Missouri is about to hold its first open presidential primary since 1988, but the attention of most campaigns and the national media has been focused on the big Super Tuesday contests of California, New York and Ohio. On March 7, 1,135 Democratic and 613 Republican delegates will be up for grabs in primaries and caucuses across the country, so Missouri, with 92 and 35 respectively, is barely a blip, a "did you just see something?" state on the political screen.
Similarly, the money flowing from Missouri to the candidates is a blip -- a noticeable blip. The six best-known candidates -- Republicans George W. Bush, John McCain and Alan Keyes; Democrats Al Gore and Bill Bradley; and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan -- together had pulled in more than $16 million from individuals in New York and $13 million from Californians as of Dec. 31. By contrast, Missouri givers had anted up just $1.6 million by that date.
Nevertheless, the state is taking part in the biggest event of the primary season. On Missouri's ballot, there will be five "established" parties represented -- Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Constitution and Reform -- and 18 candidates to choose from.
Nationally, this primary has netted more cash for its candidates' campaigns than any other in history -- some $150 million for the top six, according to information compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonprofit campaign-finance-research group based in Washington, D.C. And, according to a study by Common Cause, another Washington-based public-interest group, the national parties raised more than $105 million in "soft money" in 1999, an increase of 81 percent since the last comparable election cycle in 1995.
But this year's sound bites have shifted from how much money the candidates can raise to how much they can say they don't like to raise it. As CRP executive director Larry Makinson says, McCain's successful fixation on campaign-finance reform has changed the entire direction of the primary. "One of the things this primary is showing is that if you can get the public's attention, you can trump the money," he says. "I think that's what John McCain did in New Hampshire, and that set off a chain reaction.
"The difference between where we were Jan. 1 and where we are today is extraordinary by historical standards," Makinson continues. "I mean, if you looked at the cash on hand in the two campaigns of John McCain and George Bush, McCain had $1.5 million and George Bush had $31 million. By the end of February, that has changed considerably.... It's moved from an impossible financial distance to close enough to really pull an upset here."
Suddenly, every candidate talks like a campaign-finance celibate: "We must end the glorified bribery," says Buchanan. "Nothing breaks our trust in democracy as much as big money," says Bradley. "Today we speak with one voice in our demand for tough mainstream, nonpartisan campaign-finance reform," says Gore. "In all instances, it should be individuals, not corporate directors or union bosses, who control the political process," says Bush.
Ben Senturia is a steering-committee member of Missouri Voters for Fair Elections, which is pushing for a state ballot initiative this November to allow public financing of campaigns. He notes that "for the first time, the issue of money and politics and campaign-finance reform is playing a central role; it's moved to centerstage. I think they're talking about it in the cloakrooms and that the politicians are saying, "This issue has legs.' It's definitely caught the attention of the public, and voters care about this issue."
But voters who compare the campaign platitudes of the leading candidates with their records may be in for some surprises. And they'd do well to remember the immortal words of U.S. Rep. Michael "Ozzie" Meyers (D-Pa.), who, as he took illegal contributions in 1979 during the Abscam scandal, said, "Money talks in this business, and bullshit walks."
Here is a money-and-politics index of the 2000 race:
· Number of Missourians who had given Bush contributions of $1,000 or more as of Dec. 31: 861. Number of Missourians who had given Bradley $1,000 or more: 272; Gore, 132; McCain, 40; Buchanan, 2; Keyes, 1.
· Top Missouri contributors of unrestricted "soft money" to political parties: SBC Communications, $85,000; Leggett & Platt Inc., $75,000; May Department Stores, $60,000; MCG Consulting, $55,000; Anheuser-Busch Cos., $45,000.
· Number of the five topics Bush considers his "bold agenda" to reform the civil-justice system that would benefit Americans harmed or injured by corporate actions: 0
How many of those topics are supported by corporate defense lawyers: 5.
The third most generous campaign supporter of Bush's political career: Vinson & Elkins, a corporate-law firm from Houston, $316,950.
Amount donated to Bush's presidential race by lawyers and law firms: $4.7 million.
· Some Missourians who gave $1,000 or more to Bush's presidential campaign: Andrew Baur (chairman, Mississippi Valley Bancshares Inc. and St. Louis Cardinals co-owner), August Busch III (chairman and CEO, Anheuser-Busch Cos.), August Busch IV (marketing vice president, A-B), William Danforth (chancellor emeritus, Washington University), Thomas Dunne (chairman and CEO, Fred Weber Inc.), Stan Kroenke (president, Kroenke Group, and co-owner, St. Louis Rams), Mark Lamping (president, St. Louis Cardinals), Lee Liberman (retired chairman, Laclede Gas Co.), William Maritz (chairman, Maritz Inc.), Peter Raven (director, Missouri Botanical Garden), Craig Schnuck (chairman and CEO, Schnuck Markets Inc.), Donald Suggs (publisher, St. Louis American), Andrew Taylor (CEO, Enterprise Rent-A-Car).
Largest Missouri contributor to Bush's political career: A-B, $149,000.
· Date on which AT&T announced its plan to buy MediaOne, which would make it the nation's largest cable company: April 26, 1998.
Date on which AT&T employees started donating what would be more than $13,000 to McCain, then chairman of a congressional committee overseeing the telecommunications industry: April 29, 1998.
Date on which FCC Chairman William Kennard questioned the merits of the AT&T proposal: May 7, 1998.
Date McCain introduced a bill that would have eliminated the FCC's authority over telecommunications mergers: May 26, 1998.
