Missouri’s Race To The Bottom Gets National Attention: “There`s No Liberal Or Progressive Opposition Really In This State.”

Regular readers know that I have tried, when my mental state permitted, to follow the race to the bottom between Kansas and Missouri. Each state is attempting to outdo the other, in terms of reactionary politics and bad governance. It’s very sad to watch.

Since nobody does it better than St. Rachel, I present the transcript (uncorrected) from her Wednesday show, which went into the god-awful details of what is wrong with not only this state, but so many red states across the country. Please read the following, but try not to get too damned depressed:

MADDOW: In the year 2008, the great state of Missouri got rid of its limits on campaign contributions. They said rachelanyone could give any amount for candidates and election issues in that state. And when Missouri made that issue in 2008, they got — drum roll, please — they got their own Missouri version of the Koch brothers or their own Sheldon Adelson, their own Art Pope.

Once Missouri said anybody could spend anything they wanted on Missouri politics, they got their own homegrown Missouri zillionaire who thought the policies of the whole s state should be remade in his own image. And this is a new species in American politics, right? Since we started getting rid of all the campaign finance rules. We`ve got these zillionaire guys, all of the country, a lot of them operating in national politics, some of them operating in just their home state.

But the one that Missouri got, he turns out to be a doozy.


REX SINQUEFIELD, RETIRED FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: You know what, there was a column written, and I hope I don`t offend anyone, but a published column who was a farmer judge in Missouri. He now owns and writes for a newspaper in central Missouri called the un-terrified Democrat. What a name. And it`s is Osage County, Missouri.

And he starts off and it`s something like this. He said, a long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said, how can we really hurt the African-American children, l permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And when they designed was the public school system.


MADDOW: That man`s name is Rex Sinquefield, he`s the conservative zillionaire trying to use his own money to remake politics in the great state of Missouri.

He made that remark on tape there in February of 2012 when he explained it must have been the Ku Klux Klan that invented the public school system to really hurt African-American children permanently. The Klan invented public schools. He said that in 2012. He later apologized for it, saying he was sorry for making that reference.

rachel 2But after Missouri got rid of its campaign finance rules in 2008, that guy`s money is the money that has absolutely dominated Missouri conservative politics ever since. “The Wall Street Journal” profiled him in 2012. Actually, it was a few months after he made the Klan comments. “The Wall Street Journal” called him one of the super PAC men, comparing him to Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers.

By then, by the fall of 2012, Mr. Sinquefield had already spent over $20 million of his own money, all in Missouri, all since they dropped the campaign spending limits in that state. So, just between 2008 and 2012, he had already dropped more than $20 million of his own money, with plans to spend a lot more.

And that kind of money goes a long way in a single state. He said at the time that his two priorities for things he wanted to change in Missouri, were schools, which again you heard him say he feared were invented by the Ku Klux Klan to enslave people, schools and taxes.
In 2012, he personally bankrolled a ballot measure that would have basically killed all income taxes in Missouri altogether. No more personal income taxes, no more corporate income taxes. It would get rid of taxes altogether in terms of income and replace them all with a sales tax.

He got — he was working on getting that in the ballot, and unfortunately for him, polling indicated that people in Missouri basically hated the idea. And when the polling turned out really bad for his ballot measure on getting rid of all income taxes, he pulled that ballot measure in Missouri.rachel 3

But at the time, he said he thought he might be able to get Missouri to get rid of all its taxes anyway, even without this ballot measure idea that he had that didn`t work out. And he thought he might be able to get it done in Missouri anyway, because of something that was going on next door in the deep read state of Kansas.

Kansas, you probably know is in almost Oklahoma territory when it comes to how red a state it is. In 2008, President Obama won a grand total of three counties in Kansas. In 2012, he won a grand total of two counties in Kansas.

In Kansas, the Republicans control the statehouse by an almost 3-1 margin. They control the state senate, 32-8, and, of course, the governor is a Republican as well. The governor is former U.S. senator and former Republican presidential candidate, Sam Brownback, who won election in 2010 by more than a 30-point margin in Kansas.

