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Columbia Missourian

Six former Missouri candidates carry overdue campaign debts

By The Associated Press
September 6, 2010 | 7:43 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Six former Missouri candidates are carrying campaign debts and maintaining special committees well past the legal limit, but no action has been taken against any of them, according to a newspaper report.

Overall, 13 candidates owe debts to vendors, supporters and, in some cases, themselves. Seven are following state ethics laws to retire the debts, but six candidates have exceeded the allowed payback period and should have become personally liable for the debts, The Kansas City Star reported.

The Missouri Ethics Commission's executive director, Julie Allen, said committees set up specifically to retire campaign debts — called "debt service" committees — are ultimately responsible for making sure candidates follow the law.

In all six cases, the commission could close the committees, shift the debt to the candidates or fine the offenders, said Betsy Byers, the commission's director of business services.

Commission officials said confidentiality rules prohibited them from revealing whether they had taken any action against the offending committees. Some of the candidates involved said they had not heard from the commission.

The debt service committees are special campaign funds that allow candidates to continue raising money after an election if they owe more than they have available. State law requires them to close the committees within 18 months of formation, to avoid delays in debt repayment and to prevent candidates from raising money for no specific purpose.

Alvin Brooks, a Kansas City mayoral candidate in 2007, said he believed his debt committee had been closed years ago. The Star reported that his committee has been out of compliance for nearly two years.

Brooks said neither he nor his committee treasurer or deputy treasurer had been contacted by the commission.

"If the record shows something other than what I thought it to be, I'm surprised, and I certainly would want to know," he said.

The Star reported that Brooks and fellow Kansas City mayoral candidate Albert Riederer have maintained debt service committees with tens of thousands in debts for more than three years.

Riederer's reports show he still owes $72,500 — all loans he made to his own campaign. Brooks owes $19,800 — $15,000 to himself and $4,800 to a media production company in Kansas City.

By law, Brooks should have shut down his committee in December 2008, according to the Ethics Commission. Riederer should have done likewise in February 2009. Although both have continued to file campaign reports, neither has reported any financial activity since 2007.

Other candidates and their situations:

Mitchell Hubbard, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in 2008, owes a few hundred dollars on what was once a debt of more than $10,000. His committee should have closed in June. He said his wife, who was his deputy treasurer, recently contacted the Ethics Commission and was not told about the 18-month deadline.

Neal St. Onge, a former GOP state representative from St. Louis County who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2008, said he was also unaware of the deadline.

His debt committee, which still owes about $3,400 to campaign vendors, should have closed in April. He said he was still raising money to pay off the debts. St. Onge said he would contact the Ethics Commission to find out what to do next.

Matthew Seeds, a St. Charles Republican who ran for the state House in 2008, was aware of the 18-month limit. He said he thought the Ethics Commission would automatically close the committees. He said he would personally assume more than $4,000 in debts.

Thursday was the closure deadline for another former candidate, Rodney Hubbard.

Campaign reports show that Hubbard, a St. Louis Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2008, owes more than $34,000 to consultants and vendors. He has recorded no transactions since mid-2008, despite holding nearly $29,000 in his campaign fund. He is not related to Mitchell Hubbard.