It’s that season—the time when election day draws near and mailboxes are filled with campaign mailers from all kinds of candidates.
Those who have sorted through their daily deliveries in recent weeks may have noticed some who take a decidedly negative attitude toward a particular candidate, but do not mention that voters will be elected next week. Which one should I choose instead of going in?
If you’re interested enough to dig further, you’ll find a little box bearing the name of 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 shadows.
In much of Jefferson County, vitriol mailers have primarily attacked two candidates—Dan Shawl, who is running for the 22nd district seat in the Missouri Senate, and Paul Welland, who is running for the office of Jefferson County Executive Dennis. Challenging Gannon.
Both are running in the Republican primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
According to reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the PAC has underwritten Conservative Solutions for Missouri to anti-Scholl mailers, which were created to support one of Shawl’s opponents, Mary Elizabeth Coleman, in the March 2019 primary .
What PAC pays for Wiiland anti-missiles is a bit unclear. It is called Let’s Go Brandon and was registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission in November 2021. It does not appear to be affiliated with any particular candidate, and its address is a post office box in Kansas City.
Its treasurer Chris Vaas did not return an email seeking information about the group.
no control over pac
Candidates who benefit from negative ads let you know that they have no control over the content.
As per state law, candidates are prohibited from cooperating with the PAC regarding advertisement material.
“I really don’t know much about them,” Coleman said when asked about Conservative Solutions for the Missouri PAC. “It’s illegal for candidates to cooperate with them, and I don’t want to end up in jail.”
Incumbent Dennis Gannon, Wiiland’s opposition to county executive, said he had no information about the Let’s Go Brandon PAC other than 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 haven’t spoken to anyone in that group,” he said. “They don’t even send me their mailers. I come to know about them only when people take their pictures and send them to me. Even the PACs that support me (the Jefferson County Conservatives) are only allowed to call them and suggest that they contribute to my campaign fund. That’s the limit of it.”
According to the most recent report from Let’s Go Brandon Pac, filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, it spent $32,206 on the mailed pieces that attacked Wieland.
Conservative Solutions for the Missouri PAC has not filed a report that specifically states how much has been spent on negative ads targeting Shawl.
to be in the crosshairs
Shawl said he thought the ads targeting him were ridiculous.
“I think they are over the top,” Shawl said of the mailings that portray him as a lobbyist and devotee to special interests.
A recent mailing referred to his work as chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, which proposed a congressional redistribution map that maintained the status quo of six Republican and two Democratic seats in the US House of Representatives. A group of staunch Republican leaders in the Senate, known as the Conservative Caucus, blocked a vote on another map, different from the one proposed by Shawl’s committee, but with the adjournment of the general assembly. Maintained 6-2 make-up of seats till the day before. But in the end it was approved.
The mailings about the Congressional map claimed that Shawl created “the ‘Pelosi map’,” in reference to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. The ad also featured an apparently photoshopped image of Pelosi and a very fit shawl riding a tandem bicycle in front of the US Capitol.
“I’ve seen them all,” Saul said of Melling. “Some of them have a bad picture of me, one was not bad at all and one was on a bike, well, they made me as skinny as I could. My wife saw this and suggested that we should get our own tandem bicycle.
“But I can tell you, despite that photo you’ll 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 had to call her, So I have to see his phone number, as do the rest of us.”
Shawl said he’s surprised the PAC hasn’t even gone with Shane Roden in the four-candidate District 22 campaign behind another candidate, Jeff Roorda.
Wieland said he did not know much about the motives behind the Let’s Go Brandon Pac campaign against him.
That PAC is funded primarily by a $75,000 contribution from Herzog Contracting Corp in St. Joseph and a $71,000 donation from the Ketchmark and McCreight law firm in Leewood, Kan.
Both companies have been major donors to political campaigns.
“Herzog has generally been a big player in the right-to-work issue,” Weiland said. “The law firm is also a big player in Missouri politics. They even gave me money for a year.
“But why they’re liking Denise and disliking me, I’m not entirely clear at that point.”
He said he must have made some mistakes during his 16-year tenure in the Missouri Legislature.
Wiiland also said that David Barclays-owned campaign consulting firms that Wieland used in the past are now consulting for Gannon’s campaign.
