Successful Columbia candidates used same campaign management firm

Monday, May 9, 2011 | 9:40 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The winning candidates in the April 5 general municipal elections spent more than $50,000 on their campaigns.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt and Columbia School Board member Jonathan Sessions spent a combined $50,069.13 before being elected into office. The total for all of the candidates was $89,179.70, with Glen Ehrhardt's campaign spending the most, $34,485.

Three of the four candidates vying for the First Ward council seat, Mitch Richards, Pamela Forbes and Fred Schmidt, spent $3,179.57, $1,446 and $12,403.12 respectively. The fourth candidate, Darrell Foster, did not raise or spend any money for the campaign.

The Fifth Ward proved to be much more costly. Anthony, who spent $24,592.17, and Ehrhardt spent a combined $59,077.17. That is $42,048.48 more than was spent by the three First Ward candidates.

One common thread among the winning three candidates is that all of them used Progressive Political Partners LLC, a campaign management company. The company's services consist of helping its client write campaign literature, raise funds and implement an effective strategy to win an election, Anthony said.

Jeff Chinn and Victoria Hobbs run Progressive Political Partners and helped run the three simultaneous campaigns and also successfully helped Sessions run an earlier campaign.

"They are a very experienced full-service campaign management service that helped coordinate all of my campaigning efforts," Sessions said.

All three candidates did not disclose any payments made to Progressive Political Partners until the 30-day post-election report, which was due May 5.

Candidates are expected to include both paid and incurred expenses as soon as they occur on the corresponding campaign finance reports, Glenda Elliotof the Missouri Ethics Commission said.

Under Missouri law, candidates must disclose the "full name and mailing address of each person to whom an expenditure of money or any other thing of value in the amount of more than one hundred dollars has been made, contracted for or incurred."

Liz Ziegler, general counsel of the Missouri Ethics Commission, said that "just because an expense has not been reported, it does not mean a violation has occurred." Ziegler could not go into the specifics or interpret any of the candidates' finance reports.

Anthony said it was not an effort to cover anything up. "I paid the firm after the election was over when its job was done," Anthony said. "This sort of thing happens quite frequently."

Schmidt echoed her sentiment. "The reason this payment was backlogged is because that's when we received the bill from that company," Schmidt said.

Chinn and Hobbs could not be reached for comment.

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