Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Mayor's Money Machine II: How Mayor Francis Slay Paid Back His Contributors by Cheating Voters

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Mayor's Money Machine II: How Mayor Francis Slay Paid Back His Contributors by Cheating Voters

Article excerpt

Mayor Francis Slay has a half-million-dollar reason for working hand-in-glove with the 17 millionaire owners of the St. Louis Cardinals to get taxpayer funding for a new Cardinal ballpark. He is paying off his campaign contributors.

A study by the Coalition Against Public Funding For Stadiums of Mayor Slay's 2001 campaign finance report shows that the Cardinals and their allies contributed $507,000 to Slay. This was 28 percent of his total $1.8 million campaign expense.

The 2002 session of the Missouri Legislature killed the Cardinal effort to obtain $430 million in taxpayer funding over 30 years for a new ballpark. In this campaign, Slay was a leader in raising the fear, and making the threat, that the Cardinals would leave downtown St. Louis if the taxpayers did not buy them a ballpark.

Slay is now leading a second effort to build a so-called privately financed ballpark for the Cardinals. As of deadline, there is no private financing for the ballpark.

But there would be $237 million of public money over 30 years in this deal, and Slay pushed through the Board of Aldermen on Oct. 18 the biggest chunk of this money--$102 million to be left in the pockets of the Cardinal owners through elimination of the 5 percent tax on Cardinal tickets. He had to act quickly, because on Nov. 5 the voters of St. Louis were going to vote on Proposition S.

Proposition S was placed on the ballot by initiative petition signed by 14,000 registered voters in St. Louis. It requires that any public financing for a new Cardinal ballpark must be submitted to a citywide vote. So if the elimination of the 5 percent tax on Cardinal tickets had been passed after Nov. 5, it would have had to go before a citywide vote.

Slay obviously is working very hard to pay off his Cardinal campaign contributors. He will be going back to them for reelection money when he runs again in 2005, so he also is earning his money for the next time around.

Slay's conduct is a classic example of how politicians use their constituents' tax money to buy campaign contributions.

In fact, SJR's headline refers back to a major story about then-Mayor Vince Schoemehi's campaign contributions published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the 1980s. It was excellent journalism spoiled by Editor William Woo's decision to allow the mayor a front-page rebuttal.

The current study was conducted by comparing Slay's contributors to four sources:

Members of the Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis (AGC) and labor unions, all of which endorsed taxpayer funding of the stadium, and law firms who represented these entities, according to the Martindale-Hubbell law directory.

The study shows that Slay received more than $266,000 from RCGA members, $41,000 from AGC members, $58,000 from unions, $92,000 from law firms, and more than $48,000 from miscellaneous sources.

Included in the miscellaneous category is $5,725 from Cardinal owners, a paltry sum considering how hard Slay has worked for them.

Some of the biggest contributors were Anheuser-Busch, $26,000; the Shaffer Lombardo law firm of Kansas City, $12,375; Guilfoil Petzall law firm, $10,200; Thompson Coburn, $11,100; Charter Communications, $10,700; the TIP Educational Fund (hotel-restaurant workers), $10,000; and Enterprise Rent-A-Car $7,140. The Husch Eppenberger law firm, which drafted legislation benefiting the Cardinal owners, gave Slay $8,275.

RELATED ARTICLE: Union Contributions

Bricklayers' Local No. 1 of Missouri $1,125

Int'l. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers No. 4 $1,000

Teamster Local 600 Drive PAC $2,250

Missouri State Council Fire Fighters' PAC $1,125

TIP Educational Fund, Washington, DC $10,000

Seafarers Political Activity $1,000

Hoisting Engineers Local 513 $2,250

SEIU, Local No. …

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