- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Conservative Club for Growth chairwoman Bev Randles on Monday received $1 million from wealthy political activist Rex Sinquefield to explore her chances of running for Missouri lieutenant governor.

The donation came the same day lawmakers discussed potential reforms to campaign finance and ethics laws, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill slammed what she called an effort to “purchase the loyalty” of state officials.

The $1 million is the largest lump sum Sinquefield has given to a single potential candidate since at least 2008, according to online campaign finance records.

Randles’ spokesman, Todd Abrajano, said she plans to use the money to travel the state and gauge support from Missourians. The money later could be used for a full-blown campaign if she decides to run, he said.

Sinquefield also helped finance the Missouri Club for Growth, which campaigned for a successful constitutional amendment that gave lawmakers the ability to override a governor’s decision to freeze or slow spending. According to the records, the financier as of Monday had given another $870,000 to former U.S. Attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, the only declared Republican running for governor in 2016.

McCaskill blasted Sinquefield’s most recent donation and said in a statement that Missourians should question if “they really want a government completely owned by one St. Louis billionaire.”

Abrajano called McCaskill a hypocrite for donating more than $800,000 to Missouri Democrats this past election cycle.

Missouri lawmakers on Monday discussed potential changes to state campaign finance and ethics laws following claims that Attorney General Chris Koster was influenced by lobbyist perks and campaign contributions.

But some Missouri experts have questioned whether there’s enough momentum to pass effective changes in a state some call the “Wild West” of campaign finance.

Missouri State University political scientist George Connor said the public has little interest in the process behind government, even when there’s concern that members representing either side of the political spectrum are exercising an “inordinate influence on the political process” with money.

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