Tom Bauer, photographed in 2005.
Fourteen years ago, Tom Bauer lost his seat representing the Dogtown area on St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen after residents forced a recall vote. And as Bauer attempts to mount his political comeback, vying once more to regain the seat he once held, the Democrat is facing questions that first dogged him in 2005 — questions about his relationship with a prominent white supremacist.
In January 2005, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
profiled a Dogtown resident named Frank Weltner, calling him the “face of white power here.” He was also the subject of a New York Times story in April 2005
An integral part of the white supremacist group the National Alliance, Weltner had started an anti-semitic blog called Jew Watch in 1998. The site became so popular that, by 2004, if someone searched the word “Jew” on Google, it would show up as the first result, according to the Post-Dispatch
’s 2005 feature.
“Weltner was not just a weird, closeted racist with quiet personal views — he was an outspoken, prolific writer, radio host, and conspiracy theorist with one of the most well trafficked racist websites on earth,” Scott Ogilvie, the current 24th ward alderman, wrote in a blog post last November
Ogilvie suggests that Bauer’s past ties to Weltner deserve a closer look. In the post, titled “Another Look at Former Alderman Tom Bauer,” Ogilvie notes that Bauer served as Weltner’s lawyer in 2004. He then delves into details that suggest a relationship than went beyond that.
More than a decade later, Ogilvie still finds the information relevant.
“There are new voters who were not around during that period back in 2005 and they might not know the story at all,” Ogilvie tells RFT
in a phone interview, adding that he wants to educate voters on the Bauer’s recall and the fact that he sued some constituents for defamation as well.
From 1999 to 2005, Bauer served as the alderman of the city’s 24th ward, which includes Clifton Heights, Ellendale and Dogtown. Residents voted to recall him because they were angry about his support for a project relying on eminent domain. (He later sued residents for defamation after they displayed a flier critical of his work on the project; his victory in circuit court was later overturned on appeal
After losing the 2007 primary election, Bauer, to the surprise of many, won the 2011 Democratic primary by just twelve votes. He was met in the general election by an independent candidate with zero political experience named Scott Ogilvie. Ogilvie ran away with the general election and, in 2015, defeated Bauer again.
Now Ogilvie is retiring, and the open seat has drawn five candidates. One of them is Tom Bauer.
The issue of Bauer’s past ties to Weltner resurfaced last week after Bauer was interviewed by the 24th Ward Progressive Democrats. During a 26-minute interview later posted to YouTube
, Bauer was asked about his relationship with Weltner, to which he responded, “First of all, I don’t have any relationship with a white supremacist.” Carefully avoiding the use of Weltner’s name, Bauer claims that he served as Weltner’s lawyer in April 2005, when Weltner was sued following a bicycle accident. When Bauer learned of Weltner’s ties to white supremacy a month later from the Post-Dispatch
, he told the group, he stopped working the case.
“At that point I didn’t go forward and take the piece of the case where I could have made money. I dropped him as a client,” Bauer said.
In the interview, Bauer acknowledged that Weltner was a supporter, but stressed that doesn’t mean he was friends with the man. “This individual that they have talked about has wandered around the community and said he was a supporter of mine. I can’t prevent anyone from saying they’re a supporter,” Bauer told the group.
Bauer vehemently denied any allegations of anti-semitism, adding, “Anyone who thinks I’m anti-semitic is just trying to come up with something that is damaging to my reputation. It is absolutely untrue.”
But the newspaper coverage unearthed by Ogilvie raises questions about that relationship. That includes a 2005 article from the Vital Voice
, which seemingly contradicts what Bauer told the Progressive Democrats. The story says Bauer represented Weltner beginning in 2004, not 2005.
The Vital Voice
story also details current Democratic party committeewoman Teri Powers’ assertion that she was asked to get drinks with Bauer by then-neighborhood association president Richard Torack — but when she arrived, Weltner was also at the table. After their sit-down, she remembers Bauer and Weltner getting in a car together.
“Powers found the incident especially strange because Weltner first joined the neighborhood organization at the August meeting and she does not recall him attending previous meetings,” the Vital Voice
noted. “And, she said Weltner's recent appearance at the Clifton Heights meeting is then especially odd given he lives in Franz Park.”
Powers also told the Vital Voice
that Bauer asked to delay the start of another meeting because “‘our guys’ weren't there yet.” Weltner would arrive not much later. (In the Vital Voice
story, Powers described herself as a former Bauer supporter. In an only-in-St.-Louis twist, she is now among those running for the 24th ward seat.)
Using this evidence, Ogilvie wants voters to reconsider electing Bauer back into the Board of Aldermen. “Let's stop tip-toeing around this. There is no shortage of level-headed, decent people who can serve in these offices,” he writes. ”It's time to sweep away Tom Bauer and move on.”
Bauer did not respond to our request for comment Friday. When we reached out again on Monday, he declined further comment, saying that his interview with the 24th Ward Progressive Democrats best represented his perspective.