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Matt Blunt forgives $300,000 loan made in 2008 to Kinder

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 30, 2010 - The Missouri Ethics Commission was to be officially informed today what many political activists had suspected for some time: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder  doesn't have to repay the $300,000 loan he received right before the 2008 election from then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a fellow Republican who had a fat campaign bank account and wasn't running for re-election.

But Kinder's campaign-finance lawyer, Jared Craighead, denies that forgiving the loan was part of a rumored deal that prompted Kinder in February 2008 to announce he was dropping his own bid that year for governor, and was running for re-election instead.

Kinder's decision back then helped boost the fortunes of party leaders' preferred gubernatorial hopeful, Kenny Hulshof, although the latter still faced a stiff primary (against Sarah Steelman) and lost badly in November 2008 to Democrat Jay Nixon.

Kinder, Hulshof and Steelman had launched rival quests for governor after Blunt's surprise announcement in late January 2008 that he wasn't running for re-election that fall. The one-term governor now sits on various corporate boards and has maintained a low public profile -- even during his father's victorious bid this year for the U.S. Senate.

Craighead, who was the Missouri Republican Party's executive director in 2008, said today that Blunt's then-loan "was Matt being helpful to Peter to make sure he had the resources to be successful (in his re-election bid). It had nothing to do with the contest for governor."

The loan was made just days before the November 2008 election, Craighead said. Blunt could have made it a direct contribution at the time, because Missouri's campaign donation limits had been eliminated a year earlier.

Still, Craighead said Kinder just learned on Wednesday that the loan was now a gift. That's when Kinder's campaign received a letter from the former governor's brother, Andy Blunt, on behalf of Blunt's now-defunct campaign committee. The Associated Press first reported about the letter earlier Thursday.

Kinder is soon expected to announce a 2012 bid for governor against Democratic incumbent Nixon. His latest campaign report on Oct. 15 showed Kinder with $372,967 in the bank (not counting the $300,000 loan now gift), compared to $1.07 million for Nixon. The latter's tally doesn't take into account close to $500,000 that Nixon has taken in since then.

Kinder's smaller bank account was due, in part, to more than $200,000 that his campaign donated to fellow Republican Tom Schweich's successful quest for state auditor. That aid was rumored to be tied to Schweich's earlier decision to drop his bid for the U.S. Senate last spring against fellow Republican Roy Blunt, father of Matt Blunt and now the state's U.S. senator-elect. Schweich, Kinder and the elder Blunt have denied any sort of deal.

In any case, Nixon's hefty financial edge likely makes Kinder even more grateful to Matt Blunt for his belated gift.