After taking weeks of criticism on federal earmarks, Kenny Hulshof's campaign for Governor is trying to turn the wasteful spending argument against State Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
The Hulshof campaign is pointing to Steelman's efforts as a State Senator to add a $133 million dollar spending provision to a nursing home reform bill back in 2000, in order to defeat it.
"The facts indicate that Steelman abandoned conservative ideals long ago," said Hulshof spokesperson Scott Baker, referring to the $133 million dollar spending provision as "so big, that one lawmaker said it would have created a state budget crisis." The lawmaker that Baker refers to was Democratic Senator Wayne Goode.
"In the process of promoting a massive and egregious giveaway of taxpayer money, Steelman killed the bill, which would have cracked down on elder abuse in Missouri nursing homes," Baker added.
News accounts from that time period show that Steelman's goal seemed to be to kill the bill by making the spending provision too large for anyone to support. She teamed withe a handful of Republican Senators to derail the bill that was meant to protect nursing home residents from abuse.
"It's a killer amendment," one Senator told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Then-State Auditor Claire McCaskill was quoted saying, “I believe the nursing home industry’s goal is to kill the bill by putting a very expensive amendment on it. I think Sarah Steelman is assisting them.”
The bill would have made it easier to prosecute and investigate cases of abuse in nursing homes. Then-Rep. Craig Hosmer, was the sponsor and also blamed Steelman for killing the bill. “She cares more about nursing homes than the people in them,” Hosmer said, according to a May 12, 2000 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Democrats claimed the bill's death would "allow nursing home workers to abuse and steal from residents in their care with virtual immunity from prosecution." According to the Kansas City Star, Steelman and Sen. Bill Kenney said something needed to be done to help nursing home owners, who say Medicaid paid them $13 a day less than it costs to care for each patient.
"I'm not killing the bill. I'm trying to help it," Steelman reportedly said at the time.
Still, Steelman's $133 million dollar amendment included tapping $52 million from unbudgeted state funds.
The Associated Press wrote: "At a news conference after final adjournment, the bill’s Republican supporters were clearly a bit jarred by Steelman’s actions. Sens. Betty Sims, R-Ladue, and Roseann Bentley, R-Springfield, both said they asked her to desist and let the chamber get on with the business of the hectic final day."
Steelman spokesperson Spence Jackson said the Hulshof campaign was recycling old attacks used by Democrats.
"This was funding set aside for elderly Missourians in nursing homes. Unlike Congressman Hulshof, Sarah Steelman has stood up for taxpayers and would never waste their money on frivolous things like the Bridge to Nowhere," said Jackson.
"The big-spending Washington status quo is getting desperate now. They are recycling old discredited attacks used by the Democrats in Steelman's re-election bid to the state Senate. The people who knew her best rejected those false statements and re-elected her with over 71 percent of the vote," Jackson added.
But Hulshof's Baker said this is just one example of Steelman's record of "abuse, waste and conflicts of interest."
"On August 5, Sarah Steelman will learn that Missourians are paying more attention than she thinks," said Baker.