In May, The New Yorker and The Trace reported on a series of internal NRA memos that raise serious questions about the gun-rights organization’s financing, including the spending of its top executives.

One of the memos, The New Yorker reports, “alleges that McKenna provided ‘vague project names,’ failed to ‘attach support’ for invoices, and operated with ‘no contract for current work.’” The memos also point out numerous conflicts of interest between various NRA staffers and its vendors, including McKenna. During the time that McKenna was raising money for the NRA, the consulting company hired the wife of the NRA’s executive director of general operations, Josh Powell.

Attorneys for McKenna and the NRA told The New Yorker there was nothing inappropriate about the invoices nor the hiring of Powell’s wife. McKenna didn’t return a call or email seeking comment for this column.

What McKenna has done for the $1.2 million Sinquefield has paid him is an open question.

In response to a Sunshine Law request for his invoices, the city referred me to the quarterly statements posted online by Grow Missouri Inc. which merely show the amounts paid to all of the Sinquefield consultants.

Asked for the actual invoices, the city’s Sunshine Law coordinator referred me to city attorney Michael Garvin. Garvin says the city doesn’t have McKenna’s invoices.

This is how Sinquefield and his minions in the Grow Missouri nonprofit designed the process. In the contract that all the consultants signed (which was written under Sinquefield’s supervision), this is what it says about invoices: “Grow shall have no responsibility for making any certifications to the City or any other party or providing any documentation to the City. Grow shall have no responsibility for the veracity or accuracy of any information provided by any Service Provider ...”

It’s almost as if the layers of secrecy and conflicts of interest are intentional.

This, frankly, is a McKenna specialty.

Along with Berman — who has said he wakes up every morning to try to “figure out how to screw with the labor unions,” — McKenna is one of the top contractors for the nonprofit Job Creators Network, an anti-worker organization founded by Trump-loving billionaires like former Hardee’s CEO Andrew Puzder. Puzder is the conservative firebrand who withdrew as a nominee to be the labor secretary because of numerous scandals, including allegations of domestic violence.

You won’t see McKenna bragging about such work on his website, which only vaguely discusses “Fortune 500” companies and “high-wealth” individuals, or in his proposal to work on airport privatization. But the details are in the IRS 990s of the organizations that pay him to connect them to billionaires and help them part with their money.

In St. Louis, he’s being paid a lot of money to help billionaires take money out of the city’s top asset.

I wonder what he calls that on the invoices we’ll never see.

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