Tom Schweich, Missouri Auditor and Gubernatorial Candidate, Committs Suicide
There are questions surrounding the suicide of Missouri Auditor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich that we are never going to be able to answer. Foremost is this: Why did Schweich, a husband, father and highly accomplished public servant, become so agitated over a suspicion that a state Republican Party leader might be falsely telling people that he was Jewish? Schweich’s associates say that, in the days leading up to Feb. 26, when he shot himself in his Clayton, Mo., home, he became increasingly distraught about his belief that he was the target of an anti-Semitic whispering campaign.
Murky religious dispute with Hancock obscures other issues after Tom Schweich’s death
By BARBARA SHELLY, The Kansas City Star, 03/12/2015
There are questions surrounding the suicide of Missouri Auditor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich that we are never going to be able to answer.
Foremost is this: Why did Schweich, a husband, father and highly accomplished public servant, become so agitated over a suspicion that a state Republican Party leader might be falsely telling people that he was Jewish?
Schweich’s associates say that, in the days leading up to Feb. 26, when he shot himself in his Clayton, Mo., home, he became increasingly distraught about his belief that he was the target of an anti-Semitic whispering campaign. Schweich’s grandfather was Jewish but he was Episcopalian. He had confided in associates over the last few months that he thought Republican campaign operative John Hancock was telling people he was Jewish in order to play to religious prejudices within the party.
Was such a thing going on? Certainly not to a widespread extent, or Schweich would have produced witnesses. As it is, we have only murky allegations that apparently originated with a party donor in Kansas City, businessman Kevin Childress.
Whether Hancock told anyone Schweich was Jewish hinges on who is telling the truth: Hancock or Trish Vincent, a longtime Republican stalwart who was Schweich’s chief of staff at the time of his death.
Vincent said on KTRS Radio in St. Louis Wednesday that she told Hancock in a telephone conversation in December that she believed he’d been telling people Schweich was Jewish. She said Hancock said, “I was, but I’m not anymore.”
Hancock said that never happened. “Her claim that I acknowledged telling others Tom was Jewish is untrue,” he told the Star. “As I have said consistently, I have no recollection of discussing Tom’s religion with anyone.”
Shortly after Schweich’s death, Hancock said in a statement that he had thought Schweich was Jewish, and if he had told anyone that it was an honest mistake. “While I do not recall doing so, it is possible that I mentioned Tom’s faith in passing during one of the many conversations I have each day,” Hancock said. “There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent.”
Hancock and Vincent have been been around for a long time. Vincent worked for U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft and served as former GOP Gov. Matt Blunt’s chief of staff and director of the revenue department. Hancock is a former executive director of the state Republican Party and a specialist in oppositional research.
In other words, two people with pretty strong credentials and only one of them is telling the truth.
I do think Vincent raised a salient question in her radio interview. Hancock worked on Schweich’s campaign for Missouri auditor in 2010, she noted. Given that, and his background in candidate research, why did he mistakenly think Schweich was Jewish? Schweich was an active member of an Episcopal church. That would have been part of his bio.
We may never get to the bottom of all this, and, unfortunately, it has become a distraction from more clear-cut issues.
Shortly before his death, Schweich was the target of a vicious radio ad produced and paid for by operatives connected to the Missouri Republican Party. Consultant Jeff Roe’s Kansas City firm, Axiom Strategies, almost certainly produced the ad, which ridiculed Schweich’s appearance, called him weak and easily manipulated, and said he would be squashed “like a bug.”
The ad was paid for by a political committee, “Citizens for Fairness in Missouri,” whose treasurer is a suspended lawyer from Kirksville, Mo. The committee’s funders are not yet known and may never be known.
Schweich also openly criticized his Republican primary opponent, Catherine Hanaway, for accepting more than $1 million in campaign money from mega donor Rex Sinquefield.
Anonymous hit jobs and Sinquefield’s attempts in particular to buy elections are burning issues in Missouri. What a shame, an awful shame, that Tom Schweich is not still around to address them.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Look at Some of Missouri Auditor Schweich's Top Findings
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, FEB. 27, 2015, 7:19 P.M. E.S.T.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Tom Schweich released about 570 audits during his roughly four years as Missouri state auditor, which ended Thursday when he shot himself in what police describe as an apparent suicide. Those audits examined local school districts, municipal courts, state agencies and the offices of other statewide elected officials, among others.
By Schweich's tally, his audits helped expose more than 30 government officials who allegedly stole taxpayer money. They also pointed out areas of potential savings in state government and highlighted alleged violations of state laws.
Here's a look at some of Schweich's highlights from the past year:
ST. JOSEPH SCHOOLS
On Feb 17, Schweich released an audit revealing that the St. Joseph School District had handed out at least $25 million in unapproved stipends to administrators in the last eight years. The audit listed 17 areas of concern, leading to the first "poor" ranking given to a Missouri school district by Schweich since 2011. The school board later voted to begin terminating the superintendent's contract.
On Feb. 3, a Schweich audit found that Missouri had paid $1.5 million from an early childhood education and development fund for services that were never provided. He gave the fund's oversight a poor rating, the lowest possible on his scale.
Schweich announced on Oct. 9 that his office would be auditing 10 municipal courts, including one in Ferguson, to see whether they were violating a state law capping the amount of revenues they can get from traffic tickets. The initiative was part of the response to the civil unrest following the fatal shooting for 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Some protesters had complained that residents in the predominantly black community were frequently stopped by the largely white police force.
In an Oct. 7 report, Schweich said too many public entities had been violating Missouri's open-government laws by meeting in closed sessions without good reason or by discussing things behind closed doors that they shouldn't have. He said about 15 percent of the nearly 300 audits he conducted over the previous two years found some sort of violation of the Sunshine Law. That was an improvement from 2010-2011, but still not good enough, he said.
Schweich released a wide-ranging report on Sept. 30 of 89 public pension systems that pay defined benefits to 546,000 people who worked for state or local governments. Though Missouri's retirement plans were generally in better financial shape than those nationally, Schweich placed 15 of the pension programs on an auditor's "watch list" because of their finances.
On Sept. 8, the Republican auditor released a report accusing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon of overstepping his constitutional powers by making millions of dollars of spending cuts in the state's 2012 budget. Schweich said "it's crystal clear under the Missouri Constitution that this was an illegal withholding" of money by Nixon. The governor's office countered that Schweich's interpretation was inaccurate. The spat was an encore of a court battle between the two officeholders that already had gone all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Schweich announced on June 16 that his office would audit the Joplin School District at the request of the school's superintendent. The school district had received an influx of donations after a deadly 2011 tornado destroyed the high school and several other district buildings. Schweich had been preparing to personally deliver that audit next Tuesday in Joplin. His office plans to release the audit as scheduled.
In a series of audits last April and March, Schweich questioned the efficiency of some of the state's largest tax credit programs for developers of historic buildings, low-income housing and old contaminated business sites. He suggested ways they could be changed to save the state money. But lawmakers have yet to act on those recommendations.
John Hancock refuses to step down as some Missouri GOP lawmakers call for him to quit
By JASON HANCOCK and DAVE HELLING -
The Kansas City Star, 03/12/2015 10:45 AM
After Tom Schweich’s death, make political bullies stand up and be counted