Candidates say they have no control over negative mailers | Local News |

2022-07-30 08:58:42 By :

The negative ad features Dan Shaul, Missouri Senate District 22 candidate, riding a tandem bicycle with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The negative ad features Dan Shaul, Missouri Senate District 22 candidate, riding a tandem bicycle with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It’s that season – the time when Election Day draws near and mailboxes are filled with campaign mailers from all sorts of candidates.

Those who have sorted through their daily delivery in recent weeks may have noticed a few that take a decidedly negative stance toward a particular candidate but don’t mention who voters should choose instead when they go to the polls next week.

If you’re interested enough to dig further, you’ll find a little box somewhere naming the political action committee that paid for the ad, along with the name of the PAC’s treasurer. That little piece of information is required under state election law but sheds little light on who’s actually throwing the shade.

In much of Jefferson County, the vitriolic mailers primarily have attacked two candidates – Dan Shaul, who’s running for the 22nd District seat in the Missouri Senate, and Paul Wieland, who is challenging Jefferson County Executive Dennis Gannon for the office.

Both are running in the Republican Party’s primary elections on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

The PAC underwriting the anti-Shaul mailers is Conservative Solutions for Missouri, which was formed in March 2019 to support one of Shaul’s opponents in the primary, Mary Elizabeth Coleman, according to reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The PAC paying for the anti-Wieland missives is a bit murkier. It’s called Let’s Go Brandon and was registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission in November 2021. It doesn’t appear to be affiliated with any particular candidate, and it’s address is a post office box in Kansas City.

Its treasurer, Chris Vas, did not return an email asking for information about the group.

What the candidates who benefit from the negative ads tell you is they have no control over the content.

By state law, candidates are prohibited from collaborating with PACs concerning ad content.

“I really don’t know much about them,” Coleman said when asked about the Conservative Solutions for Missouri PAC. “It’s illegal for candidates to collaborate with them, and I don’t want to end up in jail.”

Incumbent Dennis Gannon, who’s opposing Wieland for County Executive, said he has no knowledge about the Let’s Go Brandon PAC other than what’s on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

“I don’t know anything about who runs that group, I don’t know anything about the people who give them money and I’ve never talked with anyone from that group,” he said. “They don’t even send me their mailers. I only know about them when people take pictures of them and send them to me. Even the PAC that supports me (Jefferson County Conservatives), I’m only allowed to call them up and suggest they contribute to my campaign fund. That’s the extent of it.”

According to the most recent report the Let’s Go Brandon PAC filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, it had spent $32,206 on the mailed pieces attacking Wieland.

The Conservative Solutions for Missouri PAC hasn’t filed a report that specifically states how much has been spent on negative ads targeting Shaul.

Shaul said he thought the ads targeting him were ridiculous.

“I think they’re over the top,” Shaul said of the mailings that paint him as beholden to lobbyists and special interests.

One recent mailing referred to his work as chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, which proposed a Congressional redistricting map that would have maintained the status quo of six Republican and two Democratic seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. A group of hard-line Republican leaders in the Senate, known as the Conservative Caucus, blocked a vote on another map that was different from the one Shaul’s committee proposed but maintained the 6-2 makeup of seats until the day before the General Assembly adjourned but approved it in the end.

The mailing about the Congressional map asserts that Shaul “created the ‘Pelosi map,’” a reference to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. The ad also features an obviously Photoshopped image of Pelosi and very fit Shaul riding a tandem bicycle in front of the U.S. Capitol.

“I’ve looked at them all,” Shaul said of the mailings. “Some of them have a bad picture of me, one was not bad at all and the one on the bike, well, they made me as slim as could be. My wife saw that and suggested that we get our own tandem bicycle.

“But I can tell you, despite what that picture would have you believe, I’ve never met Nancy Pelosi. I’ve never been in her presence. I don’t have her on speed dial. If I ever did have to call her, I would have to look up her phone number, the same as the rest of us.”

Shaul said he’s surprised the PAC hasn’t also gone after Jeff Roorda, another candidate in the four-candidate District 22 campaign, along with Shane Roden.

Wieland said he doesn’t know much about the motives behind the Let’s Go Brandon PAC campaign against him.

That PAC primarily has been funded by a $75,000 contribution from the Herzog Contracting Corp. in St. Joseph and a $71,000 donation from the Ketchmark and McCreight law firm in Leawood, Kan.

Both companies have been large donors to political campaigns.

“Herzog has usually been a big player in the right-to-work issue,” Wieland said. “The law firm also is a big player in Missouri politics. They even gave me money one year.

“But why they’re liking Dennis and disliking me, I’m not completely clear on that point.”

He said he might have ruffled some of the wrong feathers during his 16 years serving in the Missouri Legislature.

