JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Ethics Commission fined a political action committee supporting Gov. Mike Parson $2,000 Monday for reporting lapses connected to a pair of flights for the governor that the group chartered.
The commission, in a consent order posted online Monday, said there was probable cause to believe the Uniting Missouri PAC violated state ethics laws by “failing to report the fair market value of two flights within forty-eight hours of receiving the contributions.”
The decision by regulators was issued just a day before voters go to the polls to determine whether Parson will be the Republican nominee for governor in the November election.
Uniting Missouri will only have to pay $200 if the commission doesn’t uncover any other violations within the next two years.
Democrats in February asked state ethics officials to investigate whether Parson’s trip to the Super Bowl, paid for by the Uniting Missouri PAC, violated state campaign laws.
Missouri campaign finance laws prohibit certain kinds of coordination between candidates and PACs. The complaint said Parson’s $15,497 flight on a private plane to see the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in Miami clearly required coordination with the Uniting Missouri PAC.
The second flight drawing attention was in December, when the Kansas City Star reported the governor traveled to Washington on a plane belonging to Rick DeStefane, the owner of a nursing home company that has been investigated for Medicaid fraud.
John Hancock, chairman of Uniting Missouri, has said the travel was justified and legal because Parson was fundraising on both trips; candidates and PACs are allowed to coordinate fundraising activities.
The commission, in its decision, said Uniting Missouri didn’t determine the fair market value of either flight, instead reporting the plane owner/operator’s actual costs as the value of the contribution.
The PAC also didn’t report the flights within 48 hours; Missouri law requires contributions over $5,000 to be reported within two days.
Hancock said the PAC didn’t have information on the cost of the flights at the time of the trips, but once officials were aware, they reported the contributions within two days, he said.
Hancock said the ethics commission sided with Uniting Missouri on most points and called the Democrats’ complaint “ridiculous.”
“The Uniting Missouri PAC will continue our aggressive campaign to support Governor Parson and his efforts to keep Missouri safe and healthy,” Hancock said in an emailed statement.
The ethics commission dismissed a separate complaint that specifically targeted Parson’s personal campaign fund.
The ethics commission also dismissed a complaint against Liberty Alliance USA, which opposes Parson’s likely Democratic opponent, Auditor Nicole Galloway.
The complaint said the Liberty Alliance needed to file campaign finance reports, but the commission disagreed, saying the group didn’t “meet the legal standards” that would require more disclosures.
The group is connected to former state GOP chairman Todd Graves.