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Donations Unlimited: Area companies impress with spending after campaign limits repealed

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Construction contractors. Attorneys. Bankers. Architects. Developers. Health care administrators. Manufacturers. And even a chiropractor.

This isn't the Yellow Pages, but rather the spectrum of Springfield businesspeople who have given more than $1,000 to the campaigns of gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof this year.

As the governor's race enters its final days, business owners are hoping the electorate will anoint their favored candidate. Each is passionate about different business-related or economic issues at play in the election, and some have committed big bucks to protect, advance or expand their interests.

Both candidates have received a healthy helping of corporate contributions from the Springfield area, with Hulshof pulling in several single donations of $5,000 or more in recent weeks. Nixon's corporate support locally has been steadier and more spread out among donors, according to campaign finance records maintained by the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Finance reports filed with the commission Oct. 15 show Nixon's campaign has amassed nearly $13.5 million in its march to Nov. 4, while Hulshof's fundraising efforts have brought in almost $7.1 million.

In addition to the fundraising disparity, Nixon is leading voter polls. Results of a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey released Oct. 17 had Nixon leading Hulshof by 19 percentage points. The attorney general has held a double-digit lead in every Rasmussen poll since February.

Flood gates opened

Big money from businesses and individual donors began to flow into the candidates' coffers Aug. 28, when a law repealing Missouri's campaign contribution limits took effect. That very day, Hulshof's campaign received a $5,000 boost from Mahaffey Enterprises President John Mahaffey, a Springfield Republican who owns a chain of radio stations in the tri-state area. And in the first half of September, Hulshof received two $10,000 contributions from local manufacturers Positronic Industries and Remanufacturing Sales Co., an extension of Jack Stack's SRC Holdings Corp. Earlier in the year, Custom Metalcraft Inc. owner Dwayne Holden gave $4,050 to Hulshof through his companies.

On Sept. 12, Springfield law firm Strong, Garner & Bauer PC augmented Nixon's campaign with $25,000, marking the single largest contribution from a local business to a candidate for governor. Attorney Steve Garner, one of the firm's partners, and wife Stacy also have contributed $2,700 to Nixon's effort.

"What I do involves protecting consumers, and Jay Nixon - for the last 16 years - has probably been one of the strongest attorneys general in the country for protecting consumers," said Garner, a trial attorney who also cited Nixon's support of the Nonpartisan Court Plan.

Hulshof's camp, however, has enjoyed a significant amount of financial support from Springfield-based Integrity Home Care and its owners, Phil Melugin, Paul Reinert and Greg Horton. The home health care agency contributed $15,000 to Hulshof while Melugin and Reinert each gave $1,350, the previous maximum individual donation amount. PPG Properties - organized by Horton - kicked in another $15,000 for the Republican contender.

Melugin said Integrity officials forged a relationship with Hulshof more than a year ago while visiting Washington, D.C., to promote the company's wireless telemonitoring technology as a way to control health care costs. Melugin said Hulshof later visited a patient's home in Columbia to learn more about telemonitoring and has since been a "tireless advocate" in pursuing additional funding for the technology.

Additionally, Melugin said that - despite his initial concerns about the impact on more than 2,500 Integrity patients - he believes controversial state Medicaid cuts enacted by Gov. Matt Blunt in 2005 were the "responsible thing to do." Hulshof has said he supported Blunt's decision, but Nixon has promised to restore the health care coverage to some 400,000 Missourians, if elected.

"(Hulshof) seems to understand that good fiscal management in our state will actually keep services available to all those who desperately need those services at the very bottom rung of the ladder versus spreading money around to attract votes," Melugin said.

Much of Nixon's financial support has come from nursing homes and assisted-care facilities, which Melugin said are Integrity's primary competitors.

Springfield-based Foster Health Care Group has contributed $9,525 to Nixon's campaign through its various assisted living subsidiaries. Owner Bill Foster, who described himself as a Republican, said the attorney general has been a strong advocate for nursing home residents.

"Even though I may be of one party, sometimes you see someone who is deserving or someone who is looking after the best interests of the people of Missouri, and doggone it, you just gotta go for those," he said.

An eclectic mix

Neither candidate seems to have cornered the market when it comes to certain sectors of Springfield's business community, although Nixon received numerous individual contributions from local attorneys.

Among the Springfield lawyers who gave the most to Nixon's campaign were Brad Bradshaw, $2,250, and Tom Carver, $2,000. Baird, Lightner, Millsap & Harpool PC partners Ron Baird, Douglas Harpool and John Lightner funneled a combined $4,500 to the Democratic candidate.

Nixon also tapped into Springfield's banking community, namely Great Southern and Mid-Missouri banks.

Great Southern and its employees' Good Government Committee each gave $1,350 to Nixon, as did bank President Joe Turner. Bank Chairman Bill Turner and wife Ann together contributed another $3,400, and three Turner family companies combined for $4,050 to Nixon's campaign. All told, Great Southern's impact was $11,400.

Employees at Mid-Missouri, another Springfield-based bank, also advanced Nixon's campaign to the tune of nearly $10,000 in individual contributions. Bank Chairman Lee Gilbert and Compliance Director Todd Dalzell were among the contributors.

Several local architects and construction contractors also threw their corporate support behind Nixon. Architecture firms Bates & Associates LLC and Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. each gave $1,350, as did Bates & Associates Principal Alan Bates and Bates Properties LLC, another company he owns.

And on the construction side, Killian Group of Cos. owner Bill Killian contributed $5,400 to Nixon through individual and corporate contributions. DCI Construction LLC owner Denton Cline did the same, committing a total of $4,050.

What about that chiropractor? H.R. Thompson, in the Chiropractic Arts Building on East Sunshine Street, swung his $1,350 Hulshof's way.[[In-content Ad]]

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