The political grandmaster behind the big chess tournament in St. Louis: Rex Sinquefield

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Rex Sinquefield

I have nothing against chess. But for those of you following the big chess tournament here in St. Louis, it might be interesting to know that Rex Sinquefield, the man who named the tournament after himself, plays a big game of political chess, too.

Sinquefield is Missouri’s equivalent of the Koch Brothers. A self-made billionaire [unlike the Kochs, who inherited their wealth] who moved back to Missouri after 40 years elsewhere. He has decided that he alone knows how to fix our state,and he’s been spreading his political money around to accomplish his goals.

And what are his goals? He has stated publicly that he wants to “roll back taxes” and “rescue schools from teachers’ unions.”

But he’s not just talking. He’s spending.




Here’s what PR Watch said about him:

Sinquefield is doing to Missouri what the Koch Brothers are doing to the entire country. For the Koch Brothers and Sinquefield, a lot of the action these days is not at the national but at the state level.By examining what Sinquefield is up to in Missouri, you get a sobering glimpse of how the wealthiest conservatives are conducting a low-profile campaign to destroy civil society.

Sinquefield told The Wall Street Journal in 2012 that his two main interests are “rolling back taxes” and “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.”

His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-public education views are common fare on the right. But what sets Sinquefield apart is the systematic way he has used his millions to try to push his private agenda down the throats of the citizens of Missouri.

Our review of filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows that Sinquefield and his wife spent more than $28 million in disclosed donations in state elections since 2007, plus nearly $2 million more in disclosed donations in federal elections since 2006, for a total of at least $30 million.

Sinquefield is, in fact, the biggest spender in Missouri politics.

In 2013, Sinquefield spent more than $3.8 million on disclosed election-related spending, and that was a year without presidential or congressional elections. He gave nearly $1.8 million to Grow Missouri, $850,000 to the anti-union, and another $750,000 to prop up the Missouri Club for Growth PAC.

And this:

Even more revealing is how Sinquefield behaved when Missouri was operating under laws to limit the amount of donations one person or group could give to influence elections. In order to bypass those clean election laws, he worked with his legal and political advisers to create more than 100 separate groups with similar names. Those multiple groups gave more, cumulatively, than Sinquefield would be able to give in his own name, technically complying with the law while actually circumventing it. That operation injected more than $2 million in disclosed donations flowing from Sinquefield during the 2008 election year, and it underscored his chess-like gamesmanship and his determination to do as he pleases.

An analysis by the St. Louis Beacon reveals that, between 2008 and 2013, Sinquefield made 576 donations: 180 to candidates and 396 to committees, for a grand total of more than $23 million. The next-closest donor, during the same period, contributed $5 million+.

This year, so far, Sinquefield’s track record has been, to him, disappointing. He backed a passel of right-wingers running for state legislator, but many of them didn’t get past the primary. Progressives rejoiced, but a few defeats are not going to stop Sinquefield–I think we can be pretty sure about that.

People who follow what goes on in our state capital and at the Missouri Ethics Commission [which oversees campaign contributions] have observed that Sinquefield is wily funder who has donated mostly to Republicans, but also to Democrats who could be useful to him as well. He clearly learned a lot of lessons applicable to politics when he was making his billions as an investor: He knows how to hedge his bets.

This fall, Missouri voters will decide the fate of Constitutional Amendment 3, a proposal created and funded almost entirely by Rex Sinquefield, which would end teacher tenure in Missouri. In January, Sinquefield ponied up $750,000 for this cause, creating a lobbying group called Teach Great. He will, undoubtedly, put more money in as the November election nears.

We in Missouri are all pawns in Sinquefield’s game.

Just thought you might want to know.