March 6, 2015

Schweich staffer: Missouri GOP chair should resign for ‘whispering campaign’

After a strong indictment of Tom Schweich’s political opponents within his own party, some are calling for the resignation of the Missouri Republican Party’s recently elected chairman. Most who have made such a suggestion have not made it publicly, but a member of Schweich’s staff in his Auditor’s office is speaking out.

Spence Jackson is the communications director for the State Auditor's Office, where he worked with Auditor Tom Schweich.

Spence Jackson is the communications director for the State Auditor’s Office, where he worked with Auditor Tom Schweich.

“Let’s pledge that we will not put up with any whisper of anti-Semitism,” said former U.S. Senator John Danforth.

That was part of his message as he stood on a pulpit over most of Missouri’s current crop of elected officials, eulogizing one of their own. Danforth said before his death, Schweich told him he believed a whispering campaign saying he was Jewish was being conducted to use anti-Semitic sentiment to cost him votes in his race for Governor.

Earlier story:  Danforth eulogy condemns ‘bullying,’ ‘whispering campaign’ against Schweich

The spokesman for the auditor’s office under Schweich, Spence Jackson, says Republican Party Chairman John Hancock and Republican candidate for governor Catherine Hanaway were behind that campaign.

“I believe with all my heart that John knew what he was doing,” Jackson told Missourinet. “He knew the reaction he was seeking from people. He knew what he was trying to get out of people.”

Jackson said the alleged whispering campaign had been weighing on Schweich for months. As Danforth said in his eulogy, Jackson also said Schweich was passionate when he believed anti-Semitism was occurring.

“His grandfather was a persecuted Jew in Germany. He had a card which Tom kept with him that said, ‘This belongs to Julius Schweich, who is a good Jew.’ I don’t have to tell you what a loaded term that was,” said Jackson. “Traditions and values get passed from generation to generation in families, and one of those traditions that was passed down through the Schweich family was when you see anti-Semitism, you speak out against it. You do something about it.”

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth delivers the eulogy at the memorial service for Tom Schweich.

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, an Episcopal minister, delivers the eulogy at the memorial service for Tom Schweich.

“It just kept getting worse in Tom’s mind,” said Jackson. “I wish it hadn’t, but it did.”

Jackson said it would be “fitting” for Hancock to resign, “simply because his anti-Semitic whisper campaign does not reflect the values of the majority of Missouri Republicans.”

Jackson said even if Hancock was not behind any “whispering campaign,” he believes it would be better for the party that the chairman, who was elected less than two weeks ago at the Party’s Reagan Lincoln days event in Kansas City, step down.

“There’s just no way that you can have this cloud hanging around the chairman of your political party heading into a crucial election year like 2016, particularly when the presumptive Democratic candidate Jason Kander shares Tom’s Jewish heritage,” said Jackson.

Kander has announced he is challenging U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). That announcement last month by Kander, who is Jewish, was praised by the National Jewish Democratic Council.

“You can’t have a chairman of a Republican party who’s been out conducting, coordinating this sort of a whisper campaign while at the top of the ticket, the first person on a Missouri ballot that people will see underneath the president, will be the candidate for the United States Senate, and that candidate more likely than not is going to be Jason Kander, who is Jewish, and I’m sure is very proud of his Jewish heritage just like Tom Schweich was,” said Jackson.

Hancock has denied the allegations and declined additional comment following the memorial service. His spokesman released this statement: “Today is not an appropriate time to engage in political back-and-forth. Out of respect for Tom and his family, we have nothing to add at this time.”

 

Danforth eulogy condemns ‘bullying,’ ‘whispering campaign’ against Schweich

Tom Schweich’s political mentor said his death represents a low point of politics, and has called on an end to the type of campaigning that some say contributed to Schweich’s death last week.

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, helps lead a procession following the funeral for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, Missouri on March 3, 2015. The 54-year-old Republican auditor fatally shot himself at his home on February 26. Scweich, a candidate for Missouri Governor was the target of a radio ad that ridiculed his appearancence and accused him of being a pawn for the Democrats. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, helps lead a procession following the funeral for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, Missouri on March 3, 2015. The 54-year-old Republican auditor fatally shot himself at his home on February 26. Scweich, a candidate for Missouri Governor was the target of a radio ad that ridiculed his appearancence and accused him of being a pawn for the Democrats. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

A memorial service was held for Schweich, Missouri’s Auditor and a candidate for governor, this morning at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the Episcopal church where Schweich was a member. Schweich died Thursday morning in what police are investigating as an apparent suicide.

