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Holden's Campaign Funds Almost Empty

January 16, 2002
By: Nicholas Rummell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - One year after holding the highest office in Missouri government, Gov. Bob Holden's campaign is close to flat broke.

In January's quarterly financial disclosure, Holden's campaign reports debts nearly equalling assets -- with a net of just $50.66.

Holden's campaign coffers are extremely low for an incumbent governor. A couple of Republican political strategists say it is perhaps the lowest for a Missouri governor since the Civil War, which some lawmakers say could be indicative of Holden's current appeal.

The report stated that Holden had $26,253.96 in money at hand, but also had $26,203.30 in debts unpaid, leaving him with just over $50 in spending money.

This would also mean that Holden just barely avoided spending more than he raised in individual and political party contributions this quarter.

But there is still plenty of time to raise additional funds before the next gubernatorial race, said Dr. Rick Hardy, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"He would have to start building funds now, but it is surprising that there is not enough seed money," Hardy said.

Hardy speculated that potential contributors could be waiting to see where Holden's popularity lies, said Hardy.

Still, "an incumbent governor should have no trouble with a war chest of campaign funds at this stage" he said.

Missouri's GOP Director, John Hancock, said that Holden's near-bankruptcy in campaign funds is indicative of an administration that is in disarray.

"It is an accurate reflection of the support that he has," said Hancock. "He has just about $50 worth of support."

Holden's campaign finance director, Matt Knipp, stated that the Democratic Party is looking forward to fundraising.

"We are very pleased that there is no longer any campaign debt," said Knipp. "We are optimistic to a good year in 2002."

Holden's lavish inaugural party last January -- priced at a hefty $1 million dollars, the most expensive in state history -- is criticized by some legislators as the reason for Holden's current financial funk.

"He put himself back behind the eight ball," said Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau. "And it's a good indicator that people are not happy with his performance."

Crowell said, however, that it is too soon to tell if this will have a major impact on Holden's bid for reelection in 2004, and people should not read too much into the figures yet.

It took almost six months for Holden to pay off the gala event, and he received much flak from Republicans afterward.

Last year, Crowell was one of the most vocal critics of Holden's inaugural party, and sponsored legislation to require detailed accounts of inaugural fund-raising.

Such legislation failed, but a similar bill proposed this session by Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, would open up records of money given to any committee on behalf of an elected official.

Inaugural parties are appropriated partly out of taxes -- Holden received $125,000 in taxes for the event, the same amount given to the two previous governors -- and is complemented by separate fundraising by the incoming governor.

Although the inaugural party was paid for by additional fund-raising, Crowell and other lawmakers said that it put Holden in a predicament early on.

"How many times can you hit your friends up for money," he said, stating that much of Holden's time after being elected went to paying off his party loans.

Hancock echoed this statement and added that Holden's current stature -- financial and otherwise -- will hurt other Democrat showings in the 2002 elections.