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Columbia Missourian

Hulshof takes in $500,000 from political party committees

By By DAVID A. LIEB/The Associated Press
October 16, 2008 | 7:52 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof recently received about $500,000 from political party committees he had denounced as shams under Missouri's old campaign finance laws.

Hulshof suggested Thursday, however, that because Missouri no longer has campaign contribution limits, the political party committees don't carry the same dark cloud that they once did.

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"What was a sham was using the committees to specifically pass through and to get around the campaign contribution limits," Hulshof said.

"We're not soliciting committees at all, but if you have a county committee that wants to support the Republican nominee for governor, I appreciate their support."

A spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon asserted it was "an issue of hypocrisy" for Hulshof to accept donations from political party committees.

Missouri's individual contribution limits were repealed Aug. 28 - a move that Hulshof had said should bring greater transparency about who was bankrolling political campaigns.

When the donation limits were in place, big donors sometimes funneled money in smaller chunks through numerous local political party committees to their favored candidates. That's because party committees were allowed to give 10 times as much both in cash and in-kind contributions as individuals. The transfers made it hard to track the original money source.

In April, Hulshof proposed to eliminate such committees as part of a broader ethics package that would impose contribution limits at levels higher than those that existed at the time.

During a debate in September and another with Nixon last week, Hulshof denounced the old system of passing money through political committees.

During the Oct. 9 debate, Hulshof was asked if he had received money from those political party committees after Missouri's contribution limits were repealed.

"Not to my knowledge," Hulshof responded.

Nixon then interrupted with a rebuttal: "Yesterday. Yesterday you reported $10,000 (from a political committee) Kenny. Yesterday, yesterday."

Hulshof's campaign reported on Oct. 8 that it had received a $10,000 contribution from the Benton County Republican Committee.

But that was not the only one.

Since Aug. 28, Hulshof has received more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from state and local political party committees, according to an Associated Press analysis of his campaign contribution reports.

Nixon, who took in well over $1 million from political party committees while the donation limits were in place, stopped accepting political party donations after the contribution limits were repealed. He refunded the one such check he did receive.

Nixon opposed the repeal of Missouri's donation limits.

But "when they stripped off contribution limits, we just felt it's not necessary to continue taking money from these committees when transparency isn't always there," said Nixon spokesman Oren Shur.