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Kinder plans to announce private legal team "within days" for health care fight

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 12, 2010 - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the only statewide Republican in the state Capitol, plans to announce within days the legal team he's hiring for his lawsuit challenging parts of the new federal health-care laws.

The suit should be filed in federal court by the end of the month, a spokesman said Monday.

Democrats, notably the allied blog site Firedupmissouri.com, have been raising questions about the private entity -- Health Care in Action LLC -- that is collecting private donations to pay for his legal fight.

The private LLC lists Kinder's official office as its address, an act that critics say improperly meshes his official post with politics. Spokesman Gary McElyea said that Kinder's office address had been used because "you have to have a contact mailing address" for corporate filings.

While maintaining that nothing was wrong with using Kinder's address, McElyea said the filing may be amended so that a different address is used.

The key point, said McElyea (who emphasized that as Kinder's official spokesman, he was commenting on such matters in response to a press inquiry), was that the lieutenant governor was committed to using private money for his legal fight against the federal health-care changes.

Since setting up the site last week, Kinder "has gotten dozens of donors already,'' McElyea said. He declined to say how much was raised, or from whom.

Using private money, the spokesman added, should "negate the argument'' of Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster, both Democrats, against filing a lawsuit against the federal health-care changes recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.

While in St. Louis last week, Nixon -- the state's former attorney general -- told reporters that he thought it would be a waste of state tax dollars to pursue any lawsuit against the federal government, as some states are doing, over the health-care changes.

"It's the law,'' Nixon said. The governor added that a more constructive approach would be to enact any federally mandated changes "efficiently and effectively."

The governor declined to comment specifically about Kinder's planned lawsuit.

Other critics, however, have challenged the legality of Kinder's planned action, and the figures that Kinder has used in his assertions that the health-care law will be too costly to states. (Nixon did observe that Missouri state government would assume no additional costs, until 2014, when the federal bill's Medicaid mandates go into effect.)

Kinder, said his spokesman, was filing the suit so that Missourians who opposed the federal changes could "have their voices heard, but not be a burden on Missouri taxpayers."

Kinder, by the way, is a lawyer -- a point that also has prompted some Democratic discussion because he's not representing himself and currently is not a member of the Missouri Bar.

McElyea said that Kinder let his Bar membership lapse years ago because he has not been practicing law during most of his years in public office. (He has held some public office since 1993.)

McElyea said that Kinder passed the Bar exam "on his first try'' in 1980, and could renew his membership at any time.

In any case, Kinder would prefer to use private lawyers with expertise in the legal arguments he plans to make against the health-care law, the spokesman said.

"We'll be focusing on a few things, especially the mandates, erosion of Medicare" and possible violation of the Commerce Clause in the federal Constitution, MecElyea said.

He added, "The litigation will be very succinct."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.