Senate President Ron Richard (left) has faced pay-to-play allegations over a bill he sponsored that would benefit the company of Joplin businessman David Humphreys (right). File photos
Senate President Ron Richard (left) has faced pay-to-play allegations over a bill he sponsored that would benefit the company of Joplin businessman David Humphreys (right). File photos

Government & Politics

GOP mega donor should face $320,000 ethics fine, Missouri Democrat says

By Jason Hancock

jhancock@kcstar.com

October 04, 2017 09:59 AM

UPDATED October 04, 2017 10:04 AM

JEFFERSON CITY

A complaint filed Tuesday with the Missouri Ethics Commission accuses one of the state’s most prolific campaign donors of violating lobbying laws.

Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a Liberty Democrat, filed the complaint against David Humphreys, a Joplin businessman who along with his family donated more than $14 million to various candidates and campaigns last year. It accuses Humphreys of knowingly employing a lobbyist in the Missouri Capitol who was not registered with the ethics commission, a violation of state disclosure laws.

Humphreys has faced accusations of corruption all year involving his relationship with Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican. Richard sponsored legislation that would have directly benefited Humphreys’ company, TAMKO Building Products Inc. Shortly after it was introduced in December, Richard received a $100,000 contribution from Humphreys.

Ellebracht’s complaint notes that the ethics commission last week fined southwest Missouri political consultant Paul Mouton for illegally lobbying at the Missouri Capitol on behalf of Humphreys.

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Mouton admitted to the ethics commission that he was employed by Humphreys and met with lawmakers and their staff during the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions to discuss legislation that Humphreys was pressing the legislature to pass. During that time, Richard reserved Mouton a parking space in the Missouri Senate garage on 32 occasions in the final weeks of the 2016 session and the opening weeks of the 2017 session.

Humphreys has been active in Missouri politics and state government for years, Ellebracht says in his complaint, and thus, “no reasonable Missourian could possibly believe that David Humphreys did not knowingly employ Mouton as a lobbyist — unregistered with the (ethics) commission — to lobby on his behalf in the Missouri State Capitol for years.”

A person violates state law if they lobby the legislature without registering with the ethics commission and disclosing whom they are working for. But it is also illegal to knowingly employ someone to lobby who is not registered with the ethics commission.

Those found to be in violation of that law can be fined $10,000 for each violation.

Ellebracht is asking the ethics commission to fine Humphreys $10,000 for every time Mouton had a parking spot in the Senate garage, and thus presumably would have been in the Missouri Capitol lobbying for Humphreys. That would total $320,000.

A spokesman for Humphreys dismissed Ellebracht’s complaint.

“David Humphreys has chosen to support causes and policies that he strongly believes in,” Humphreys spokesman Ken Spain said in an email to The Star. “Unfortunately, those who disagree with him have decided to engage in personal attacks to further their own political agenda.”

Senate leader Ron Richard: 'Tell him to kiss my ass'

Senate President pro temp Ron Richard responded to questions in April about a bill he sponsored that would benefit a major donor.

Jason Hancock The Kansas City Star

Ellebracht said Humphreys is free to support causes he believes in, but he is not free to break the law.

“Humphreys believes he is above the law. He’s about to find out he’s wrong,” Ellebracht said. “Humphreys is the one who broke the law. He is not the victim of anything. The real victim here is the rule of law, the state of Missouri and the people who expect more from the elected officials that he tried to buy off.”

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock