A Missouri House political action committee has spent over three quarters of a million dollars on a consultant to elect Republicans since 2018 and has actually lost ground.
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC), the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) has paid Palm Strategic Group over $765,000 to seat more Republicans since 2018. Yet, according to Ballotpedia, after holding 116 seats in 2018, Missouri Republicans are down to 111 seats now – only two more than the minimum 109 necessary for a supermajority.
Despite losing three GOP seats in 2022 alone, Palm Strategic Group staff received a combined $12,500 in bonuses, according to MEC records.
Palm Strategic took over as HRCC interim executive director in 2020, earning $6,000 per month in that role.
The Heartlander emailed a series of questions to Palm Strategic Group partner Jonathan Ratliff, but had not heard back as of publication. The questions include whether it is a conflict of interest for Palm Strategic to both manage HRCC and also use itself as a vendor – and whether, given House Republican losses, members and donors should feel confident in Palm Strategic going forward.
The Heartlander also asked why, in 2022, HRCC spent $339,000 in House District 135 to beat Democrat incumbent Betsy Fogle, who ended up winning handily by 13 points – while investing just $139,000 in vulnerable GOP incumbent Rep. Craig Fishel in District 136.
Fishel is wondering the same – particularly since he says the GOP-led redrawing of House districts after the 2020 Census left his formerly 60%-plus Republican district basically a tossup.
“If they say they spent $139,000 on my race, I don’t know where they spent it,” Fishel tells The Heartlander, noting he paid for two television commercials himself. “They sent out three or four really crappy mailers, negative in all respects and hammering to my opponent. But golly, I’d like to see a breakdown of where that money went.”
It’s not just the money that’s being questioned, either; it’s also the strategy. As for spending nearly $340,000 to dislodge the Democrat Fogle from her seat, Fishel is dumbfounded there, too.
“They’re not doing their homework,” he said of HRCC. “Betsy Fogle is a name in Springfield that is established, reputable. Her father is the director of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. They love him. All the charities, everybody loves him. She is in there as long as she wants to be there. And then they spend money trying to defeat her? They didn’t do their homework.
“I don’t know where their research is coming from there, but they sure aren’t asking the candidates in this area about strategic issues.”
Asked point blank if he saw cause to believe HRCC is spending its money wisely, Fishel responded, “I guess I could say absolutely not.”
“The HRCC made big statements about how much they would spend to guarantee I got re-elected. They didn’t come close. In fact, I would say [they spent] 25-30%. All of the marketing they did was all very negative against my opponent. They never produced one piece that said what I did.”
Noting the changes in his redrawn district – exacerbated by tough stances he once took while on the Springfield City Council – Fishel says he even told party leaders he wasn’t going to run in 2022.
“When they changed the district, I went to one of the people that were on the redistricting committee and said I’m done, I’m not running again because I won’t win. ‘Ohh, you’ll win. You’ll win. You’ve always won your elections.’ Well, they didn’t listen.”
He claims Ratliff and others also overestimated the percentage of Republicans in his redrawn district.
Fishel says he isn’t bitter at all, that he has enjoyed the past year out of office and “had a world of experience in being there.”
“But Republicans are going to lose it if they don’t clean up their act in Jeff City. It’s the most dysfunctional …”
Fishel notes that in his race, “the Democrats, they worked it. They had boots on the ground and their entire caucus was involved.
“Here I was [alone]. It’s always been that way for me. My whole campaign team is me. I didn’t have a whole group of people that sat around the table and said, ‘this is how you’ll get re-elected’ or ‘let’s talk about it.’ I was it, and they knew it.”
Told how much HRCC has spent on Palm Strategic Group since 2018, Fishel says, “Wow. Yeah, that’s all I have to hear. I’m glad I’m not there anymore. Too bad. Too bad. As the Republican Party, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”
Asked about the $12,500 in HRCC staff bonuses after losing three GOP seats in 2022, including his, Fishel says, “Well, I’d ask the Speaker about that. I don’t think the caucus knows that.”
Does the caucus know much about the job HRCC is doing?
Fishel has seen it firsthand.
“I wouldn’t give them the time of day,” Fishel said.