Missouri lawmakers may place stricter controls on spending by political action committees.
The Kansas City Star reported former Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, a Republican who left the Legislature in 2014, transferred about $650,000 in campaign contributions into a PAC called Leadership for America. Jones is the sole donor.
While the PAC donated around $18,000 to charities and $10,000 to GOP candidates this year, the Star reported it also spent heavily on golf outings, travel, liquor, cigars and other expenses, potentially violating the prohibition against using campaign money for personal business.
The PAC also invested heavily with a hedge fund, and the Star reports the investment has nearly doubled in value in just nine months.
Lawmakers voted last year to prohibit candidates from making those sorts of investments, but the ban doesn't apply to PACs not associated with candidates.
"We're seeing money that is supposed to be used for campaigns being invested and then used for what appears to be personal benefit," said Democratic state Rep. Kip Kendrick, of Columbia.
Kendrick and state Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a Democrat from Liberty, filed legislation this year that would have required candidates to dissolve their committees after they leave office if they don't file to run for another office within four years. The bills failed to gain traction, but both said they want to revisit the legislation next year.
"If people had any idea that there were politicians out there literally getting rich off of lobbyist money after their term in office was over, they would be beside themselves," Ellebracht said.
Leadership for America started the year with about $656,000, the Star reported. It received no contributions, and it spent more than $140,000. Yet by Sept. 30, it reported having $864,000, thanks to investment earnings in a hedge fund managed by an Austin, Texas-based company, LRT Global Opportunity LP.
Leadership for America had $353,000 invested in the fund as of Jan. 1. The PAC reported it had earned roughly $347,000 from that investment by September — a 98 percent return.
Jones referred questions about the PAC to Tom Smith, his former legislative chief of staff and longtime political adviser. But Jones used Twitter to dismiss questions surrounding his PAC, calling the Star report a "defamatory hit job."
Smith defended the spending on golf, baseball tickets and travel as legitimate expenses that further the mission of the PAC by helping build coalitions with other conservative organizations.
As for the investment, Smith said the dramatic increase in the fund's value can be attributed to "wise investment decisions and the fact that the market is doing great."