Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Former Jackson County Democratic boss Stephen Bough claims that Jacob Turk is violating election law

Stephen Bough claims that Jacob Turk is violating election law.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Jacob Turk says FEC complaints are unnecessary distractions.
  • Jacob Turk says FEC complaints are unnecessary distractions.
The former chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Committee Stephen Bough likes to document things. On a desk in his Westport law office sits a hefty, red three-ring binder filled with neatly organized complaints against Republican 5th District congressional candidate Jacob Turk.

In June, Bough sent a copy of the binder to the Federal Election Commission. He claims that its contents document a history of Turk’s violating election law in his current and his 2010 campaigns to unseat Emanuel Cleaver II.

“There can be no doubt that I am an enormous fan of Congressman Cleaver,” Bough tells The Pitch. So far, Bough has donated $3,000 to Cleaver’s 2012 campaign. “I’ve had events at my home. I’m often listed as one of his donors. Every time I make a donation, he has to list it,” he says. “And that’s my same gripe against Turk. For years, he just slanders a wonderful congressman, and he doesn’t play by the rules.”

Pointing to his binder, with its 28 exhibits, color photos and screen captures, Bough adds, “The reason I put this together is because the way Mr. Turk runs his campaigns is not the way we should do things.”

This isn’t Bough’s first missive to the FEC regarding Turk. In 2008, Bough complained that Turk was benefiting from billboard advertisements that stayed up long after his contract for the boards expired. The FEC found in Turk’s favor in that case.

This time, Bough sounds confident that he has nailed Turk.

“I think it’s not a Republican-Democrat thing,” Bough says. “I think it’s a Turk thing. I believe most of the Republicans want to play by the rules and do play by the rules when it comes to these campaigns. But I just don’t see Mr. Turk making an effort to comply with each and every rule.”

Bough admits that the alleged violations are far from sexy or scandalous. In them, he argues that Turk’s letterhead and ads that read “Turk U.S. Congress” violate a regulation that requires candidates to clearly identify themselves as running for office rather than as elected officials. He also alleges that anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life coordinated with Turk by running a 2010 print ad in The Catholic Key that looked and read similar to Turk’s campaign website. And he says Turk hasn’t put the required box around the disclosure of who paid for his print ads and billboards.

“How these billboards look, I believe they truly are a technical violation of the FEC rules,” says Bough, who was appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority last summer. “But again, at the end of the day, it just shows that this man has no respect for compliance with those rules.”

Turk, who is widely seen as unthreatening in the race, has failed to come close to unseating Cleaver in three previous campaigns. However, Bough says he hopes that the FEC will hit Turk with a citation. Bough hasn’t heard from the FEC since he filed the complaint.

Turk says his high mileage reimbursements are due to the 5th districts new shape.
  • Turk says his high mileage reimbursements are due to the 5th district's new shape.
The most curious objection that Bough raises concerns Turk’s reimbursing himself and his wife for mileage. According to a campaign disclosure from the first of the year through September 30, Turk has repaid himself $6,708 for mileage and travel. His wife, Donna, was given $5,428 in mileage reimbursement. In the FEC complaint, Bough points out that these numbers appear to be unusually high. Using the federal government’s rate of 55.5 cents per mile, that equates to 21,866 miles traveled. (Turk wasn’t nominated by Republicans until August.)

Cleaver’s campaign expenditures included thousands of dollars in airfare but didn’t list any mileage for either himself or his wife.

The FEC Press Office says it doesn’t comment on complaints it’s investigating, and Turk has refused to address the complaints (or even say if he has read them), citing laws about keeping pending complaints confidential. But Turk says filing these kinds of complaints is poor politics.

“It’s just a heinous thing to do,” Turk tells The Pitch. “We should be talking about issues.”

Although Turk wouldn’t discuss the current complaint, he finds vindication in the FEC’s ruling on the 2008 billboard complaint filed by Bough.

“This one in ’08, it was a big fishing expedition,” Turk says. “It’s unfortunate that in American politics, things like this are done completely without merit. That’s a distraction to voters. And it takes time away from a campaign to answer these.”

Turk, whose Lee’s Summit home was carved out of the 5th District during redistricting earlier this year, did address the mileage numbers with The Pitch but did so only because they are publicly available in FEC filings.

“We have driven the wheels off our car to go and meet people across this now far-flung district that Emanuel Cleaver used his political capital to get drawn,” Turk says.

Since the Show-Me State was redistricted, the 5th District has gone from measuring about 25 miles from west to east at its widest point to just more than 100 miles wide.

In 2010, Turk pulled in 44.2 percent of the vote and still lost by a little more than nine points. As his fourth bid for Congress wraps up, Turk says he’s feeling confident that this is his year.

“I feel good about where we are,” Turk says.

But will he run a fifth time if Cleaver beats him again?

“I don’t know,” he says with a slightly weary-sounding sigh.

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