Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week 40: Nixon's Grade


Gov. Jay Nixon made two major decisions late last week as he attempts to clean up his administration's handling of E.Coli-gate. First, he canned longtime aide and ally Joe Bindbeutel by withdrawing his appointment to a better paying position on an Administration Hearing commission. Secondly, he reinstated Department of Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton. Templeton's reputation has been soiled as a result of this controversy, but as politicos know, a bureaucrat's best defense weapon is the ability to talk if fired. Although Nixon acknowledged Friday "systems failed and people made mistakes," he said no one in his office would be disciplined, which handed Republicans and other critics easy fodder. No matter what decision Nixon made, it would be attacked by his opponents. But some wonder if the Governor regrets going with an out-of-state wonky science egghead like Templeton rather than someone with political skills who has their head and hands closer to the ground. Still lingering are Sen. Brad Lager's legislative inquiry and a skeptical reporter pack. Lager's charge that E.Coli-gate was an "organized cover-up" will drive more coverage of the problems at DNR. But besides Lager and obvious critics like Missouri Republican Party, Nixon hasn't experienced a massive backlash from lawmakers yet. It's not only that Democrats have kept quiet, many key Republican leaders have avoided calling for more substantial firings. You can get members of both parties to rattle off a list of DNR's inherent problems, but now Nixon owns the agency's future success or failure. A bright spot for Nixon last week: his fundraising hasn't taken a hit. He raised about $373,310 over the past three months. And he'll need every dollar to play defense in three years combating all those E.Coli-gate ads.

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