Highly competitive races have brought a bright spotlight and big money into Missouri’s statewide elections.
Over $41 million has been spent in the Governor’s race alone. Over $12 million of the more than $17.5 million raised for Republican Eric Greitens has come from out of state. His largest donor has been the Republican Governors Association ($5 million), followed by the controversial SEALs for Truth Political Action Committee ($1.975 million).
Democrat Chris Koster has received more than $24 million, with over a third of it coming from labor interests ($8.6 million).
Columbia College Political Scientist Terry Smith contends there are three reasons why so much money has poured into Missouri’s governor race. “It’s the perfect storm” said Smith. “It’s a competitive race. You’ve got no limits on how much can be spent. And there aren’t that many governor’s races to spend money on anyhow.”
Polls show the governor’s contest is essentially tied, while there are only a handful of gubernatorial races across the country. Missouri also allows unlimited campaign contributions.
Interestingly, in a year when political races are setting records for spending, the state’s residents will vote on whether to restrict donations Tuesday. Terry Smith thinks the measure will likely pass. “Voters can, with their own eyes, understand that there’s a tremendous amount of money being spent in Missouri. And they’ve got an opportunity to tamp that down with this amendment. That may be the most important reason why it’ll pass, is that Missouri voters just say ‘It’s time to restore limits here.’”
While Missouri currently has no limit on donations, Amendment 2 would limit donations to statewide, legislative, and judicial offices to $2,600 per election and would cap contributions to political parties at $25,000.
Residents can observe in real time how campaign contributions are a part of arguments being made in the governor’s race. The Missouri Ethics Commission took depositions Thursday in an investigation of Republican Eric Greitens. The state Democratic Party filed a complaint against Greitens, claiming he illegally used a donor list from his nonprofit organization to ask for campaign donations.
Democrats have also complained that major donors to Greitens’ campaign remain in the dark. The SEAL’s for Truth PAC was required to reveal its donors last month. In a filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the PAC listed the non-profit America Policy Coalition as its single donor of $1.975 million.
Of the more than $24 million raised for Democrat Chris Koster, more than a third, $8.6 million, came from labor interests. Many pundits contend that if a Republican is elected governor, Missouri will become a right-to-work state, which would weaken the power of unions.
While the majority of Greitens’ contributions have come from out of state, almost two-thirds of Koster’s funding is from within Missouri. Smith, the Columbia College Political Scientist, thinks Democrat spending is motivated by the threat the party will be shut out of decision making in Jefferson City. “If the Republican is elected governor, then they’ll control all three branches – the House, the Senate and the governorship” said Smith. “Democrats will just be dead in the water in terms of their ability to influence policy in Missouri. They’re saying ‘Look we’ve got to get a Democrat in the governor’s mansion in Missouri’. So they’re piling money into the race.”