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Stenger's labor backers borrow Sinquefield tactic, with string of daily donations just over $5,000

In Backroom

1:10 am on Fri, 11.15.13

For the tenth straight day, St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger’s campaign for county executive has been publicizing a new $5,000-plus donation, most of them from contributors who formerly had been in County Executive Charlie Dooley’s camp.

Steve Stenger
Steve Stenger

The donations have each been $5,001 or $5,005 apiece, guaranteeing that they would show up on the Missouri Ethics Commission’s daily updated -- and public -- list of all donations of more than $5,000.

The practice is eerily reminiscent of the spat of daily donations of $5,001 to Dooley in 2010 and 2011 from wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield.

Sinquefield had intentionally given daily contributions to Dooley of just over $5,000 apiece for almost two weeks, so that each would show up daily on the Ethics Commission’s website.  The money was seen as a public daily signal to political activists that Sinquefield, who generally gives to Republicans, had been favoring Dooley, a Democrat, for re-election in 2010.

Charlie Dooley
Charlie Dooley

Stenger's message likely is being sent to fellow Democrats.  Stenger is seeking to oust Dooley in next August’s primary.

In Stenger’s case, the daily contributions of $5,001 or $5,005 are mostly from a handful of unions, including the Hoisting Engineers, Eastern Missouri Laborers and the Electrical Workers.

Several major labor groups have said they are no longer backing Dooley in 2014 because of disagreements over board appointments and a county building contract. (Dooley has said he expects many unions to stick with him.)

The most notable individual participating in the daily donation ritual is St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, who created quite a stir when he endorsed Stenger right before his campaign kickoff this fall.

McCulloch kicked off the Stenger blitz by giving him $5,005 on Nov. 4.

Stenger’s campaign has yet to comment on why the donations are coming in daily at the $5,001 clip, and what message the candidate is seeking to send.

 But it did confirm that the parade is not over, and that more $5,000-plus donations are expected in coming days.

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