Wieland also said campaign consulting firms owned by David Barklage that Wieland’s used in the past are now consulting for Gannon’s campaign.

Wieland said he’s managing his own campaign this year.

“They’re (Barklage’s firms) very good at going out and finding money for their clients,” Wieland said. “But I know their strategy.”

Wieland said he does not plan to counter the Let’s Go Brandon campaign with a negative one of his own and hopes that a PAC associated with him, Jeffco Now, does not either.

“I’m not doing anything very negative on Dennis,” Wieland said. “There will be one coming out about him wanting to raise taxes that’s fact-based.”

The candidates targeted in the negative mailers, as well as the beneficiaries of the relatively anonymous attack pieces, say the ads may do more harm than good.

Coleman said she’s not happy when the mail comes with new messages from the Conservative Solutions for Missouri attacking Shaul.

“They’re really awful,” she said. “That’s not who I am. I didn’t think the one with the bicycle was funny at all. I want to tell people about why I’m the best conservative candidate in the race, not take someone else down. I certainly wish this system didn’t work this way (where a candidate has no control over an associated PAC). But I really hope the voters understand that I have no control over what they send out, and in fact, it’s illegal for me to try to control them.”

Shaul said as he’s been campaigning, he’s heard a lot of comments about the PAC pieces.

“What I’ve heard from people I’ve talked with door-to-door is that they’re having the opposite effect. People say they’ll see them and laugh, especially concerning redistricting,” he said. “People in Jefferson County tell me they’re happy the way that turned out, as we’re not connected to a St. Louis County Congressional district. I think this all comes down to sour grapes. But while these mailed pieces certainly are disappointing, at the end of the day, if we’re successful at the end, I’m going to feel good.”

Shaul conceded that his campaign has issued a couple of mailers that attack Coleman.

“But it’s my campaign fund (Friends of Shaul) that’s putting them out,” Shaul said. “My name is on them. You know who they’re coming from.”

Wieland said he doesn’t believe the Let’s Go Brandon PAC mailings will do much good against him.

“I’ve been in politics long enough to know that everybody has different strategies. (Negative mailings) might have an effect on someone who doesn’t know you, but if I do my job and provide good service for my constituents on a year-round basis, what people see in a mailing two weeks before an election isn’t going to cancel that out. If you don’t know me, I guess those negative things can have an effect.”

Gannon said he’s not a fan of the negative mailers that ostensibly have been sent out on his behalf.

“I don’t know who these guys (Let’s Go Brandon PAC) are and I don’t approve of what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t control their message, but I control mine, and that’s to put out positive information on myself and let the voters make their choice. But I don’t want or need dark PAC money to do that. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole. My approach is exactly opposite of what they’re doing.”

Coleman said one of the hardest parts of running for office is giving up control of your reputation.

“People who support you, as well as people who oppose you, can both say things that you wish they wouldn’t, and some of those things aren’t true,” she said.

Political action committees (PACs) are attempting to influence a couple of campaigns in Jefferson County in the Aug. 2 primary election, targeting a couple of candidates while not endorsing any opponent.

Here’s a breakdown of the finances, as reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission, on each candidate and the associated PACs in those two races.

The numbers are from the July 15 report, which covers expenses and income through July 1 and includes figures for the primary election cycle.

Dennis Gannon campaign fund (Gannon for Jefferson County): Receipts $50,720. Expenditures: $26,411.69.

Jefferson County Conservatives PAC, which supports Gannon: Receipts $2,450. Expenditures: $0.

Paul Wieland campaign fund (Wieland Now): Receipts $163,332.80. Expenditures: $122,108.18.

Jeffco Now PAC, which supports Wieland: Receipts: $162,694.39. Expenditures: $89,197.14.

Let’s Go Brandon PAC (unaffiliated PAC that is campaigning against Wieland): Receipts $146,100. Expenditures: $124,025.50 (figures through July 22).

Mary Elizabeth Coleman campaign fund (Friends of Mary Elizabeth Coleman): Receipts: $142,532.01. Expenditures: $117,661.57.

Conservative Solutions for Missouri PAC, which supports Coleman: Receipts: $94,480. Expenditures: $452.14.

Dan Shaul campaign fund (Friends of Shaul): Receipts: $99,553.14. Expenditures: $57,592.27.

Jeff Roorda campaign fund (Roorda for Senate): Receipts: $262,535.97. Expenditures: $61,419.64.

Shane Roden campaign fund (Citizens for Shane Roden): Receipts: $4,859. Expenditures: $4,236.

Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.

Error! There was an error processing your request.

Classifieds  from Leader Publications

Coronavirus Updates from Leader Publications

Would you like to receive our news updates? Signup today!

Would you like to receive a list of local obituaries each day? Signup today.