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, an Episcopal minister, delivered the eulogy, printed in its entirety by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Danforth said Schweich was “upset” about a radio commercial that had attacked his physical appearance, but his greater concern was his belief that political opponents within the Republican Party were saying privately that he was Jewish — a so-called “whispering campaign” that Schweich believed was intended to hurt him among Evangelical Christian voters in the Republican party.

“This was more of an expression of personal hurt as with the radio ad,” said Danforth. “This was righteous indignation against what he saw as a terrible wrong. And what he saw was wrong is anti-Semitism.”

“Tom told me of his Jewish grandfather who taught him about anti-Semitism, and told him that anytime Tom Saw it he had to confront it, so Tom believed that was exactly what he must do,” Danforth said. “There was no hint by Tom that this was about him or his campaign. It was about confronting bigotry.”

Danforth decried the radio ad, which said Schweich resembled fictional character Barney Fife, was “bullying,” and called the person behind it a “bully.”

The ad was sponsored by the political action committee Citizens for Fairness in Missouri. The Post-Dispatch reports its deputy treasurer was, until February 16, James C. Thomas III, the campaign treasurer for the campaign of Schweich’s primary Republican opponent in the race for governor, Catherine Hanaway.

“We will see bullies for who they are,” said Danforth. “We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees.”

“Since Thursday some good people have said, ‘Well, that’s just politics,’ and Tom should have been less sensitive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it,” Danforth observed. “Well, that is accepting politics in its present state and that we cannot do. It amounts to blaming the victim, and it creates a new normal, where politics is only for the tough and the crude and the calloused.”

“Indeed, if this is what politics has become,” Danforth continued, “what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people – yes, sensitive people – to seek public office, not drive them away.”
Danforth closed his eulogy by calling for an end to the type of political campaigning he said had hurt his friend.

“I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state,” said Danforth.

Related story:  Missouri senator calls for end to negative ads after Schweich’s death

Missourians, elected officials voice opposition to Fort Leonard Wood cuts

Missouri’s top elected officials, more than a third of its state legislature, and some 2,000 Missourians turned out at Fort Leonard Wood Monday night to urge the Army not to cut up to 5,400 military and civilian jobs there by 2020.

A standing room only crowd turned out for the listening session to discuss the proposed cutting of up to 5,400 jobs at Fort Leonard Wood.  (Courtesy; U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler on Twitter, @RepHartzler)

A standing room only crowd turned out for the listening session to discuss the proposed cutting of up to 5,400 jobs at Fort Leonard Wood. (Courtesy; U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler on Twitter, @RepHartzler)

“Hard to match this anywhere else,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R) told the assembled. “The support for this facility in the community is truly second to none anywhere in the country.”

Blunt said the Fort is the 5th largest employer in the state with more than 36,000 direct and indirect jobs, and presents a unique set of efficiencies.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed.

“This is the least expensive in direct costs for training for any of the facilities in the country, so if we’re trying to save money, why in the world would we diminish this facility? We should be adding to this facility, not diminishing it, because it is so cost-effective for the Army.”

The proposed cuts are part of a reduction of about 70,000 jobs across the Army.

Governor Jay Nixon and other elected officials said Fort Leonard Wood is an important site for the military, training more than 80,000 men and women annually.  (Fort Leonard Wood Flickr stream)

Governor Jay Nixon and other elected officials said Fort Leonard Wood is an important site for the military, training more than 80,000 men and women annually. (Fort Leonard Wood Flickr stream)

U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, who sits on the House Armed Service Committee, says work continues in Congress to find money to reduce those cuts, but argued that regardless, Fort Leonard Wood should be spared.

“Here, every mission and every [person] serving at Fort Leonard Wood is vital, is needed, and needs to stay,” said Hartzler.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) said Missouri is a military-friendly state offering “unique competitiveness and advantages.”

“Our central location, our low energy costs, our robust and diversified transportation system, quality schools,” Nixon cited, as well as state programs to support military members including the Show-Me Heroes program that promotes the hiring of veterans.

The Fort will already lose about 1,200 jobs by October under a proposal that two years ago would originally have cost it 3,900 jobs.

A decision on additional cuts is expected later this year.

Missouri Senator calls for end to negative ads after Schweich’s death

A state senator has called for an end to negative campaigning after the apparent suicide of Missouri’s auditor.