But now, even in a state that is that red, even after Sam Brownback won the governor`s race in 2010 by more than 30 points, Governor Brownback now looks to be at risk of losing his seat this fall. He`s up for re-election in November. He`s running against a Democrat named Paul Davis, who was one of those very few Democrats in the Kansas statehouse.

The Real Clear Politics average of polling on that gubernatorial race shows that Sam Brownback is basically within the margin of error. He`s within 2 1/2 points of this very little-known Democratic challenger he`s got.rachel 4

The last Public Policy Poll in Kansas was in February. It had Paul Davis beating Sam Brownback by two points. Kansas is so red that Attila the Hun ought to be able to win an election in Kansas if he only had an “R” listed after his name on the ballot.

Sam Brownback is apparently no Attila the Hun, because Kansas is against him. His approval rating as governor is hovering around 33 percent. You think in a state that red, President Obama would have a terrible approval rating, you`re right, he does a terrible approval rating in Kansas. But Sam Brownback`s approval rating is even lower than President Obama`s is.

And some of Kansas`s bad feelings about their governor may be about all the recent reporting on a big FBI investigation into Mr. Brownback`s inner circle in state politics, including his longtime chief strategist. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether there`s pay-to-play corruption around Sam Brownback`s way of governing in Kansas, whether lobbying dollars and campaign contributions have been leveraged or even coerced in an illegal way as Governor Brownback has pushed through his legislative priorities.

So, that may be part of it, those FBI stories. There have been no indictments or anything yet, so nobody really knows what that reported FBI investigation is going to come to.
But regardless of whether team Brownback in Kansas got their favored policies passed through some illegal means or not, we`ll find out when the FBI finally speaks about what they`re looking into, whether or not they got those things, the things they got passed, passed by illegal means, the fact is, they did get a heck of a conservative agenda passed. And Kansas really seems to hate that agenda. They seem to hate those policies.

Like, this is from the internals on that Public Policy Poll. “Do you think public schools in Kansas are adequately funded or not?” Not, by a 28-point margin.

“Do you think Sam Brownback`s tax plan has been successful or not?” Not, by another giant 21-point margin.

Kansas is under complete Republican control. It`s Sam Brownback in the governor`s office, Republican control in the House, Republican control in the Senate. Their entire congressional delegation is all Republican as well.rachel5

And even after they had that total Republican control, in 2012, Sam Brownback went on a campaign of cleansing fire and worked actively to get Republicans who weren`t conservative enough ousted from the state Senate. He got nine Republicans in the Senate replaced with more conservative Republicans.

He`s not only got complete control in terms of party affiliation, he`s got complete control in terms of conservative Republican affiliation. And with that complete control, he pushed through the most important item in his agenda for the state, the biggest tax cut in Kansas history. By some measures, it is the biggest tax cut of any state in America in multiple decades.

And when Sam Brownback pushed through that really radical tax plan in 2012 and popularity expanded it in 2013, that was the policy move that got Rex Sinquefield, the Klan-invented public schools guy in Missouri, that`s what got him so excited about what might be possible next-door in Missouri.

He called what Sam Brownback did on taxes in Kansas, he said, it was, quote, “unbelievably brilliant.”

Mr. Sinquefield said in “Forbes” magazine that Sam Brownback`s visionary leadership was, quote, “schooling Missouri on tax policy.”

Sam Brownback himself wrote an op-ed claiming that his biggest tax cuts in history would be a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. And his biggest cheerleader, other than himself, was across the state line to the east in Missouri, this guy, Rex Sinquefield, who wanted Missouri to get rid of all of its taxes, too. And he thought Kansas` experiment, Kansas` Sam Brownback government experiment would go so well that Kansas getting rid of all of their taxes would be such an economic boon to Kansas that the state next door to the east would have no choice but to follow suit.

That was the thinking. And that`s how Missouri was going to get to zero taxes, by watching how wonderfully it worked out in Sam Brownback`s all-red Kansas. That was the plan.
Turns out what Sam Brownback did in all-red Kansas has turned out to be a disaster. In January, a big warning flare was fired by the nonpartisan research service from the Kansas legislature. They found that cutting all the revenue, cutting all the income out of the state budget meant — surprise, that there was no revenue in the state budget. There was a giant hole where the revenue had been. That was the official state report in January.

