A cartoon, a consent order, and a Branson Landing “Bingo”

On Nov. 24, 2004, the Missouri Ethics Commission filed a “Consent Order” in the case of the “Missouri Ethics Commission v. Rick Huffman.” In the order Huffman stipulated that there was probable cause to determine that he had violated subsection 130.031.8 of the Missouri Revised Statutes during the “2003 municipal election cycle.”

The “2003 municipal election cycle referred to, was the Branson municipal election for mayor and the board of aldermen. Specifically, the consent order states that he “published, circulated, or distributed printed matter relative to a candidate for public office but did not identify on the printed matter in a clear and conspicuous manner who paid for the printed matter with the words ‘Paid for by’ following the proper identification of who paid for the printed matter.”

“Seagull, was that the cartoon that was anonymously mailed out to everyone just before the election that a lot of people believed would determine the fate of Branson Landing and the convention center?”

“That’s the one.”

The consent order states that “Rick Huffman agrees that he will comply with all relevant sections of” Missouri’s election laws. It further states that Huffman “agrees to pay a fee of one thousand dollars…..to the Missouri Ethics Commission.”

“Hey Seagull isn’t Huffman one of the principals in the company that was hired by the city to develop Branson Landing

and build the convention center?”

“He sure is.”

“How much money is involved in the Branson Landing project?”

“The project is estimated to cost in excess of $300 million.”

“Wow, then there’s a pretty good chance that he will get his one thousand dollars back and then some.”

“Like, duh!”

In the opinion of an Ole Seagull, the actions of the Missouri Ethics Commission, in this case, serve as the poster child for the impotency of Missouri’s election laws. If this is the extent of the deterrent value of Missouri’s laws to ensure fair elections why bother? From a pure business expense point of view and potential reward risk ratio etc., who wouldn’t risk a thousand to save or gain millions?

Someone much wiser than an Ole Seagull once said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” The sad thing is that, in terms of affecting the outcome of the election and the totality of the Branson Landing and the convention center, the printed matter that was distributed is “a very little thing” but the potential it bodes represents “much.”

Could this case, and what it represents, cause a reasonable person to wonder if there were other laws that were stretched or broken to get the Branson Landing project off the ground? Does it give pause to wonder if there is the possibility that other laws, building codes, etc. could be compromised or violated as the project is being built?

“Come on Seagull, we got the city enforcing their codes and ordinances, don’t we?”

“Sure and we had the Missouri Ethics Commission enforcing the states election laws.

“But, what they did was too little too late.”


About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
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