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Holden still owes money for inauguration

March 01, 2001
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - After almost two months in office, Gov. Bob Holden still owes an estimated $320,000 for his January inauguration -- the most expensive in Missouri history.

Missouri for the 21st Century, a nonprofit organization, has received about $525,000 in donations from corporations, while the state appropriated $125,400 for the inauguration.

The event, which included four balls at the Capitol, cost almost $900,000.

"We're continuing to raise money to pay it off," Holden told reporters at the State Capitol. "When that's completed there will be a full accounting of all contributions and contributors."

Holden has been under fire for fulling disclosing the finances of his inaugural fund, which last month released a list that combined both actual contributions along with others that Holden's office has promised to give money.

Mark Grimm, the St. Louis attorney tapped to raise money for the committee, did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Among the 56 corporations that were listed as contributing more than $10,000 was AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, Firstar bank, Microsoft and Southwestern Bell.

Despite claims by Jerry Nachtigal, a spokesman for Holden, that the fund raising process had been transparent, at least one lawmaker voiced skepticism.

"I would ask him to open up his books and ask him where he spent all this money," said Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

Crowell said Holden had yet to provide a complete accounting as the figures were only estimates.

"I've seen the list and even on that list, there isn't a full accounting," Crowell said.

Crowell also expressed concern about Holden's fund raising efforts during the legislative session.

"I'm not saying whether that's right or wrong, but I do believe that all needs to be filtered through the public," Crowell said. "I think there definitely is a conflict of interest when the public doesn't know about it."

Nachtigal said raising money for the inauguration while the legislature is in session does not create any conflict of interest.

"Politicians -- it's a byproduct of the office they hold that they're continually raising money from various sources while in office," Nachtigal said. "I guarantee you that whoever is running for governor in 2004 on the Republican side is probably out raising money."

Crowell, a freshman legislator, recently introduced a bill that would provide for public review of contributions to future inaugural committees.

"For future inaugurations it should be spelled out to the future governor that if he or she has a lavish inauguration, the people are going to know who gives money and how much," he said. "Full disclosure is a minimum of what is expected."

Crowell said he hopes his bill will also encourage the governor to give a full accounting of his own inaugural fund raising activities.

The proposal would require a report of inaugural expenses and contributions to the Missouri Ethics Commission. It would be illegal to use inaugural funds for any other purpose.

A hearing on the bill has not been scheduled.