The chairman of the Special Senate Committee to Generate Headlines for a Senator Running for Attorney General is feeling some of the discomfort that comes from putting the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on the right foot, a circumstance that was made possible early in the nineteenth century when Philadelphia cobbler William Young perfected a way to make different shoes for the right and the left feet.
The advance in shoe-making became an American idiom a half-century later when shoe and boot-making progressed enough that different shoes for different feet were more common and an expression was born based on the what happens when situations are reversed.
So it is that Chairman Kurt Schaefer, a State Senator from Columbia with ambitions for greater glory, finds himself in the position of those he has spent months targeting—facing someone who considers him guilty unless he proves himself innocent.
Schaefer, whose SSGHSRAG has battered Planned Parenthood for months with allegations of selling aborted baby parts for research even to the point of threatening to jail the organization’s leader if she didn’t produce extensive records the organization considers protected by law, is now being accused of using his chairmanship to accede to corruption. Now it is Schaefer, the hunter, who has become the hunted. Now it is Schaefer who is calling allegations “ridiculous.”
The man Schaefer wants to succeed, Attorney General and governorship-hopeful Chris Koster, investigated the Planned Parenthood allegations months ago and found no evidence any Missouri affiliate of the organization had done any such parts-peddling, a finding Schaefer dismissed by accusing Koster of not looking hard enough. He has maintained that position despite other investigations in more than a dozen states that also have found no wrongdoing and further, that undermine the credibility of the source of the reports. Two people involved in producing the original accusatory video on which Schaefer and his committee began their lengthy proceedings have been indicted by a Texas grand jury.
Now Schaefer is feeling the same kind of accusatory pressure from the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust that has asked a county prosecutor to consider a criminal charge against Schaefer. FACT claims Schaefer used his position as Senate Appropriations Chairman to pressure the University of Missouri into keeping law professor Josh Hawley from running against him for Attorney General.
Schaefer claims the accusation has no basis in fact although former MU System President Tim Wolfe has written that Schaefer pressured him to cancel Hawley’s right to take a leave of absence from the faculty to challenge Schaefer’s candidacy. The Kansas City Star has reported Schaefer says he talked to Wolfe because he wants to save taxpayers’ money, apparently a reference to Hawley’s salary. Some folks think Schaefer put out a lot of effort for something that is such a minuscule part of the University of Missouri budget.
The head of the organization filing the complaint is a former U. S. Attorney for the southern district of Iowa. The organization also has other materials beyond Wolfe’s letter to support its accusation. The Missouri Ethics Commission says the claim is beyond its authority to consider, putting the issue in the hands of local prosecutors.
The complaint also refers to the SSGHSRAG’s investigation of the University’s relationship in Columbia to Planned Parenthood.
Schaefer also is getting heat from a second not-for-profit group that has spent more than $100,000 in ads targeting Schaefer in Columbia and in Springfield, raising questions about Schaefer’s involvement in the Hawley leave issue. The Public Integrity Alliance and FACT are organizations that do not have to reveal the source of their funding. Both deny any connection with Hawley and his campaign. The PIA says its ads focus on Schaefer’s ethics. Hawley disavows any connection to either organization.
The accusations from FACT have provoked great glee among people who have found Schaefer’s committee (actually it’s called the Sanctity of Life Committee) pummeling of Planned Parenthood excessive, to say the least. Their social media sites exploded late last week when Schaefer moved a meet-and-greet session with supporters at a Columbia watering-hole to another place because the gathering also had become a gathering of anti-Schaeferites who followed him to the quickly-arranged second location.
But now he’s feeling some of the same heat he’s been dispensing. And he proclaims it is unfair, as Planned Parenthood has complained his committee’s activities have been unfair. Shoe. Other foot. Etc. He can give it out but can he take it?
The FACT allegations also come at a bad time in his campaign and it would not be surprising if some of those involved weren’t hearing some echoes from 1992 when Attorney General bill Webster, running for Governor, found himself facing charges that he had abused his office by using state staff and equipment for campaign purposes. He constantly denied any wrongdoing.
Webster won his primary election anyway, defeating outgoing Secretary of State Roy Blunt by 20,000 votes and outgoing State Treasurer Wendell Baily by 120,000. But he lost in November to Mel Carnahan and later, after months of proclaiming his innocence, pleaded guilty to federal felony charges.
It is not proper to try to draw too many parallels between then and now, at least not at this point. But suddenly finding the shoe is on the other foot surely is not something Schaefer anticipated and is likely to add an uncomfortable factor to his campaign against Hawley.