Governor's partisan appointees draw skepticism from GOP

Monday, September 21, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Kelley Martin contributed $1,400 to Jay Nixon's Democratic gubernatorial campaign. In recent years, he's also donated to Claire McCaskill, Kay Barnes, Bob Holden, Mel and Jean Carnahan and various other Democrats running for state and federal offices.

Yet Martin was labeled a Republican when Nixon appointed him this month to a partisan slot on the Missouri Development Finance Board -- partly, because that's what Martin said he was.

Missouri Republican Party officials are crying foul.

"At some point, the credibility of that person being a Republican is highly questionable," said Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith. "I would question it."

The case of Kelley Martin is not unique -- neither for Nixon's administration, nor for that of his Republican predecessor, Matt Blunt. In fact, it illustrates how the political roles have reversed in Missouri.

During Nixon's first nine months in office, at least three other people who donated to Nixon's campaign have been appointed as Republicans to state board positions that by law are allotted according to partisan affiliation.

At a similar point during Blunt's first year in office in 2005, an Associated Press review identified at least seven Blunt contributors who had been appointed as Democrats to partisan slots on state boards. Blunt's number of such appointees may be slightly higher than Nixon's because Blunt appears to have made more appointments to partisan state positions by that time.

In 2005, Democrats who were out power expressed outrage that the Republican governor was appointing his donors to positions reserved for Democrats.

"If an individual has donated to Gov. Blunt and to other Republican causes, it would certainly be inappropriate to put them on a state board as a Democrat," Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti said in an article published Oct. 2, 2005. "This is simply a way of the Blunt administration gaming the system and being able to use patronage to put their people in positions of power."

Cardetti now is the communications director for Nixon and is defending such gubernatorial appointments. He said all of Nixon's appointees to Republican positions are genuine Republicans, some of whom broke with their party to propel Nixon to 58 percent of the vote in last fall's election.

"Gov. Nixon happens to enjoy a tremendous amount of Republican support," Cardetti said. "That should not be held against those Republicans. They should still be allowed to serve in Republican slots, as long as they are in fact Republicans."

The Missouri Republican Party, now in the reverse role of faulting the governor, said Democrats are doing the same thing they attacked Blunt for doing four years ago.

"The hypocrisy of that is fairly obvious to almost anyone who would analyze that," Smith said.

The Missouri governor's office uses an application form for boards and commissions that asks people to list their party affiliation. Some panels are prohibited by state law from having a lopsided political membership.

Blunt's administration said it generally took people at their word when they described themselves as Republican or Democrat. Nixon's administration noted that Martin listed himself as a Republican and has the endorsement of his local senator, Republican Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields.

Martin, who owns a financial services business in Kansas City, has contributed to at least one Republican. A search of state and federal campaign databases shows 29 contributions by Martin or his business amounting to just under $10,000 during the past decade. Two of those donations, totaling $400, went to Republican auditor candidate Sandra Thomas in 2006.

"I would call myself a moderate Republican," said Martin, adding that he twice voted for Republican President George W. Bush but backed Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Martin said he supported Nixon for governor, because "I was more in tune with his policies than I was with some of the more conservative side of the Republican Party."

Nixon received $250 from Kansas City attorney Stephen Miller, whom he appointed last month as a Republican to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. Although records show Miller contributed to Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Graves in 2001, Miller gave twice as much to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and gave $250 to the Democratic National Committee this June.

Despite those donations, Miller said in an interview that he considers himself a Republican.

Miller said he attended a Kerry fundraiser because his wife wanted to see the musical performer, and he attended a recent DNC fundraiser because it featured his Rockhurst High School friend, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Miller did not immediately recall contributing to Nixon and declined to say if he voted for him.

"My giving history would not necessarily reflect how I cast my votes," said Miller, later adding: "I have not been very political."

Nixon also received $200 donations from Missouri Housing Development Commission appointee Timothy Joyce and Missouri Community Service Commission appointee Forrest Miller Jr., both of whom were appointed as Republicans. Joyce served as a Republican as the Warren County prosecuting from 1981 to 1991.

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