March 27, 2013 - Campaign-finance reports filed days before Tuesday's election show that over the last month, a political action committee spent more than $60,000 in direct support of Mike Klund's campaign to unseat incumbent Ed Ryan on the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.
In Klund's previous race for the MFPD Board of Directors in 2011, unions, including the national arm of the International Association of Fire Fighters, or IAFF, spent $100,000 in support of Klund, who narrowly lost to board Chairman Aaron Hilmer.
Hilmer and board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman came to office in April 2005 as a reform slate against union control of the three-member board.
Ryan was elected in 2007 and has served as board secretary since then.
This year, a newly formed political action committee, or PAC, Citizens for Good Government, has focused $95,000 on two area fire district races, Mehlville and the Monarch Fire Protection District, with nearly two-thirds apparently going to mailings supporting Klund or opposing Ryan, and a third of the funds spent opposing Jane Cunningham, a candidate for the Monarch board.
In the filings, which report $94,487.28 in total expenditures, Citizens for Good Government lists $53,773.91 in direct expenditures made in support of Klund and $6,326.58 in expenditures opposing Ryan.
The PAC also lists $27,686.79 spent in direct opposition to Cunningham's Monarch bid.
Cunningham, a former state senator, and former state Rep. Cole McNary are vying or a seat on the Monarch board. Both are Republicans.
The PAC also lists a $4,500 donation it gave March 12 to the St. Louis Labor Council AFL-CIO Project 2000, which mailed a flier to Mehlville Fire Protection District households in mid-March, urging residents to "bring accountability back to the Fire District" by voting for Klund.
The flier also states Klund is endorsed by the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, the South County Legislative Labor Club and IAFF Local 2665.
This year, Ryan's campaign committee, the Committee to Re-Elect Ed Ryan, raised $8,615, including $1,950 in monetary donations from individuals, businesses and the Tesson Ferry Township Republican Club, a $3,609 in-kind contribution from Dean Eggerding of USI Insurance Services and a $4,500 loan from Hilmer.
The percentage of money spent on Klund's campaign through his official campaign committee decreased in this year's race. This time around, Klund's official campaign committee, Friends to Elect Mike Klund, received only one donation, an $884.20 in in-kind contribution from Citizens for Good Government.
Two years ago, Klund's offical committee, Mike for Mehlville Fire, raised and spent about $26,000 on his campaign. A separate committee, Friends of the Mehlville Fire District, raised about $74,000 and spent about $73,000 in support of Klund.
Most of the $99,011 raised by Citizens for Good Government has been donated by firefighters' PACs that, in turn, received the money from firefighters' organizations. More than half of the PAC's budget, $50,500, was donated in February by the Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC, an organization that shares a treasurer, University City firefighter and IAFF service representative Jen Stuhlman, with Citizens for Good Government.
The Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC received a $50,000 contribution earlier in February from "Mehlville Fire Fighters," which is not registered as an organization in either Missouri or in Illinois, where it listed an address in Freeburg, Ill.
That contribution spurred Hilmer to file a lawsuit against the PAC on behalf of the fire district, alleging the Tri-County PAC donation amounts to a "civil conspiracy" to illegally conceal the true source of campaign contributions.
"... We discovered there's an out-of-state organization who's not registered anywhere, (that) appears to be breaking every tenet of campaign-finance law, and they're out there printing libelous statements about the district," Hilmer previously told the Call.
In a statement issued to the Call, Stuhlman termed the lawsuit "frivolous" and said it was "designed to distract from the real issue, which is Ed Ryan's wasteful spending and financial mismanagement as a Mehlville fire board member."
In the group's latest filings, an additional $31,000 traces back to another firefighters' organization. In filings dated March 25, Citizens for Good Government lists four separate $4,999 donations from the Professional Fire Fighters of Central St. Louis County PAC, one per day from March 12 through March 15. Under Missouri law, donations of $5,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours; donations under $5,000 do not have to be reported until eight days before the election. The same PAC also donated $3,000 on March 18 and $2,200 March 21, bringing its total donations to Citizens for Good Government to $25,196 over nine days in March. Stuhlman is the treasurer of both PACs.
In its own eight-day report, the Professional Fire Fighters of Central St. Louis County PAC lists a $25,000 donation it received March 7 from "Professional Firefighters of W. St. Louis Co.," which did not file an eight-day report.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Central St. Louis PAC contributed another $6,000 to Citizens for Good Government on March 26, the same day it received a $6,000 contribution from Professional Firefighters of West St. Louis County. The Monarch Fire District is in west county.
Also on March 26, Citizens for Good Government received $10,000 from the Clayton Firefighters Association Shop. On March 27, the PAC received $4,000 from the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665.
Among its expenses, Citizens for Good Government paid $12,000 to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's former spokesman, Edward Rhode, for consulting and research, along with $884.20 for "printing, postage, data and messaging." The latter payment matches the date and amount of the $884.20 in-kind contribution Citizens for Good Government lists to Klund's campaign.
The expense report also lists $1,500 paid to Karl Frank Jr. Computers for "Internet media design and consulting" for Klund's campaign. Frank is a former Mehlville school board member who resigned in November 2010, shortly after voters rejected a proposed 88-cent tax rate hike.
The PAC also paid $32,377 to Pelican Printing and $14,668 to Mulligan Printing for printing services, an additional $8,510 to Mulligan and $5,868 to Pelican for printing and postage, $4,050 to Candidate Command of Riverside for printing design and messaging and $7,665 to the U.S. Postal Service for postage.
Besides $4,500 to the AFL-CIO, Citizens for Good Government also donated close to $3,000 to several other area organizations and campaigns, including the in-kind $884.20 contribution to Friends to Elect Mike Klund, $500 each to Citizens for Better Rockwood Schools, Scott Sifton for Senate and Citizens for Maria Chappelle-Nadal, $325 to Crestwood Board of Aldermen candidate Cindy Minor, $250 to Richmond Heights City Council candidate Megan Moylan and $125 to Citizens for Steve Stenger.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect recent campaign-finance report filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission.