Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is sorry/not sorry for billing taxpayers for hotel stays that he made while attending tea party events, ballgames and society wingdings. Kinder says he did nothing wrong but he has promised to reimburse the state treasury out of his campaign fund.
Kinder's man-about-Missouri routine has opened up questions about his judgment. One of his campaign slogans is "Every dollar counts," which should be amended to read: "Unless I'm hanging in Kansas City with Karl Rove, in which case taxpayers should put me up at the InterContinental." But lurking in the background of the controversy is the inherent stupidity of the elected office that Kinder holds.
The role of second-in-command is a running joke in U.S. politics. Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt's last vice president, said it was his job to "go to weddings and funerals." (Roosevelt's death in 1945 raised the stakes, obviously.) The current V.P., Joe Biden, appeared to nod off during President Obama's recent speech about the budget.
In Missouri, the governor and the lieutenant governor do not run on the same ticket, a dynamic that removes the incentive for cooperation, especially when the officeholders belong to different political parties, as is the case today. Kinder appears to spend most of his time building support for a run at Gov. Jay Nixon's job and tweeting. Lord, does Kinder -- or #pdk, as he likes to hashtag himself -- love Twitter.
Conservative public-opinion researcher Patrick Tuohey thinks Missouri needs to rethink the position of lieutenant governor. He has written a smart piece suggesting that governors and lieutenant governors run on the same ticket. "This ensures a reasonable working relationship, protects continuity of government, and makes use of the office of lieutenant governor as an assistant governor," he writes.
Another option: Just eliminate the gig.
While Missourians would probably support reducing government by at least one politician, this is unlikely anytime soon. Any change would require a constitutional amendment, and there is no group willing to raise funds or work toward this change.
Further complicating matters, Tuohey notes, House Speaker Steve Tilley hopes to succeed Kinder, a "promotion" he can't earn if the position no longer exists.