The allegations that Missouri officials are sending private gun owner information off to the federal government has hit the airwaves this week -- with a $400,000 ad blitz directly targeting Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat.
This radio and television ad campaign, which launched yesterday, comes less than a week after a judge said that there was only "hearsay evidence" that the Missouri Department of Revenue was sending records to the feds.
But that's not stopping critics of the department, who are now directly going after Nixon.
"The people in Missouri deserve better," says Carl Bearden, executive director of United for Missouri, which launched the ad blitz. "We need some accountability."
United for Missouri, a political nonprofit run by Bearden, a former Republican lawmaker in state, has also launched wrongwayjay.com to pressure the Nixon administration to address this controversy around the Department of Revenue.
The debate was sparked by a lawsuit from a private citizen who alleged last month that a change in state policy around the issuing of licenses meant he had to let officials scan his personal information into a system when he was applying for a concealed-carry permit. He and his attorneys argue this is illegal and a violation of privacy.
While that suit is somewhat narrow, Republican officials across the state have since raised broad questions about whether the state is storing and sending personal records to places outside of Missouri. They've applied pressure with hearings, proposed legislation, subpoenas and more. The Department of Revenue has testified that it is not sending anything to the feds, but that has not quieted critics.
Now, Missouri residents will hear about this in the form of short television and radio ads. Here's one spot, which directly alleges that Nixon has failed to stop Missouri officials from sending gun owner information to the "Obama administration."
Continue for more of our interview with Carl Bearden and for Governor Nixon's response.
"Our main focus on this is for the governor to step up," Bearden tells us. "Who knows if this is the tip of the iceberg?"
Bearden points out that he was a legislator when Missouri passed a law that specifically protected against this kind of private information getting to the federal government
And although "the concealed carry permitting process really brought this to life," he says he believes there could be privacy violations across the board with revenue department licensing.
The ads will run across the state for about a week, he says, noting that his group wants to see a full audit of the department.
Daily RFT reached out to Nixon's office for comment today and will update if we hear back. The Beacon, however, has this footage of the governor recently fielding questions on the topic (specifically in regards to a Senate subpoena for more information; the state's deadline to respond to that subpoena is today):
"The testimony was pretty clear...that there's none of that going on, so I understand people's concern about privacy," the governor said, adding, "I'm sure our various departments will be cooperative and make sure they get whatever documents they want."