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) delivered an impassioned plea on the floor of the state senate, raising the question of whether negative campaigning could have contributed to Tom Schweich’s choice to take his own life last week.

“There’s no way to justify what he did because at that point he truly acted alone. In my opinion, he made a poor choice. However if that choice was brought on in any way by the negative side of politics, and the people that work under fictitious committee names, fictitious mail boxes, all while making thousands and thousands of dollars, then shame on them,” said Parson, his voice cracking. “Shame on them.”

Parson was particularly critical of a radio ad that began running last month that compared Schweich’s appearance to that of fictional TV character Barney Fife, and called him a weak opponent. That ad was sponsored by the political action committee calling itself Citizens for Fairness in Missouri.

“The commercial had no factual basis whatsoever,” said Parson. “It had nothing to do with the duties of his job performance of being an elected official … and the fact that that commercial was aired almost two years before a statewide election speaks volumes. It speaks volumes to how far out of hand this all has become. To base things totally on one’s appearance and to make reference to one being small and being able to be squashed like a bug should be unacceptable to all of us.”

“One has to wonder,” continued Parson, “How his wife, his children felt. Somebody you’re married to, you love, that you live with, that raised children with. How do you think she felt for her husband to be described in such a way? How do you think those two children felt when somebody talked about their dad in that kind of light?”

Of reports that Schweich was angry due to his belief that others in the state Republican party were saying he was Jewish in order to cost him votes among Evangelical Christian Republicans, Parson said, “one has to ask why was the discussion even in the first place? Why was the discussion ever in the first place with consultants in the political arena.”

“I would also hope that the people involved, at some point, would admit to making a poor judgment call and would have the decency to apologize to Tom’s family for being part of such an irresponsible act,” said Parson.

Parson said he would commit to not using negative campaigning or support candidates that do. He called on his fellow elected officials to make the same commitment, specifically calling out the Lieutenant Governor, Senate President, Senate Minority Floor Leader, and those senators who are running for statewide office.

“I will no longer stand by and let people destroy other people’s lives using false accusations and demeaning statements all in the name of money and winning elections,” Parson said.

An emotional Parson was asked by Missourinet whether he believes negative campaigning did play a role in Schweich’s apparent suicide.

“I think we have people doing things, horrible situations to other people that they have no business doing.”

A memorial service for Schweich will be held tomorrow at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the episcopal church that Schweich attended. The state House and Senate have cancelled most committee hearings that were set for tomorrow and have postponed their sessions until Tuesday afternoon, so that legislators can attend the service.

Missouri auditor remembered as family man, dedicated servant

A memorial service for Missouri’s state auditor will be held today in Clayton.

State Auditor Tom Schweich is joined by several state lawmakers as he formally announced his run for governor.

State Auditor Tom Schweich is joined by several state lawmakers as he formally announced his run for governor.

Tom Schweich is being remembered as a dedicated and focused public servant. Representative Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) got to know Schweich during the campaign for state auditor in 2010, which Schweich won. The two became friends and Hoskins says he got to know a man who in spite of his impressive education and resume, was very genuine and humble.

“Although he had an education background at Yale and Harvard that some of us, many of us like myself, would only dream about having, he didn’t rub that in your face. He was just a common guy and when you sat down and talked to him, he always had a smile on his face,” Hoskins told Missourinet.

Hoskins said Schweich also loved his job.

“He loved looking for fraud, waste and abuse in state government. His audits, as you can tell recently from the audit of the St. Joseph Public School District, were some of the toughest around,” said Hoskins.

Hoskins said Schweich’s work and political life did not come at the expense of his family. Schweich had two children with is wife, Kathy.

“He was very much a dedicated family man. I know he loved his wife and children and definitely would make time for them even as the demands of his work schedule would take him elsewhere,” Hoskins said.

“My thoughts and prayers just go out with them. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. I know it’s the most difficult times and days and hours that they’ve experienced, said Hoskins of Schweich’s family.

Hoskins declined to comment on the information released by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Schweich had reached out to reporters to talk about his belief that newly elected state Republican Party Chairman John Hancock had said Schweich was Jewish in an effort to undermine Schweich’s campaign for Governor. Nor did Hoskins want to discuss what ramifications for the state GOP might be.

He and more than 200 other lawmakers, elected officials, staff, and Capitol reporters gathered in the House chamber last week in a prayer service for Schweich and his family.

Clayton police are continuing to investigating Schweich’s death as an apparent suicide.

Related story:  Funeral set for Schweich, interim auditor appointed