JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - Republican challenger Dave Spence accused Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon of selling his decisions Monday, citing thousands of dollars of campaign contributions that preceded Nixon's recent vetoes of a pair of business-backed bills.
Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed bills Friday that would have made it harder to win workplace discrimination cases and brought occupational diseases under the scope of Missouri's workers' compensation system. Although Republicans and business groups contend the changes are essential to boosting Missouri's business climate, Nixon said the bills would have taken a step backward in the protections offered to workers.
The bills also were opposed by many attorneys who represent employees in lawsuits seeking money for workplace health ailments or discrimination.
Spence asserted at a Capitol news conference that "the governor's decisions (are) for sale" and the vetoes are "a disgrace to every business owner" and Missouri resident.
Asked to specify how Nixon's vetoes were for sale, Spence replied: "The campaign contributions from the plaintiffs' attorneys and the personal injury attorneys have been obnoxious in the last three weeks. And last week, Friday was a no vote - a veto vote - so you can take your own assumptions."
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, Nixon's campaign committee has received at least $100,000 from attorneys during March. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in mid-February that Nixon had received about $2 million from lawyers - roughly one of every three dollars he had raised - since October 2010.
Nixon's office declined to comment about Spence's assertions, and Nixon's campaign referred questions to the Missouri Democratic Party.
"The accusation is preposterous and absurd," said party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki.
Spence declined to say Monday how Nixon's contributions from attorneys opposing the bills were any different than Republican lawmakers - who voted for the bills - receiving contributions from business groups that supported the legislation.
"You could say whatever you want," said Spence, who then switched course to reference his own $2 million contribution to his campaign. "I put my own money in to make sure that I had clear thinking on any bill and any issue."
Legacki sought to link Spence's comments about Nixon's vetoes to the fact that Spence once served on the board of Reliance Bancshares Inc. The bank holding company announced last year that it would stop making an annual $2.2 million dividend payment due to the U.S. Treasury on the $42 million it received under a federal bank bailout program.
"It's ironic that Dave Spence, a guy whose bank took a $40 million bailout and refused to repay it, would want to have a conversation about the role of money in our political system," Legacki said.