Politics & Government

Missouri House aide says side business isn't ethics violation

A top aide to the speaker of the Missouri House runs a political consulting business on the side that generated nearly $500,000 last year, records examined by The Kansas City Star show.

In his public job as legislative director, Tom Smith holds significant influence over the life or death of bills moving through the General Assembly. Critics said his political consulting business raises questions about the potential for a conflict of interest in one of the most powerful offices in state government.

The issue: Do lawmakers have to do business with Smith to get favorable handling of their bills?

Smith denied any wrongdoing or ethical violations in connection with his company called Survey St. Louis, which prepares direct-mail campaign literature for legislative candidates and offers other services, including polling. No Missouri law prohibits such business connections, although proposed legislation languishing in the House would halt the practice.

"I think it's absurd that someone could buy 1,000 pieces (of mail) and somehow have a level of influence," Smith said.

Smith, 34, is in his fifth year of working for top GOP leaders in the Missouri House. He began serving current Speaker Ron Richard this year and earns about $64,000 a year as a state employee.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.