© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mayor Calls for Investigation into Illegal Attacks

Mayoral candidate forum on Up to Date, broadcasting from the Liberty Memorial, February 26, 2007
Laura Spencer, KCUR
Mayoral candidate forum on Up to Date, broadcasting from the Liberty Memorial, February 26, 2007

By Maria Carter


Kansas City, MO – In the past two weeks, the Kansas City Missouri race for mayor has turned ugly. Many voters have received anonymous negative mail and unidentified automated phone calls. Both of which are illegal. Mayor Kay Barnes has called for an end to negative campaigning and an investigation into illegal attacks. Yesterday at a candidate forum aired on KCUR's Up to Date, none of the candidates disputed that illegal attacks has occurred, but, surprisingly, no one wanted to fess up. KCUR's Maria Carter reports.

- - - - -

The first negative attack was a postcard went out a few weeks ago claiming candidate Mark Funkhouser wants to cut healthcare for the poor something he has never said. Then came attacks on other candidates, most notably Albert Riederer. The problem for Mayor Kay Barnes is not just what was said, but the lack of a return address.

Barnes: I have in front of me four mailers that were sent out illegally with either no disclaimer no trace of who was responsible or from committees set at the l;ast minute with now way to know who authorized and paid for them.

Also on the mayor's problem list unidentified robocalls. These are automated calls that many Kansas City voters got this weekend attacking one candidate or another without saying who's responsible. Both the robocalls and the unidentified mailings are illegal under Missouri election law. The question of who is behind the anonymous mudslinging, like this call the mayor received at home, has caused much speculation

Phone call: Why does Albert Riederer have to send out mailings attacking Mark Funkshouser and others? Why doesn't Riederer have something positive to say for Kansas City?

Riederer denies anyone from his campaign made the calls.

Riederer: If you believe in breaking the law, this is real neat. The fact is I don't believe in breaking the law.

Riederer, himself the target of attack mailings and calls, has pointed the finger at the campaigns of Alvin Brooks and Becky Nace. Brooks says it wasn't him or anyone on his campaign. The talk around Nace centers on her campaign manager Jeff Roe, who's known for fighting ruthless battles for many Republican candidates. Nace says the accusations are false and getting old

Nace: When I say my campaign didn't do it, I mean Jeff Roes, anyone else associated on my campaign staff did not do it and I cannot be any clearer than that.

Even in legal mailings, it's not always so clear cut. former City Auditor Mark Funkhouser points to a mailing which he says misrepresents his position on the city's trash service.

Funkhouser: And I talked to Becky about this on Saturday. And she said oh well, no she didn't do it. I said but you took money from the people who did it and they are supporters of yours. N I said will you disavow them? Will you condemn them? Will you give the money back? Oh, no, I can't do that. So the whole deal here is to attack through surrogates.

Nace maintains everything on the flyer is true, and so therefore she won't give back the money. When questions arise over whether something in a campaign is illegal normally, the Missouri Ethics Commission investigates the alleged violations, but those investigations often don't wrap up until months after the election is over. Mayor Barnes is proposing another solution. She's asking Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar to look into the matter.

Barnes: As part of this investigation, I'm asking his office to monitor the general election campaign to closely watch these ads and robo calls in real time.

It's not clear how willing the county prosecutor is to take up the mayor's cause. The prosecutor's spokesman Van Buckley says investigations are usually left up to law enforcement and could be a conflict of interest for the prosecutor to investigate and press charges on the same case. The Missouri Ethics Commission is charged with investigating these matters but cannot say whether any candidates have filed a complaint.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.