JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — At the same time that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called for an end to big political donations in his State of the State address, the Democratic governor's campaign committee received a five-figure contribution from a technology firm whose multimillion-dollar state contract is up for renewal.
State records reviewed Thursday by The Associated Press show that Nixon received $10,000 from St. Louis-based World Wide Technology Inc. on Monday, the same day that Nixon proclaimed in a televised address that large political donations were eroding the public's trust in elected officials.
Additional state records reviewed by the AP show that World Wide Technology has been paid nearly $42 million by Missouri over the past three years under a statewide contract to provide networking services that is up for potential renewal Feb. 28.
Spokesmen for Nixon's campaign and World Wide Technology both said Thursday that the $10,000 contribution was intended to help pay for Nixon's inaugural festivities, which occurred Jan. 14.
"World Wide Technology has a proud history of supporting a wide range of organizations and activities that benefit the state of Missouri, including nonprofits, foundations, educational institutions and political parties," said company spokesman Edward Levens.
But some Republican lawmakers suggested the contribution creates the appearance of impropriety and highlights the hypocritical nature of Nixon's call for lawmakers to reinstate "strict campaign contribution limits."
"At a minimum, that doesn't look too good," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.
"It just doesn't meet the smell test," added Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin. "He ought to practice what he preaches."
Nixon has long been an advocate for campaign contribution limits, which first were adopted by Missouri voters in 1994. Although that voter-approved law was struck down, separate limits approved by the Legislature later were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nixon, who was state attorney general, argued the case before the high court in October 1999, telling justices that abolishing contribution limits would lead most Americans "to believe that their government is literally for sale."
The Republican-led Legislature in 2008 repealed Missouri's limits on how much money individuals, businesses and political committees can give to candidates.
In his State of the State address Monday, Nixon warned lawmakers that he would lead an initiative petition effort to place contribution limits back on the statewide ballot, if lawmakers would not reinstate the limits.
"The single most destructive force to our system is the unlimited sums of money pouring into the campaign accounts of candidates seeking public office," Nixon said in his speech.
"Each time a wealthy individual or business or special interest sends a check for $20,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 to a candidate, the public's trust erodes a little bit more. And eventually, if we continue on this path, there will be no trust left at all," Nixon added.
Yet Nixon has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of large checks.
From mid-December through this week, Nixon received $295,000 of contributions from 16 donors who gave at least $10,000 each, including World Wide Technology, according to online records of the Missouri Ethics Commission. Some companies gave checks of $20,000 and $50,000 — the same amounts decried by Nixon. The money rolled in as Nixon was hosting his inaugural festivities, which the campaign previously estimated to cost $150,000 from campaign funds and $30,000 in tax dollars.
Nixon campaign manager Oren Shur said Thursday that a wide range of businesses and other supporters helped pay for the inauguration.
"The governor's objective was to minimize costs to the taxpayers, while making sure that this special event was enjoyable for the public," Shur said.
But Schaefer said Nixon had adopted a "do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do" approach to political money.
"When the governor makes the statement that large checks from individuals undermine the public's confidence in their elected officials ... well then no one has done more to undermine the public's confidence than him," Schaefer said.
Nixon has close ties to David Steward, the founder and chairman of World Wide Technology. Steward was the keynote speaker at the governor's prayer breakfast in early January, and Nixon appointed him to the University of Missouri Board of Curators in 2011. The company, which describes itself as the largest privately held minority-owned business in the nation, has long been a state contractor and has been a major political donor to Democrats and Republicans alike. It also gave $10,000 to Nixon's campaign in December 2008 to help cover the costs of his first inaugural.
In March 2010, the company was awarded a three-year state contract to install and service Cisco networking products in state buildings. Under the terms of that deal, World Wide Technology is paid on a per-project basis at rates that are discounted from Cisco's standard pricing. Online state records show the company has been paid $41.8 million under that contract, which expires Feb. 28 but has an option for three annual renewals.
The state Office of Administration said Thursday that no decision had been made yet on whether to renew the contract.