Presidential hopefuls spend millions in Missouri

Monday, December 31, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Top presidential candidates have spent about $3 million in Missouri based on their most recent campaign reports, with a Kansas City business and a legislative leader among those reaping the funds.

In Missouri, Air Charter Team, which lines up aircraft to shuttle many of the presidential hopefuls around the country, has been paid more than $2 million so far, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday.

Most of that money has come from Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's campaign. Air Charter's take makes up the bulk of the money the top presidential candidates reported spending in Missouri as of Sept. 30.

Most of the money paid to Air Charter Team doesn't remain in the state, but is used to hire planes and pilots from other companies, said vice president Steve Davison.

Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton is earning $6,000 a month on the payroll of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, juggling his work for the former Massachusetts governor with his House duties.

"I wish it was more money," joked Jetton, R-Marble Hill, speaking about making calls, recruiting volunteers and driving distances on behalf of the candidate he supports.

Republican consultant John Hancock's firm is also on Romney's payroll in Missouri, earning $15,000 a month.

Romney also has paid close to $50,000 to a local fundraising firm with Republican ties, Capital Enhancements Inc., for money-raising activities in Missouri and Kansas. That firm is headed by Karen Mohan Days, who has worked for various Missouri Republicans.

The Post-Dispatch reported Obama is Air Charter Team's chief presidential client, spending $1.9 million for flights chartered through the firm as of Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Air Charter Team also has arranged charters for several other Democratic presidential candidates, including Clinton, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Davison emphasized that the firm doesn't discuss its clients or their travels.

A key attraction for the Obama campaign is Air Charter Team's focus on the environment. The firm buys "carbon offsets," like tree-planting, to make up for the fuel used in plane flights. Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said, "They ensure, through offsets, that our air travel is carbon neutral."

The St. Louis firm to receive the most business from the presidential candidates is Fuse Inc., an advertising firm that has been hired by Obama. FEC reports show that Obama has paid about $185,000 to the firm. The company didn't return a phone message seeking comment.

State Rep. Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, has just been hired to be the state campaign director for the Democratic front-runner, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Presidential contenders have thus far spent relatively little time or money in Missouri, but that's expected to change before the state's Feb. 5 presidential primary. Firms and individuals in 15 other states, including Illinois, have received more presidential campaign business than Missouri.

The most money, more than $28 million, had been spent in Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and New York. Illinois came in at No. 5. The top presidential candidates have doled out close to $12 million to Illinois-based campaign workers or firms.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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