Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Did $11 Million Buy Rex Sinquefield in Tuesday's Primaries? Not Much

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Did $11 Million Buy Rex Sinquefield in Tuesday's Primaries? Not Much

Article excerpt

The biggest loser in Tuesday's primary elections was someone who wasn't even on the ballot.

Rex Sinquefield, the retired investor and St. Louis conservative activist, donated more than $11 million to candidates in Tuesday's Missouri Republican primaries, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis of records. The overwhelming bulk of that money went to just three GOP candidates: gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway, attorney general candidate Kurt Schaefer and lieutenant governor candidate Bev Randles.

In all three cases, Sinquefield's picks lost by almost 30 points, in Schaefer's case.

"It ended up being cost-ineffective, I guess," quipped Ken Warren, political science professor at St. Louis University.

Warren said the episode should demonstrate that, although big money certainly can be a factor in political success, "it's not the only factor. Money can't buy everything."

Sinquefield spokesman Travis Brown on Wednesday sought to put the best face on the losses. He pointed out that, even if Sinquefield's preferred candidates didn't win, the GOP primary victories went mostly to candidates who agree with Sinquefield's stances in favor of lower taxes and "right-to-work" legislation weakening the power of labor unions.

"It was a pretty firm rebuke of (Democratic) Gov. Jay Nixon's failed economic policies," Brown said. "I think everybody is ready to move forward, encouraged by the fact that the people who campaigned for tax cuts and who want to lower the price of work are still running. It's not over until Nov. 8."

Of course, in the Republican primaries, virtually all the candidates agree on those two issues. The question is, why did Sinquefield's big bets lose?

In the case of Hanaway, his most expensive loss, the money itself may have had the ironic effect of hurting her at the polls.

In the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary, Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker, came in last, with less than 20 percent of the vote, about 15 points behind the winner, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Sinquefield (or committees Sinquefield funds) had supported Hanaway to the tune of about $4.5 million, by far her largest source of funding.

From the start, Hanaway's Republican opponents made hay of the theme that Sinquefield was almost single-handedly bankrolling her campaign.

"Rex Sinquefield is trying to buy a governor," state Auditor Tom Schweich alleged in January 2015, in announcing his own GOP gubernatorial campaign, at a time when Hanaway was the only other Republican in the race. "These are not Republicans, these are Rex- publicans."

Schweich committed suicide a month later, after complaining bitterly about the tactics of fellow Republicans, including a vicious radio ad put up by a Hanaway supporter. As other candidates joined the race, they took up the mantle of criticism of Hanaway's continuing cash infusions from Sinquefield. …

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