Wieland said he is managing his own campaign this year.
“They (Barclays’s firm) are very good at going out and finding money for their customers,” Weiland said. “But I know their strategy.”
Wiiland said that he does not plan to counter the Let’s Go Brandon campaign with his own negative campaign and hopes that a PAC associated with him, Jeffco Now, does not either.
“I’m not doing anything very negative on Dennis,” Wieland said. “A man who wants to raise fact-based taxes will come out about him.”
negative can be positive
Negative mailers include targeted candidates as well as the beneficiaries of the relatively anonymous attack, saying that the ads can do more harm than good.
Coleman said he is not happy when the mail arrives with new messages attacking Shawl of Conservative Solutions for Missouri.
“They’re really terrible,” she said. “I’m not who I am. I didn’t think someone with a bicycle was funny. I want to tell people about why I’m the best conservative candidate in the race, not let anyone else down. I definitely I don’t want this system to work this way (where a candidate has no control over the respective PAC). But I really hope that voters will understand that I have no control over what they send, and in fact In the U.S., it is illegal for me to try to control them.”
Shawl said that when he’s campaigning, he’s heard a lot of comments about PAC pieces.
“What I have heard from people I have spoken to from house to house is that they are having the opposite effect. People say they will look at him and laugh, especially with regard to redistribution,” he said. “People in Jefferson County tell me they’re happy the way we are, because we’re not affiliated with the St. Louis County Congressional District. I think it all comes down to sour grapes. But these mailed The pieces gone are definitely disappointing, at the end of the day, if we succeed in the end, I would feel good.”
Shawl acknowledged that his campaign had issued some mailers attacking Coleman.
“But it’s my campaign fund (Friends of Shawl) that is driving them out,” Shawl said. “My name is on them. You know who they’re coming from.”
Weiland said he didn’t believe Let’s Go Brandon Pac Melling would do very well against him.
“I’ve been in politics long enough to learn that everyone has different strategies. (Negative mailings) can make an impact on someone who doesn’t know you, but if I do my job and years I provide good service for my constituents on a full basis, so what do people see in the mailing two weeks before the election. I’m not going to cancel it. If you don’t know me, I think those negative things may have an effect.”
Gannon said that he is not a fan of negative mailers that have apparently been sent 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 is to give positive information about myself and let the voters make their choice. But I don’t need PAC’s black money to do that. I must. I won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. My approach is the exact opposite of what they’re doing.”
Coleman said that one of the hardest parts of running for office is giving up control of your reputation.
“People who support you, as well as those who oppose you, can both say things you wish they wouldn’t, and some of those things just aren’t true,” she said.
money in, money out
Political Action Committees (PACs) are attempting to influence some campaigns in Jefferson County in the August 2 primary election, targeting some candidates while not supporting any opponent.
As reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission, here’s an analysis of the finances on each candidate and the respective PACs in those two races.
These figures are from the July 15 report, which covers spending and income up to July 1 and includes data for the primary election cycle.
Jefferson County Executive
Dennis Gannon Campaign Fund (Gannon for Jefferson County): $50,720 receipts. Expense: $26,411.69.
Jefferson County Conservative PAC, which supports Gannon: $2,450 Receipts. Expense: $0.
Paul Wayland Campaign Fund (Wayland Now): $163,332.80 Receipts. Expenses: $122,108.18.
Jeffco Now Pac, which supports Wiiland: Receipts: $162,694.39. Expenses: $89,197.14.
Let’s Go Brandon Pac (unaffiliated PAC that Wayland is campaigning against): $146,100 receipts. Expenses: $124,025.50 (Figures as of July 22).
Missouri Senate District 22
Mary Elizabeth Coleman Campaign Fund (Friends of Mary Elizabeth Coleman): Receipts: $142,532.01. Expenses: $117,661.57.
Conservative solution for the Missouri PAC, which Coleman supports: Receipts: $94,480. Expense: $452.14.
Dan Shawl Campaign Fund (Friends of Shawl): Receipts: $99,553.14. Expenses: $57,592.27.
Jeff Rurda Campaign Fund (Rurda to Senate): Receipts: $262,535.97. Expense: $61,419.64.
Shane Roden Campaign Fund (Citizens for Shane Roden): Receipts: $4,859. Expenses: $4,236.