Rex Sinquefield, a retired financier from St. Louis, has now given about $2.4 million to groups that will be working to convince lawmakers to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 253.
That poorly written proposed statute would recklessly cut income taxes and devastate Missouri’s ability to invest in its schools and citizens.
Missouri’s no-bounds campaign finance laws have resulted in some ludicrous spending. But $2.4 million for a veto override? We’d like to say that now we’ve seen it all — except we’re afraid we haven’t.
House Bill 253 calls for a 50 percent income tax cut for “pass through” businesses — those that direct income to the owner’s personal return. It also cuts the top personal income tax rate by one-half of a percent, and lowers the corporate tax rate by 3 percentage points.
Hits state treasury
The cuts are phased in over a period of years, but Nixon has pointed out scenarios under which the state could begin losing revenues as early as this fiscal year. Most families near the median income would see little relief from the bill — about the equivalent of a burger a month, by some estimates. But the hit to the state treasury would cost families more in tuition to public universities, out-of-pocket payments for school activities and perhaps higher property taxes.
Sinquefield’s support for House Bill 253 appears rooted more in ideology than self-interest. Though the financier is definitely in the state’s highest personal income bracket, it would take a long time to recoup $2.4 million from the cuts proposed in the bill. (A passel of lobbyists, lawyers and consultants aligned with Sinquefield’s cause would make out nicely, though, if they file taxes as pass-through businesses.)
Sinquefield appears simply to disdain income taxes, and seems determined to rid Missouri of them one way or the other. He’s already spent millions of dollars on so-far unsuccessful attempts to get an initiative on a statewide ballot.
Missouri law and recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings enable Sinquefield to spend as much money as he wishes to promote his causes, wrong though they may be. But his lavish spending on candidates and causes is harmful. It raises the bar for other big spenders and encourages a political ecosystem awash in cash.
Just this month, Sinquefield has given $750,000 to the Missouri Club for Growth, $200,000 to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and $100,000 to Associated Industries of Missouri. Those are all groups working to convince legislators to override Nixon’s veto of House Bill 253.
His biggest contribution, $1.3 million, was to a new group called Grow Missouri, which registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission as a political action committee early this month.
We’re having trouble envisioning how all this money is going to be spent. There’s only so many radio ads a group can run to convince a few on-the-fence lawmakers to vote in favor of overriding a veto.
We suspect the public won’t take well to the idea of a wealthy man’s money being used to pay people to lean on recalcitrant legislators. And you can be sure we’ll be watching for any campaign contributions the Sinquefield beneficiaries may make to candidates before or after the September veto session.
By throwing huge amounts of money into a veto session, Sinquefield may have done his cause more harm than good. Even in Missouri, legislators don’t like the appearance of being bought.
Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.