Outside groups paid for Mo. officials’ travel

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Outside groups paid nearly $30,000 for the travel of Missouri statewide elected officials last year, sending the attorney general to Asia, the secretary of state to Washington, D.C., and the lieutenant governor to New York and Florida.

Reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission and obtained Friday by The Associated Press show most of the travel costs last year were for Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who was part of a delegation that went to Israel and who took two trips with a fellowship program to China and India and to New Orleans.

Koster, a Democrat, reported that the American Israel Friendship League paid $3,000 for an early 2010 trip when he was part of a delegation with the National Association of Attorneys General that went to Israel to meet with government officials. In July, Koster left for a roughly weeklong trip in Asia for which the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership program paid $19,423. The fellowship also paid $2,780 for travel costs in November for the trip to New Orleans.

The two-yearlong fellowship program is for young elected officials, and participants are selected by invitation. The program involves three weekend seminars and weeklong foreign trips in Asia and the Middle East. Koster indicated both fellowship trips were for educational seminars and included a memo from the institute that itemized the expenses and included airfare, meals and lodging and ground transportation.

Missouri elected officials are required to file annual financial disclosure statements in May with the state Ethics Commission. The reports include property and investments they own and the jobs they and family members hold. They also are required to report gifts they have received that are worth at least $200 and list out-of-state travel from the previous year that was not paid for by the government or family members.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, reported two November trips. The Federalist Society paid $2,223 for Kinder to spend three days in New York for debates about the federal health care law. Later that month, another group paid $1,325 in expenses when Kinder spoke at an Alzheimer’s disease summit in Naples, Fla.

Kinder is Missouri’s senior advocate and led a 19-member Missouri task force that produced a state study of Alzheimer’s disease. Last year, Kinder filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the federal health care law.

The lieutenant governor’s office said in a statement Friday that “the two trips were related to his official duties as lieutenant governor, but they were not paid for at the expense of taxpayers.”

Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan reported a December trip to Washington for a meeting designed to improve communication between Chinese and American officials. The National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes democracy and for whom Carnahan previously worked, paid $1,185 for the trip.

Democratic Treasurer Clint Zweifel reported no trips in 2010 after going the previous year to Brazil, Spain and Germany through his participation in the Eisenhower Fellowships and the American Council on Germany that sends young American leaders overseas to meet with government officials and business leaders.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon did not report any trips in 2010 or 2009. The report also indicated Nixon did not own any real estate.

A spokesman for the governor said Friday that the Nixons sold their home in Jefferson City last spring. They lived in Jefferson City for 16 years when Nixon was attorney general and in 2009 moved into the Governor’s Mansion just a few blocks from the state Capitol.

Republican Auditor Tom Schweich, who took office in January, also listed no trips.

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