A Missouri candidate’s disputed rape claim is opening a Pandora’s box of sexual, financial and partisan secrecy that could affect which party on Nov. 8 wins control of the U.S. Senate.
On Oct. 26, a St. Charles County prosecutor declined to press charges for a complaint brought by Democratic legislative nominee Cora Faith Walker against fellow Democratic nominee Steven Roberts Jr. — a bachelor who then filed a defamation suit Oct. 27 against the married Walker. Roberts said they had a consensual affair eight years ago, which rekindled at political functions in August after they became nominees.
The dispute between two candidates raises questions also about Walker's ties to a controversial tax referendum and its key backer Jason Kander, the Democratic nominee for a Missouri seat in the U.S. Senate.
Kander, now Missouri's secretary of state, was nearly tied in the latest voter poll with incumbent Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, 66, in a race that could help win U.S. Senate control for Democrats. The GOP holds 54 seats currently.
Kander, 35, gained prominence in the Republican-dominated state in part by supporting a referendum proposal Nov. 8 backed by a new group called “Raise Your Hand For Kids.” The plan, dubbed RYH4K for short, would increase state funds for education by raising cigarette taxes from 17 cents to 77 cents per pack, with higher taxes on smaller companies that did not participate in a 1990s settlement to users stricken with disease.
An anonymous attack on Kander called “The Kander Memo” filed this month with federal and state authorities claims that Kander worked secretly to sell the plan along with allies who included Walker. She is a lawyer who is listed as the secretary of the three-person board controlling millions of dollars in spending by RYH4K. Its main spending to date has been to acquire some 320,000 Missouri voter signatures that had to be approved by Kander as secretary of state over the objections of a Missouri appellate court to put the RYH4K measure on November's ballot.
The anti-Kander memo claimed that RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. helped fund the RYH4K ballot referendum in ways that would help Kander’s senate campaign with field operations and would also help "Big Tobacco" by raising taxes especially high on discount cigarette sellers.
The full-127 page memo is here, with the main section on RYH4K beginning on page 68 and extending for nearly 60 pages before an appendix.
Update: The allegations in the memo are "shocking" and untrue said RYH4K Executive Director Linda Rallo in a phone interview Nov. 2. "It find it highly offensive," continued Rallo, who assumed her post last fall. "This campaign has nothing to do with Jason Kander." She said RYH4K has complied with state filing requirements, and she was too busy in a meeting and preparing for the Nov. 8 balloting to describe more specifically her complaints about the memo. As of Nov. 3, the memo has received 8,100 views, mostly in recent days.
The memo claimed that Walker, who has a master's degree in health studies along with a law degree, was a relatively minor player and one of the attractive Missouri fronts along with Rallo and another woman on the RYH4K board involved with a secret strategic plan concocted by others, primarily natives of Kansas. The plan was, according to the memo, to use the millions of dollars raised in the RYH4K ballot initiative to help Democrats and "Big Tobacco" in their goals, coinciding with ostensible sole purpose of helping children obtain better education and health.
On Oct. 13, we reported that Kander (shown at right in an official photo) has orchestrated a variety of such deceptive campaign finance and organizational practices, according to the allegations in the memo, which was filed anonymously before seven federal and state oversight bodies. No actions have been reported by the bodies. We headlined that column Deceit Claims Lodged Against Missouri Democrat in Key Senate Race.
Today, the Justice Integrity Project (a non-partisan investigative reporting organization) first summarizes developments in Walker's rape claim, including context regarding other disputed rape allegations nationally. Then we report on the larger political issues, which we plan to amplify by additional pre-election coverage.
We predict more political and legal controversy before the election. Reaction is likely to raise questions also about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster, a ticket-mate of Kander.
Koster is the current state attorney general, and his office should have monitored any improprieties by Kander, the secretary of state whose team approved the RYH4K initiative. The referendum, including the signature drive, has been challenged repeatedly in court during the year. In April, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch separately reversed on other grounds its editorial backing of the plan.
The real issues remain largely below the surface. They include some that are so sensitive that few dare to publish first. [Update: Missouri's two largest newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star, published their senate endorsements Sunday, Oct. 30 but ignored the controversies reported here.]
But the scandals are too important to ignore in the long run, even for the deadline-driven mainstream media that dwell on polls and personalities — and not on why events occur, much less who really benefits.