Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Truthwatch: Guts & Gundaker

State Treasurer Sarah Steelman continues to receive thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the same company she boasted about blocking tax credits from in a campaign television commercial.

The KY3 Political Notebook found that Steelman received a $1,350 check from Gundaker Commercial on March 31, 2008. Steelman also received thousands more from related properties and partnerships of Gundaker. GHL Development, Gunna Development, HOG Properties and LAD Properties all wrote $1,350 checks to Steelman on the last day of March. They are all listed on Gundaker's website as partners. Gundaker Commercial is the same company Steelman's ad refers to when it it says "Steelman blocked tax credits, and forced the company off the job."

In February 2006, according to a press release from the State Treasurer's office, Steelman offered a blistering reprimand of Gundaker Commercial "following the arrests of five illegal workers on their way to a Missouri Housing Development construction site in O'Fallon, Mo."

"This practice is going to stop," Steelman said in a release. "The state will not do business with developers who think they can rip off the taxpayers and workers of Missouri," she added.

But according to the St. Louis Business Journal, in April 2007, Steelman, as part of the Missouri Housing Development Commision, voted for bond allocations for the St. Louis area. Included in the $58 million dollar bond allocation was some money for Gundaker, according to the same article.

Steelman said she approved further tax credits for Gundaker because "they weren't the guilty ones."

"The guilty one was NRP, and they were removed from the job," said Steelman in an interview.

NRP is a contracting group out of Cleveland, Ohio. Back in February 2006, Steelman also criticized NRP for its role. She said NRP was the main partner in that construction project that involved illegal immigrants -- and not Gundaker.

"They were a minority partner, so they couldn't control it. The majority partner got kicked off the project and that's the one I'm referring to," Steelman explained. "The majority owner was NRP. They were the ones who were kicked off the project because they were in charge of all the people."

A call to a Gundaker Commercial group spokesperson was not returned.

When asked why she continued to receive campaign contributions from Gundaker, Steelman said, "I'm not influenced by campaign contributions."

When I followed up with Steelman spokesperson Spence Jackson about whether Steelman would accept a contribution from NRP, he said he didn't think so, but that he would have to check with the candidate.

Missouri State University political science professor George Connor said that while Steelman's explanation could hold up in court, it probably will have trouble in the court of public opinion.

"There's a legitimate defense on each one of the points, but a legitimate defense, the legal defense, isn't necessarily convincing for Missouri voters," Connor said. "You can't be critical of companies who hired illegal immigrants and then turn around and take money from them," he added.

Connor said while there might not be anything improper about taking the contributions from Gundaker, Steelman is opening herself up to charges of hypocrisy. "This is adding fuel to the fire that we're saying one thing and doing something else on the other hand. The appearance of impropriety is just as bad as impropriety in the minds of most voters," Connor said.

"To slap them on Monday, take money from them on Tuesday and award them on Wednesday, that doesn't look good," he added.

Steelman spokesperson Jackson said Steelman's ability to take contributions from a company who she was still willing to crack down on shows her strong streak of independence.

A television report of this story is set to air in the near future at a date to be determined by the news cycle. A similiar examination of a Kenny Hulshof television advertisement is in the works.


CharityAngel said...

I think that the explanation given is one that SMART Missouri voters will accept. Come one, she punished the larger company that was in control of the illegals being hired. Why punish the child fro what the parent did?

whistleblower said...


Not only will SMART Missouri voters accept the explanation that the media refuses to accept (I'll bet George Conner is either a Democrat or a Hulshof suporter), they will also understand that you can support the cop that gave you the ticket without trying to get that cop to ignore any future activity. Good people make mistakes; criminals repeat the same mistakes even after they get caught.

There are two things at play here.
1. Just because someone supports a candidate (candidates support many different issues) that doesn't mean that the candidate supports the donor.

i.e. Say there was a pro-life, card-carrying member of the NRA, that is for higher taxes, and is a union member (I'm sure some must exist, though probably quietly). Should that person not be able to support any candidate? Is it an all or nothing round when it comes to support? Is that the America we now live in? I’m really getting sick of this “You support me, therefore, I must support you” BS.

2. When someone has a responsibility to support the laws of this state, and they find a person or company to be violating the law, the violation can be addressed without becoming friend or foe to those who broke the law.

Gundaker knows firsthand that Sarah Steelman will enforce the laws of this state without compromise or preferential treatment. Honorable people can support those who catch them violating the law. Only children can't figure that out.