- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A conservative political action group is severing ties with a content marketing firm after some Missouri reporters were offered $250 per article to write for a “Grow Missouri” blog.

Grow Missouri Treasurer Aaron Willard on Tuesday called the actions of the Boston-based national marketing company Skyword “indefensible.”

The PAC, created in 2013, backed Republican-led efforts to reduce Missouri’s income tax, which led to a law this year prescribing a gradual income tax cut.

Rex Sinquefield, a retired investment executive from St. Louis, has contributed $6 million to Grow Missouri, including $2.5 million in September. Willard has said it wants to support additional “pro-growth” and smaller-government initiatives.

“Because of our commitment, Grow Missouri does not want the indefensible actions of Skyword to tarnish or further distract from that effort,” Willard said in a statement. “Accordingly, Grow Missouri will have no further relationship with Skyword and is moving forward with a reinforced commitment to conducting business with the same high level of professionalism and integrity upon which we have always prided ourselves.”

Skyword CEO Tom Gerace wrote on the company website last week that it contacted nine writers familiar with public policy in Missouri and how that policy impacts families. He said that due to an oversight, five were news reporters.

Rudi Keller, a reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune, wrote in a column last week that he received an email from Skyword offering $250 for each article - about two or three each month. Keller wrote that the offer “had the rankest odor of anything I have encountered in my professional career.”

An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday also was critical of the payment offer and noted reporter Alex Stuckey was among those who turned it down.

Gerace said Grow Missouri was not involved in the offers to reporters.

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