Investigation reveals developer was behind 2003 election mailer

An investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission into campaign advertising for the April 8, 2003 Branson municipal election has resulted in a $1,000 fine for a Branson developer.

The Missouri Ethics Commission, who closed the case Dec. 16, found that Rick Huffman of Branson “published, circulated or distributed printed matter relative to a candidate for public office but did not identify on that printed matter in a clear and conspicuous manner who paid for the printed matter with the words “paid for by” following the identification of who paid for the printed matter.”

Commission Senior Field Investigator Michael Brooks visited Branson in the months following the election questioning business owners and other individuals about a mailer that was sent out to all registered voters by an organization known only as “Citizens for Truth.”

The mailer personally attacked then mayoral candidate Ray Wilson and his committee. A cartoon depicting Wilson as being nothing more than a puppet was also featured on the piece. The printed material had no disclaimer on it noting who paid for the mailer.

Missouri law states any campaign advertising must have the words “paid for by” followed by the name of the person, committee or corporation paying for the election material.

Wilson, who took a position against Branson Landing, which Huffman and the City of Branson are developing, lost the election to incumbent Lou Schaefer.

Wilson later died in 2003 of an apparent heart attack. Wilson’s son, Ryan, said his father would be relieved to know that the truth came out. “I am glad (the commission) found out who was responsible for the mailer,” he said. “I know dad would be happy too. It doesn’t matter if Huffman paid for it, drew it, thought of it or hired somebody, he is guilty of doing it and knew what was being sent out.

“It’s a shame that Huffman is representing Branson through Branson Landing and did this childish act,” Ryan Wilson added. “It makes Branson look bad.”

Huffman said he only paid for the printed material’s postage. “We were supporting Lou Schaefer in the election and we made a contribution to the campaign,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Huffman said he is under a confidentiality agreement with the Missouri Ethics Commission and can not name other people involved in the creation and distribution of the mailer.

This entry was posted in Local News. Bookmark the permalink.