Date the FCC relaxed its own supervision of telecommunications' mergers, allowing AT&T to buy MediaOne: Oct. 6, 1998.
Third-highest contributor to McCain's campaigns since 1982: AT&T.
Top "soft-money" donor to political parties that year: AT&T.
· Some Missourians who gave $1,000 or more to McCain's presidential campaign: Zane Barnes (retired chairman, Southwestern Bell Corp.), Sam Fox (chairman, Harbour Group), Jerald Kent (president and CEO, Charter Communications Inc.), James S. McDonnell III (former vice president, shareholder, McDonnell Douglas Corp.), Edith Spink (former Ladue mayor), Andrew Taylor.
· Candidate who recommended in 1997 that the federal government sell 47,000 acres of publicly owned Elk Hills reserve to Occidental Petroleum: Al Gore.
Amount Occidental's oil reserves grew as a result of the purchase: 300 percent.
Amount Gore receives every year from Tennessee land deal brokered by former Occidental chairman Armand Hammer: $20,000.
Date of the White House Conference on Climate Change, where Gore said future generations will ask us about our unchecked use of fossil fuels: "If you knew all that, why didn't you do something about it?": Oct. 6, 1997.
Date of the announcement of the Occidental sale: The same day.
· Some Missourians who gave $1,000 or more to Gore's presidential campaign: Joyce Aboussie (House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's political director), S. Lee Kling (local businessman and chairman, Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission), Michael Lazaroff (former partner, Thompson Coburn law firm), Eugene Slay (cousin of aldermanic president and mayoral candidate Francis Slay), Wayman Smith (president, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, and vice president of corporate affairs, A-B), George "Buzz" Westfall (St. Louis County executive).
· Bradley's sixth-largest campaign contributor overall: Prudential Insurance Co. of America.
Worth of tax breaks received by Prudential in the 1986 tax-reform legislation sponsored by Bradley: $24 million.
Amount that a Prudential subsidiary was fined in 1994 by the FEC when the company's president told employees to donate to Bradley's campaign: $550,000.
· Some Missourians who gave $1,000 or more to Bradley's presidential bid: August Busch III, Missouri Secretary of State Bekki Cook, William Danforth, Lou Fusz (president, Lou Fusz Automotive Network), S. Lee Kling, William Maritz, Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon, Emily Pulitzer (arts patron and member of the board of directors, Pulitzer Inc.), Geri Rothman-Serot (former St. Louis County councilwoman and congressional candidate), Wayman Smith, Irv Zuckerman (co-owner, Contemporary Productions).
Largest Missouri donor, including lawyers and relatives, to Bradley overall: Bryan Cave LLP, $60,753.
· Top ZIP-code area for Bush-campaign contributions: 75206 (Dallas, Texas). For McCain: 85253 (Paradise Valley, Ariz.); for Keyes, 51201 (Sheldon, Iowa); for Buchanan: 29302 (Spartanburg, S.C.); for Bradley: 10021 (New York City); for Gore: 10021 (New York City).
· Missourians who contributed to both Bradley's and Bush's campaigns: August Busch III, William Danforth, John McDonnell, Sanford McDonnell.
· Generosity of Bush's top 10 contributors (totaling contributions from relatives, employees of the same business and related political-action committees): $1.3 million. Total given by McCain's top 10 givers: $333,655. Total to Keyes: $15,000.
· McCain's position on health-care reform: "I believe we should focus our efforts on solutions that build on the strengths of the current system rather than falling for the phony remedies that rely on government mandates or bureaucratic command and control measures that will only increase the health-care costs and diminish the quality of care."
Amount McCain has received from the health-insurance industry since 1994: $322,000.
· Top five contributors to Bradley's presidential bid (including employees, relatives and PACs): Goldman Sachs, a New York investment-banking firm; Citigroup, the world's largest financial-services firm; Merrill Lynch, America's largest retail-brokerage firm; Lehman Bros., a New York holding company; Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co., a New York firm that specializes in securities, asset management and credit cards.
Number of tax breaks given to corporations in the 1986 Tax Reform Act sponsored by Bradley in the U.S. Senate: 650.
What Bradley told States News Service when asked whether there were too many corporate tax breaks in the bill: "They are a very small speck on the larger map of what the bill means to middle-income taxpayers and low-income taxpayers across this country."
Estimated amount of the "small speck": $10.6 billion.
· One of Bush's ideas for campaign-finance reform: Ban unions and corporations from making "soft money" contributions.
Amount of "soft money" donated to various national Republican committees since 1997 by Bush's top presidential-primary contributor, MBNA America Bank: $460,000.
Amount of "soft money" donated to political parties since 1997 by Bush's top 10 presidential-primary contributors: $2 million.
· Missourians credited with helping raise at least $100,000 for Bush's campaign: John Mahaffey (president, Mahaffey Enterprises Inc.); Ray Wagner (legislative vice president, Enterprise Rent-A-Car); Sam Fox; Stephen Brauer (president, Hunter Engineering Corp.); William H.T. Bush (chairman, Bush-O'Donnell & Co.).
· McCain's position on gun control: "I don't support gun bans or other measures that impinge on constitutionally protected individual rights."
Amount of contributions to McCain from gun-control interests since 1994: $0.
Amount of contributions from the National Rifle Association since 1994: $30,000.
· What Woodrow Wilson said in 1912 while campaigning for president: "The government of the United States is a foster child of the special interests."
Sources: Center for Public Integrity, Center for Responsive Politics, Knight Ridder, Federal Election Commission, The Associated Press, Public Campaign, Common Cause