Then, in March, it got much worse, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that by law, by the state constitution, Kansas needed to increase what was it was spending on public schools, where is that money going to come from.

And then, in April, there was a huge shock in Kansas state government when the state realized that it was going to be taking in almost $100 million less that month than it expected for the month of April.

Revenues were already down a half billion year to year since last year, and then, oops, in April, it turns out, another $100 million they thought they were getting, guess we`re not getting that. That was last month. That was April.

And then, last week, the real hammer fell, when the Moody`s credit agency downgraded Kansas`s bond rating, citing Kansas` relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers and specifically calling out Sam Brownback`s magical thinking around these huge, unprecedented tax cuts, for which he apparently had no plan for the impact of. Quote, “Eliminating a tax that`s been in place for many years and has accounted for a large share of revenue entails risks,” says Moody`s.

So, Sam Brownback has created a mess in Kansas. And “The Kansas City Star,” they say he is suffering from a political brownout between the FBI investigation into his inner circle with and his right-hand man, forever, and into how he got all of these policies passed, the state bond rating getting downgraded, the governor`s plummeting popularity. They say, you take it all together, and this amounts to, quote, “new doubts about whether Governor Brownback`s ability to win a second term in a state that is as red as any in the nation.”

On the same day that Kansas got its bond rating downgraded, in the neighboring state of Missouri, the governor there, was named Jay Nixon, he vetoed a Republican proposal to cut Missouri`s taxes the way Sam Brownback cut Kansas` taxes. Missouri is one of the few states in the nation that has a solid AAA bond rating. Governor Nixon said, listen, we`re not going to jeopardize that by doing something as reckless as what Kansas just did when they flushed their economic prospects down the toilet with a tax thing like this. Jay Nixon said Missouri Republicans are, quote, trying to follow Kansas down the fiscally irresponsible path. He said he would not stand for it and he vetoed the Republican tax cut proposal in Missouri.

But now, now, Missouri Republicans overrode that veto. They have thereby forced through a Kansas-style fiscal disaster plan for the neighboring state of Missouri.

Even with a Democratic governor, Missouri has taken a real right turn under the tender ministrations and the tens of millions of dollars of Rex Sinquefield, right? The well-funded, newly emboldened Republicans in the state of Missouri, they blocked Medicaid expansion, which led to this dramatic protest in the state capital yesterday. The protesters actually shut down business in the state senate over the Medicaid decision.

rachel 6Republicans in Missouri are trying to enshrine strict scrutiny for gun rights into the state constitution. And that may not sound like much, but that is such a fundamentalist approach to gun rights that it has really wide implications that have scared other states that have tried this. But Missouri is steaming straight ahead to put that in their state constitution.

Missouri is down to one last abortion clinic in the entire state. This year, Republicans in the Missouri legislature introduced 32 separate pieces of legislation against that one clinic. They`ve got one abortion clinic left, 32 bills this session to try to shut down or curtail the activities of that one last clinic.

With no campaign finance limits anymore and with an eager conservative godfather funding every step they take further to the right, Missouri is doing everything it can to try to turn itself into a deep-south style red state, but with what they just did on this tax issue, did they just make a decision to follow Kansas off the cliff?

Joining us now is David Helling, political reporter for the “Kansas City Star.” Mr. Helling, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time tonight.

DAVID HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, what did push Missouri lawmakers to proposal these very, very deep tax cuts, even as Kansas was really flaming out because of them?

HELLING: Well, part of it is Rex Sinquefield, as you suggest. He`s been heavily involved for years, Rachel, in trying to push a no-income tax agenda in the state of Missouri, as you suggest. He`s tried to get that on the ballot. He`s really a supporter of turning to sales taxes instead of income taxes.

But part of it is just philosophy. Missouri, as you also point out, really had a choice about ten years ago, will we be Arkansas and Mississippi, or will we be Iowa and Minnesota? Missouri, as you might know, is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in most
years and then about 10 years ago, it started its slide into conservatism and it is firmly there now.

So, you put that sort of ideological approach together with Rex`s money and you get what you got this week in the legislature.

MADDOW: In terms of that path, that sort of decade-long path that you just described there, is there any equivalent force on the left or to strengthen the Democrats` hand in Missouri? Is this a transformation that`s really taken place entirely within conservative politics? Is there any counter-game?

rachel 7HELLING: Democrats have a role in Missouri, unlike Kansas where they`re virtually nonexistent. Democrats in Missouri do have some voice. Claire McCaskill, of course, is the senator, Jay Nixon the governor, both Democrats.

Republicans have not done extremely well at the statewide level. They lost the race for governor. They do have the lieutenant governorship in the state. But Democrats in Missouri have a unique challenge. They must appeal — if they are to win, they must appeal to rural voters as well as urban voters in Kansas City and St. Louis and to some degree in Columbia, in Jeff City. So, even people like Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon strike a populist, conservative, in some senses, moderate tone with voters in the state.

There is no real — with one or two exceptions, there is no real progressive movement in the state, and that showed up in the last state elections for the legislature, the House and the Senate. Jay Nixon has virtually no working ability in that statehouse at all, Rachel, owner to
sort of convince lawmakers by the sound of his voice, to change their views. And they often listen to Rex Sinquefield, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, also has a heavy presence in Missouri, as well as Kansas.

So, those are the voices they hear. There`s no liberal or progressive opposition really in this state.

MADDOW: I feel like I have heard that, really, just in my observations of Missouri politics, particularly with Claire McCaskill on the federal level. I continue to believe that she would make a very credible national level candidate for the Democrats.

Not because I agree with her on lots of policies. She`s nowhere near liberal like I am, but simply because she does talk in populist terms, very central terms, and she`s made that case, I think it was the Missouri Democrat way of talking to a big, broad audience.

And that`s why I was so surprised to see Governor Nixon making this case. Hey, we can`t do this. They just got their bond rating downgraded. We`ve got a AAA bond rating, we`ve got to hold on to that. That seems to me like sort of the ultimate fiscal conservative, centrist, kumbaya message, and yet, it just didn`t go anywhere.

HELLING: Right, and for that matter, Jay Nixon is a big fan in some instances of tax credits, tax breaks for big business. He tried to get the Boeing plant to come to St. Louis. He offered a huge package of tax breaks for that. He gave incentives to the auto companies to stay in the state, Rachel.

Again, that`s kind of a traditional country club banker Republican mentality. Give big incentives to big business to create jobs. That`s his approach. Again, he gets a bit of a pass, because Missouri is just that kind of a state. It`s hard to believe that an out-and-out progressive liberal candidate has any chance at the statewide level, and I think Jay Nixon senses that.

Now, a lot of — he`s not really popular among some Democrats. For example, he`s had a sort of a low-level feud with McCaskill for years about who really control s the party in the state. And Jay Nixon, to a degree, like McCaskill, really looks out for himself. You know, his own re-election is more important than electing more Democrats to the legislature so you wouldn`t have to go through what he just went through.

That`s a criticism you`ll hear of Jay Nixon. But, again, there may be a lot of self-preservation in that. Missouri, as I suggested, and as you suggested as well, is much more Southern in its approach to politics than it is industrial Midwest or in north of the state border.

MADDOW: And as you point out, that was a choice. That outlook was a choice and it has been a fascinating transformation to watch.

Dave Helling, reporter with the “Kansas City Star” — I really enjoyed your reporting on this, Mr. Helling. Thank you fore being here. I appreciate it.

HELLING: You bet. My pleasure.



  1. Nobody does it better than St. Rachael, that’s for sure.

    Sinquefield knows that the public school system wasn’t designed by the KKK and he has apologized for the remark, but education is a vulnerable target because what we have is working poorly. People want to do something about it. Heck, I want to do something about it, but it’s terribly complex. Even if you could, in one fell swoop, fire poor teachers, raise the pay, and hire good ones in their place, I think we’d still have a problem. It’s the culture: too many single-parent homes, unstable family life, poverty, electronic distractions, and the flight of meaningful manufacturing jobs overseas, just to name a few.

