Here’s A Check. Now Lower My Taxes.

One of the most alarming trends in a generally alarming landscape for campaign finance is the recent realization of many rich-as-Croesus conservatives how much fun they can have dumping huge sums of money into state politics. A New York Times piece today by Nick Confessore draws attention to another state-level would-be game-changer, Missouri’s Rex Sinquefield:

Since 2008, when Missouri abolished contribution limits, Mr. Sinquefield has donated more than $20 million to local candidates and political action committees, driving the political debate on issues like education, upending the political world here and making him perhaps the most influential private citizen in the state. More than half of that money has gone to advance his signature cause: eliminating state and local income taxes in Missouri, a major source of government revenue, and replacing them with sales taxes.

Much of Confessore’s article involves Sinquefield’s effort to dominate the outcome of the Secretary of State contest, a priority because the outgoing incumbent, Democrat Robin Carnahan, issued a ruling on the wording of a ballot initiative that ultimately frustrated his efforts to get the state income tax abolished by referendum.

That’s the level of detail rich ideologues can get into in state politics: choosing an objective with immense public policy implications and then just systematically removing obstacles to the implementation of your point of view. Confessore notes Sinquefield is a chess enthusiast; it’s obvious he’s found Missouri politics to be a fine chessboard.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.