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Wagner, Smith, Koster report successful fund-raising quarters

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner has been in office less than a year, but she already is displaying the fundraising expertise that caught fellow Republicans’ attention when she chaired the Missouri GOP in the late 1990s and served as co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

The latest campaign finance report filed today by Wagner, R-Ballwin, shows that she has raised: $258,115 since July 1 and spent only $110,211.

That low “burn rate,’’ as political operatives call it, allowed Wagner to report an impressive bank account total of $880,925, as of Sept. 30.

Wagner’s staff had provided the Beacon with a copy of the report’s official summary sheet – required before the Beacon will report any campaign-finance figures. The rest of the report was unavailable but should be accessible on the Federal Election Commission’s website later this week, a spokesman said.

Wagner's latest three-month tally, while impressive, is still significantly below the amount she raised during the previous quarter.

Wagner’s spokesman added that she has raised no campaign money since Oct. 1 because the federal government has been shut down and she didn’t believe campaign money-raising would be appropriate, he said.

Wagner has been one of the House Republicans' marquee figures, particularly on television, as the battle has continued over the shutdown and the federal debt-ceiling, which could be breached in a few days.

Amid potential challenge, Smith takes in $250,000 

Facing a potential challenge from one of the state’s two GOP statewide officeholders, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, took in about $254,199 during the fundraising quarter.

Smith – a former state legislator who took office earlier this year after easily winning a June special election – has about $159,205 of cash on hand after spending roughly $110,885 during the quarter.

The fundraising haul comes as Smith may face a potential primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Kinder, a Republican, announced his intent to form an exploratory committee to raise funds for a potential run in the 8th congressional district.

For his part, Kinder took in about $55,376 during the quarter in his state campaign-finance committee. The Republican statewide officeholder has about $57,390 of cash on hand after spending roughly $51,000 during the quarter.

Kinder would not be able to transfer his state money over to a federal campaign finance committee. Federal campaign laws are stricter than Missouri's, which has no campaign-donation limits.

Kinder will need to set up a federal campaign committee to take on Smith.

Koster racks up another big quarter

Meanwhile, Attorney General Chris Koster continued to add to his already sturdy war chest for his likely gubernatorial run in 2016.

The Democratic statewide official took in about $542,547 during the last fundraising quarter. After spending roughly $132,000, Koster has about $1.19 million of cash on hand.

While Koster has continued to solidify his place as the Democratic frontrunner in 2016, the GOP side is less settled.

Potential candidates include state Auditor Tom Schweich (who took in about $280,000 during the last fundraising quarter for his re-election bid), former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.

Secretary of State Jason Kander took in $127,562.07 during the October fundraising quarter. After spending roughly $25,000, Kander has about $182,928 of cash on hand.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel received $177,575 and spent $28,729.52 during the same time period. Zweifel – who is barred from running for another term – has $231,138 on hand for an unspecified statewide bid in 2016.

In a recent article in Roll Call, Zweifel was linked to potentially challenging U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in 2016. But like Kinder, he wouldn’t be able to use funds from his state account for any federal bid.

Nixon beefs up bottom line

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon -- a Democrat who is mulling his next political move -- reported $488,028 in the bank after raising $152,970 during the past three months.

His third-quarter tally is dramatically more -- about 15 times more -- than the paltry $10,342 he had raised during the three months that ended June 3. That could be a signal that the governor has decided to get back in the money-raising game -- although the reason may not yet be clear.

Nixon earlier had dramatically scaled back his fundraising since he won re-election last November. He cannot seek a third term and has said he isn't focusing at the moment on anything beyond completing his tenure as governor, which runs through 2016.

But he found himself in the midst of a campaign-style blitz over the summer -- mainly on the taxpayers' dime -- as he fought against an override of his 29 vetoes, most notably the tax-cut bill officially known as HB253.

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.

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