    A janitor with whom we are casually acquainted remarked yesterday that he would be moving to Kansas City next week. He said he was enrolled in a course to be an electric lineman and remarked, “I guess it’s time for me to grow up.” This man appears to be about 30. Hmm. How do you fix that?

    And speaking of solutions, so far as I can tell, Sinquefield’s seems to be privatizing the schools. I think that would work fine for the 1%, or even the 9%, but they already have that option in most places. It’s regressive for the rest and particularly for the 47% – where’s the money going to come from? And replacing the Missouri income tax with a sales tax is regressive to the extreme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 9, 2014

    Having lived in MO for only about 16 years I find MO politics interesting. On one hand if you listen to Duane and his followers, MO can be just like California if only people in MO would do as they propose, become a left wing driven State with bond ratings in the ditch for years, businesses bailing out of the State, etc. On the other hand if you listen to rich GOPers’ (we have them in Joplin in disguise as Libertarians!) we can make MO look like MIssissippi as suggested by St. Rachel. Such is the result of one sided politics, in my view.

    Politically MO is deeply divided between the left wing enclave in KC and St Louis and the rest of the far more right wing rural areas, like right here in Joplin and Jasper County, a real enclave of radical conservatism. Just imagine John Putman or Ed Emery commenting on this blog!!

    Big cities (with big ghettos) vs. the “silent majority” (that is not so lilent around here). Is that not a microcosm of American politics today? Forget North vs South, progressive OWSer’s vs KKK, etc. Just listen in coffee shops around town, in most churches, in social gatherings over lunch with “normal people” talking to each other. They are not fire breathing liberals or conservatives. They are people that have generally lived their lives without government assistance except now when they reach old age. Not so in the big cities however, in MO.

    When “normal people” listen to the siren song of liberalism, they look at federal debt and deficits, they see Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, even LA and San Fransico, they watch what happens in California, etc,, they see before them the decline in American power around the world today and they don’t like it. And like it or not, when people around here listen to both St. Rachel and John Putnam, well we see who wins at the polls all the time, around here.

    I will agree with St. Rachel on one point however. We have an emerging national figure in Clarie McCaskill and a pretty good governor in Jay Nixon. Their tendency to go too far left has been moderated by a strong right wing. I wonder if they governed in CA if they would go as far as Duane and St. Rachel would take us. None of us know that answer. Even Roy Blunt is not as far right as many liberals would paint him, in my view. He is far too pragmatic to fall into that camp.

    But when things really get “local” well I don’t like Billy Long anymore than Duane does, either. The best American politics is when the extremes are balanced out. And no, I don’t consider St. Rachel or Duane the types that will allow that to happen, either, if they get their way politically. Instead, hello CA and Detroit when that happens and yes, Behghazi as well.



    • Anson, I grew up in a very rural area in a town of about 1200 people. Most of them would contend that they “lived their lives without government assistance” too. When you look closely at what they mean when they say that, they really mean that they had lots of government assistance, but it was OK because they needed it.

      Farmers were helped out by the Soil Conservation Service – kept their land from floating off down the Canadian river. They also were helped by the Eisenhower-generated Land Bank system – they joked about “being paid to not farm” marginally sloped and rough land, putting it back in native grass, but they took those payments just the same. Hardly a farmer in the area could have made it year-to-year without the Production Credit Association helping them with very low-cost loans in years that they didn’t make enough on their crops to keep going (another government agency).

      All of the kids in that school ate government-assisted (paid for by taxes) lunches every school day. The countryside was lighted by electric lights, had electric refrigerators, milking machines, radio, TV, and so forth provide in large part by the Rural Electrification Association that worked with local utilities to defray the immense cost of poles and wire to provide electricity to farms and small towns – that was a government agency, too.

      So mostly what I see people objecting to is not government assistance, but government assistance that they don’t think they need, therefore no other red-blooded, independent-minded, self-sufficient American should, either.

      Bull shit.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Anson,

      There is a concentration of registered Democrats in Kansas City and St. Louis, but I’m unsure just how “left wing” either city is as compared to “Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, even LA and San Fransico” (sic). I did find a handy guide that warns readers where the “bad” neighborhoods are in KC. Of course, “normal people” know that any ghetto (where poor blacks hang out) is always a dicey place to be, especially at night. We can thank the New Deal for that.

