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Koster snags big money and big names -- Gephardt and Sinquefield

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept 14, 2012 - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster got two huge checks this week -- $250,000 apiece – from the national Democratic Attorneys General Association and from semi-retired financier Rex Sinquefield.

The association contribution is a sign that his pre-2007 status as a Republican isn’t hurting him among national Democrats.

The donation from Sinquefield indicates that he has retained some old GOP ties, since Sinquefield -- an advocate of school vouchers and an opponent of income taxes -- generally has donated to Republicans. (Other Democrats who have received Sinquefield's largesse include St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.)

Sinquefield was a major donor to Koster in his 2008 bid for attorney general.

Koster also got a smaller, but arguably equally significant boost, from a huge name in Missouri politics – retired U.S. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis.

Gephardt was the top Democrat in the U.S. House for much of the 1990s and made two unsuccessful bids -- 1988 and 2004 -- for the White House.

Gephardt, who now heads up a nationally prominent consulting firm, gave $10,000 to Koster on Thursday, the same day the national attorneys general group and Sinquefield forwarded their large contributions. (The Sinquefield donation didn't show up on the Missouri Ethics Commission's web site until late Friday.)

Gephardt's donation is notable, in part, because he rarely has given money to Missouri candidates since leaving office in early 2005, after an unsuccessful 2004 bid for president.

On a lighter note, the one common element between Gephardt and Koster -- besides their law degrees -- is that both are redheads.

The donations come as Koster is about to launch his TV ad campaign in St. Louis. According to documents filed with area TV broadcast stations, Koster's TV ads appear set to start on Monday.

Koster’s Republican rival, St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin, reported only one contribution this week over $5,000, from local businessman Stephen Notestine.

Martin has been able to attract a lot of publicity, nonetheless, through his role as state chairman of the GOP’s coordinated campaign in the state on behalf of all Republican candidates, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Martin's recent prominent backers include retired U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., who has headlined a fundraiser for him.

Aside from Koster, this week’s other beneficiary of large donations has been the Missouri Democratic Party, which collected just over $100,000 from three donors.

One of those donors was the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, which gave $40,000 to the state party a day after the Senate group had collected $45,000 from the national United Food and Commercial Workers' political arm.

Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter

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.