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Kinder insisted that he had done nothing wrong but, to put the story behind him, said he would repay all of the money.
"I seek to move this nimbus off the horizon, and let's get to the real issues that concern this state," he said.
But the nimbus sat, and Kinder's own issues deepened and multiplied. As April ended, Kinder announced that he would pay back even more to the state — $52,000 total — out of his own pocket. During the same week, it emerged that Kinder's office calendar, which could verify whether his hotel stays had been for official or for personal reasons, was not lost, as his staff had claimed. Rather, it had been saved all along with the Office of Administration, one floor below Kinder's office in the Statehouse.(Editor's note, January 19, 2011: After this story's publication, Kinder's office contacted The Pitch to say that the Office of Administration's version of Kinder's calendar is a re-creation with duplicate entries that render verification of Kinder's schedule impossible.)
Also that week, Kinder left the keys to his Ford Flex in the ignition while the car was parked at his Cape Girardeau home. Thieves stole the vehicle, crashed it into a gun store and then set it on fire.
In The Kansas City Star at the end of that week, Steve Kraske wrote what many political insiders were thinking: "Peter Kinder surely looked into the mirror at some point last week and questioned the wisdom of his birth."
Kinder was born in Cape Girardeau in 1954, the third of four boys. His father, a pediatrician, was not political; his father's attorney and best friend, Rush Limbaugh Jr., was. Kinder has publicly credited "Mr. Rush" and his sons, among them radio host Rush Limbaugh III, with sparking his interest in politics.
"I began to get interested in this business ... in the early primary grades," Kinder said in his 2008 Lincoln Days speech. "The campaign was the Goldwater campaign, and I remember hearing Mr. Rush hold forth about it. And I can tell you that when you listen to his son, I can hear the old man booming out through his son, three hours a day, five days a week. It had a great impression on me."
At 10 years of age, Kinder began stuffing envelopes after school at Republican headquarters, where Millie Limbaugh, Rush III's mother, was in charge.
In 1972, when Kinder was 17 and a student at Central High School in Cape Girardeau, he entered one of his first political contests: a mock election organized by a few teachers to inform students about voting. The campaign was limited to a five-minute speech, and Kinder's platform was constrained by the candidate he was portraying: the incumbent president.
With 119 of the 215 votes cast, Kinder won the fake election — and, in an irony apparent only now, did so with the last name "Nixon."
Less than a decade later, in 1981, he was managing Republican Bill Emerson's first congressional campaign and met David Barklage, who also worked for the campaign. The two became friends and worked together again beginning in 2000, when Kinder served as president pro tem of the Missouri Senate. Barklage still consults for Kinder.
When they first met, Barklage says, the future lieutenant governor loved discussing policy and shied from the side of politics that rewards extroversion. Barklage says Kinder didn't begin to seriously consider becoming a politician until the early 1990s, when he ran for a seat in the state Senate and won.
"I don't find him to be particularly ambitious," Barklage says of Kinder. "He lacks a politician's ambition, but he has a great deal of intensity, and he's the most enthusiastic person in the room."