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Missouri's 48-hour rule prompts questions about Corrigan, Dooley finance reports

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 27, 2010 - With the abolition of Missouri's campaign donation limits, candidates' 48-hour reports have become favorite reading material for political activists and the press.

Contributions of $5,001 or higher are to be reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission within 48 hours of their receipt. (Some candidates file them for $5,000 donations as well.) Such large donations are closely scrutinized, particularly if they come from major figures or special-interest groups.

So it should come as no surprise that sparring has erupted over 48-hour reports filed, or not filed, by the two announced candidates for St. Louis County Executive: Democratic incumbent Charlie Dooley and Republican Bill Corrigan.

The reports are a hot topic, in part, because both camps have touted their own ethics, and questioned those of their rival.

This week, Corrigan's campaign quietly amended his latest campaign-finance report after the Beacon inquired about a $10,000 donation that appeared not to have been reported earlier under the 48-hour rule.

The donation in question initially was reported as $10,000 from Ladue retiree Frank Bick on Nov. 2, which would have prompted a 48-hour report by Nov. 4. Because no 48-hour report was filed, it was first noted on Corrigan's latest campaign-finance report, filed Jan. 15.

After the Beacon asked Monday about the donation, Corrigan's campaign amended his report on Tuesday to show that it was $5,000 apiece from Bick and his wife, Patricia Bick. That amount would not need to be reported within 48 hours.

A Corrigan spokeswoman blamed a bookkeeping/recording error, and said that the donation had always been intended to come from the husband and wife, which was why no 48-hour report was filed in November.

Dooley campaign spokeswoman Katie Jamboretz questioned that explanation. "This looks like a coverup," she said.

But the Dooley camp is dealing with its own 48-hour questions. At least four large donations made to Dooley since June were reported under the 48-hour rule -- but the dates are different from those listed on the candidate's quarterly reports.

For example:

Corporate donor Simmons, Browder contributed $10,000 to Dooley’s re-election campaign. Dooley’s campaign filed a 48-Hour notice stating it was donated on Dec. 4.

However, Dooley’s quarterly report filed Jan. 15 said the donation was dated Nov. 20. If the latter is the case, the contribution's 48-hour report should have been filed Nov. 22.

The Dooley campaign replied today that in each of the four cases, the quarterly report's date for the contribution was the date listed on the check. The 48-hour reports referred to the dates received by the campaign.

To back up its claim, the campaign provided the Beacon with copies of each check, back and front. The fronts listed the dates the checks were written by the donors, which were the same dates listed in the quarterly reports. The checks' backs listed the dates received and cashed, which backed up the dates on the 48-hour reports.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.