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Brunner infuses $3.6 million of own money into his GOP bid for governor

Jason Rosenbaum|St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis businessman John Brunner is celebrating New Year’s Eve by donating more than $3.6 million to his own Republican campaign for governor.

Brunner’s contribution, split among two checks this week, represents the largest Missouri donation so far, self-funded or not, to a single 2016 candidate. But he has spent more of his own money before.

In 2012, Brunner contributed roughly $7 million to his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. He lost in the August primary to then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.

Dave Spence, Missouri’s 2012 GOP nominee for governor, appears to hold the state’s self-funding record. He spent close to $10 million of his own money, in donations or loans, in his losing contest against Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who is completing his second term and cannot seek re-election.

Brunner had signaled months ago that he was willing to self-fund, if necessary, much of his 2016 campaign for governor. His $3.6 million infusion, reported Thursday to the Missouri Ethics Commission, gives him a financial edge over his three GOP rivals: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and author/former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens.

Brunner said in a statement that his self-funding shows that he “is the only candidate for governor who cannot be bought or owned by special interests.

“John and Jan Brunner are proud to make this commitment to our supporters. Our campaign will continue to stand with so many Missourians who are ready to elect an authentic, life-long conservative leader with competence battle-tested in the crucible of experience as a CEO and US Marine…”

Brunner’s statement appeared to be a jab aimed particularly at Greitens. Among the Republican contenders, Greitens has raised, by far, the most from other donors. Just since Oct. 1, Greitens has collected at least $500,000 in large donations of at least $5,000 apiece.

Greitens’ donors have included financial executives from New York, Chicago and elsewhere.

Greitens’ last campaign donation report showed he had raised $2.7 million as of Sept. 30, and had $2.3 million in the bank. Brunner’s report for the same period showed that he’d only raised $726,280, with just over $256,000 in the bank.

Meanwhile, Hanaway sent out a New Year’s Eve appeal for donations, telling would-be supporters that she – as a former U.S. attorney – was best equipped to address the “lawlessness’’ seen in the state and elsewhere. Hanaway singled out the protests this fall at the University of Missouri-Columbia, which she wrote “resulted in students and radical liberal faculty taking control of the future of the university.”

The only major Democrat running for governor is Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who has accumulated at least $6 million in the bank, and remains the contest’s overall fundraising leader – even with Brunner’s hefty donation to himself.

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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