      I’ve never thought about the obvious connection between Occupy Wall Street protesters and the Ku Klux Klan. It makes sense: “Owser’s “(sic) were protesting against Big Banks and income inequality; the Klan is against anybody who isn’t a dumb white protestant.

      I must take issue with this observation about Gov. Nixon and Sen. McCaskill: “Their tendency to go too far left has been moderated by a strong right wing”. On second thought, it’s funny and that counts for something.

      Nice job of slipping in a little #Benghazi! Maybe we’ll finally find out how many slices of buttered toast Rep. Trey Gowdy uses when he combs his hair.


      Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve “never thought about the obvious connection between Occupy Wall Street protesters and the Ku Klux Klan”? How white of you!


  3. janice reed

     /  May 9, 2014

    This was a very interesting but disheartening article about the transformation of Missouri and the destruction of Kansas.

    Date: Fri, 9 May 2014 00:34:10 +0000 To: mothergrandmother@live.com


    • It’s only getting worse, Janice. Sorry to say:

      JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri lawmakers sent to Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday a bill that would triple the mandatory waiting period for an abortion.

      The bill would make Missouri one of only three states with a 72-hour wait between state-required counseling and an abortion. Although 26 states including Missouri have some waiting period, Utah and South Dakota are the only ones requiring 72 hours.

      And that includes victims of rape or incest. Sad.


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 10, 2014

    Neither extreme, politically, those on the right or left, like MO politics. At least in national elections, MO is a swing state most of the time. The reason that is the case, as I tried to point out above, is the number of voters in KC and St. Louis are closely countered by the number of other voters in less populated areas of the State. I doubt anyone can argue with that point based on all sorts of election statistics over the years that I have lived here at least. All of Jasper County with about a 70% (or higher) right wing vote is countered by probably one precinct in KC, just for example. Big cities vs. small cities or town, rual vs. metropolitan (crowded) if you will. Now why is that, I wonder? Must we turn it into a racial issue?

    Mdgand above makes a good point about government assistance a long time ago, like rural electrification. I lived in “tobacco country” all my formative years. The sustenance, money if you will, for that community came from tobacco by and large. After I left home in 1960 tobacco went into a steep decline and farmers, later, were paid government money to not plant tobacco. Had than not happened central KY would have turned, on a dime, into Applachia. Yes, rich landowners received more money per capita than poor tenant farmers. No subsidy from government and the rich would have survived but the tenants could well have starved. But today KY is doing reasonably well, at least Central KY where most of the big tobacco farms used to be. Georgetown, my home town has a huge Toyota factory, a non-union factory if you will for about 30 years, and is one of the richest counties in KY by the way, small still, but rich as well. Long ago tenant farmers moved from the farm to the factory, in Georgetown. And yep, when the “Japs move to town” most folks there tried to restart WWII!! They didn’t want foreigners that had bombed PH to come to their homes and town!!!

    I have never opposed reasonable government efforts to promote the general good of America. I just believe that good must be spread across the land, ALL Americans must benefit, not just slices of same. Class warfare, racial warfare, you name it abounds in national politics today. Whenever political argument pits us against them, then compromise becomes harder and harder to achieve. Look at us today and see my point, worst than I have ever seen it in America in my lifetime!!!

    And yep, this blog site blames it ALL on the GOP!!



    • You say you “have never opposed reasonable government efforts to promote the general good of America.” While I think I could dig out some things you have written to contradict that statement, instead I will take you at your word here. The problem is what one means by “the general good of America.” For instance, I think it promotes the general good if rich people pay more taxes and the money used to, say, build newer roads and bridges and airports. Such comports with your qualifier, “ALL Americans must benefit, not just slices of same.” But when I say we should use some of the rich folks’ money to invest in nutrition programs, or early education programs, some on your side scream about “wealth redistribution.” Long gone is the idea that helping other folks move up the chain of progress is beneficial to all. And that is hurting the country. “The general good” is not so general anymore because too many people don’t see the good in feeding folks or educating them. Heck, now that I think about it, we can’t even agree these days that refurbishing the infrastructure is a “general good.”


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