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With airplane banners and 'wanted' posters, rivals in Missouri tax-cut fight return to battlefield

flimsy15 wanted poster
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 4, 2013: Friday night shortly after 6 p.m., as the Liberty High School football team was about to take the field just north of Kansas City, a small plane flew overhead trailing a banner that declared www.Neth Voted Against Liberty.com.

Those in the crowd who bother to go to the website will then see a more detailed explanation why state state Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, warranted such a public show of disdain.

Neth voted a few weeks ago in favor of overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a tax-cut bill, officially known as HB253, that had generated an intense – and expensive – campaign by all sides.

Progress Missouri, a progressive group, has paid $1,000 for the airplane and banner, in the first of what executive director Sean Soendker Nicholson will be a series of activities targeting Republicans who voted for the override, which failed by 15 votes.

“Myron Neth voted to devastate his local schools so that lawyers and lobbyists could get a tax cut,” said Nicholson, highlighting critics’ biggest assertions about the tax-cut bill. “At the end of the day, Neth sided with an eccentric, extreme billionaire from St. Louis over the kids and educators in his district.”

Nicholson is referring to wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, the largest political donor in the state who bankrolled most of the pro-override effort, including more than $2 million in TV ads.

Although Nicholson said the issue was Neth's voting record, the legislator also might be deemed more vulnerable than some Republicans, because his legislative district is considered competitive territory for Democrats.

In any case, many of Neth’s GOP colleagues in the Missouri House – 15 of them, to be exact – may be more concerned about another campaign by the wealthier crowd of conservative groups and donors who sided with Sinquefield.

At last week’s regional Conservative Political Action Conference, commonly known as CPAC, the Missouri chapter of Club for Growth displayed a large “Wanted’’ poster of the 15 state House Republicans who voted against overriding Nixon’s veto.

Since the legislative veto session, various business groups have threatened to punish the 15, perhaps by bankrolling GOP rivals in next summer’s primary.

But such anger may have cooled.

Melanie Abrajano, executive director of the Missouri Club for Growth, said that conservatives are beginning to redirect their attention to Nixon, a Democrat, who Abrajano said is out of step with Republican governors in nearby states – such as Kansas and Oklahoma – who are cutting taxes.

And there’s more talk lately, she continued, about a likely new tax cut bill next session – “a cleaner bill, a better bill, a less controversial bill.”

As for the 15 dissident Republicans, Abrajano said, “It’s not automatic” that Club for Growth will endorse a GOP rival.

“They’re going to go through our process just like any other candidate,” she said. “They’ll be screened by our board to make sure they’re a fiscal conservative.”

And some may well be endorsed and assisted, Abrajano added, while others may not.

Pointing to the “Wanted’’ poster, she added, “What we can guarantee is that none of these people will get our support.”

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