Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Missouri Senate President Pro Tem

Apr 19, 2017

Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

A Washington-based watchdog group has joined calls for an investigation into Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard over campaign contributions he received from a Joplin businessman.

Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit organization describing itself as “focused on government accountability,” has sent a formal letter of complaint to the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. The letter requests an investigation into whether Richard’s actions violated federal law.

The donations at issue came from David Humphreys, the president and CEO of Tamko Building Products who has given millions of dollars to many Missouri Republican campaigns. Over the past month, legislators have raised questions about a pair of $100,000 donations to Richard, a Joplin Republican. Six days before the second of those donations, Richard introduced a bill that would fundamentally change state consumer protection laws and potentially undercut a pending class-action lawsuit against Tamko.

“Sen. Richard can’t expect anyone to believe it’s a coincidence that he introduced a bill that could save TAMKO [sic] millions and received $100,000 from the company’s CEO just a few days later,” said Dan Stevens, executive director of Committee for Accountability, in a statement. “This situation begs for a grand jury investigation; it’s a crime for elected officials to accept benefits in exchange for official action.”

A spokesman confirmed Wednesday afternoon that acting U.S. Attorney Tom Larson's office had received the letter, but said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

"Just as a matter of Department of Justice policy, we don't comment on investigations, or even confirm or deny the existence of investigations," said Don Ledford, public affairs officer for the U.S. attorney's office.

Rep. Mark Ellebracht first raised allegations of pay-for-play in an open letter to Richard in March. Ellebracht, a Liberty Democrat, also appeared on KCUR’s political podcast Statehouse Blend Missouri, where he called Richard “a crook.”

Sen. Ryan Silvey, who — like Ellebracht — is specifically mentioned in the letter of complaint, made his first comments about the matter on Statehouse Blend Missouri April 6.  Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, raised the possibility of a formal investigation by law enforcement.

“I’m not willing to go so far as to say that Sen. Richard violated the law, but I’m also not a law enforcement agency,” Silvey said. “I would leave that up to them.”

Richard has had no comment on the allegations, other than telling reporters in a press conference last month that Ellebracht could “kiss my ass.” An attorney for Humphreys, in a letter last week to KCUR, called the suggestions “false and defamatory” and said he was aware of no connection between the donation and the filing of the bill.

This story was updated at 5:08 p.m. on Wednesday to include response from the U.S. attorney's office.

Brian Ellison is a contributor and host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Missouri. You can reach him at brian@kcur.org or on Twitter, @ptsbrian.