Thursday, August 29, 2013

Civic Council chips in $100,000 for campaign to promote Jackson County research tax

Posted by on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 11:12 AM

The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City is a chief advocate, and so far primary funder, of an upcoming sales-tax measure in Jackson County to raise money for medical translational research.

The Civic Council on August 10 cut a $100,000 check to the Committee for Research Treatments and Cures, which reflects almost all the money the committee has received, according to current filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Lockton Companies, an independent insurance brokerage based on the Country Club Plaza, on August 20 donated $10,000, representing the rest of the donations for the pro-tax campaign on record so far.

The Committee for Research Treatments and Cures was established on August 8, the same day that leaders from Children's Mercy Hospital, St. Luke's Health System, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute gathered to announce their pursuit of a half-cent sales-tax increase that would raise $800 million (higher if you count future inflation) over 20 years to fund translational research at each of those four institutions. Children's Mercy is the biggest financial beneficiary of the tax, expected to draw half of the $40 million that the tax would raise annually.

An election on the matter will go before Jackson County voters on November 5, making it a quick turnaround from the widespread public announcement to the day voters make their decision. It will be the only matter on the ballot that day, except for Blue Springs voters who also have to decide about a half-cent sales-tax increase of their own to fund the city's parks and recreation program. If approved, the half-cent sales tax would bump Jackson County's 8.35 percent base sales-tax rate up to 8.85 percent

The Civic Council is not a household name to the average Kansas City resident, but it amounts to an influential presence in local politics. Its board is made up of the city's top businesspeople and has included the likes of Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Burns & McDonnell CEO Greg Graves, local U.S. Bank president Mark Jorgenson and J.E. Dunn Construction CEO Terry Dunn, to name a very few. Its current chairman is Don Hall Jr., president and CEO of Hallmark Cards.

The nonprofit Civic Council draws its revenue almost entirely from contributions made by local businesspeople. In 2011, the most recent tax record for the organization readily available on the Internet, the Civic Council drew $2.1 million in revenue. It's based out of One Kansas City Place at 1200 Main but has only a few employees.

The Civic Council's purse strings are dwarfing the opposition to the tax thus far. Springfield personal injury attorney Brad Bradshaw on Wednesday wrote a $17,000 check to Citizens for Responsible Research, a political action committee he started himself. He wants a statewide vote for medical research some time off in the future and sees the Jackson County vote as a possible hindrance to that effort. That $17,000 contribution, plus an earlier $33,000 donation (again from Bradshaw), makes up the entirety of Citizens for Responsible Research's war chest on record to this point.

Meanwhile, retired Kansas City Star editor Jim Fitzpatrick registered his own committee this week. Fitzpatrick told The Pitch earlier this week that, so far, the committee is running on $500 that he donated to it.

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