Last week the EYE praised a rarity in mainstream journalism: a positive Columbia Daily Tribune report on a black legislator defending the interests of her minority constituents on the floor in real time.
Now we have something altogether different – and much worse – coming out of Jefferson City respective to a black legislator. Now we have a threat of what you might call black-on-black political violence, made on the floor of the Missouri House so loudly that bystanders and journalists remarked upon it.
The threat was made by former state Rep. now rookie state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) to rookie state Rep. Michael Butler, both African-American Democrats from St. Louis. But only one of these two junior legislators acted like a know-nothing beginner – and only one acted like a Democrat.
“Tensions came to a head on the bill when Senate sponsor Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, confronted Democrats on the floor. Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, yelled at Nasheed on the floor to ‘stop threatening people,’ before Nasheed was removed from the chamber as the two came close to a physical confrontation,” Collin Reischman reported for The Missouri Times.
“She was telling [Representative Michael] Butler that if he didn’t ‘vote her way, he wouldn’t be coming back,’ English told The Missouri Times. ‘Whether you support this bill or oppose it, it’s not right for someone to lobby on the floor and threaten a fellow member of the general assembly. That’s not how you do business.’”
By all accounts, it’s how Nasheed tried to do business. But she failed. She failed to intimidate or persuade Butler, and the Republican-sponsored education bill that she was pushing, SB 125, failed as well, 76-82.
Two other Democratic legislators from St. Louis did vote with Nasheed for the bill: state Rep. Penny Hubbard and state Rep. Mike Colona, crossed party lines to vote for SB 125.
The bill was spearheaded by House Speaker Tim Jones. According to Butler, Jones’ bill outlines “terrible education policies” and, despite Jones’ leadership position in the House and a Republican super-majority in both houses, Jones did not do the necessary politics to pass an education bill this session. By starving his opponents, he united them.
“The Speaker and his allies for ‘education reform’ have ignored all of the solutions from actual educators in the building,” Butler told The American. “Bills filed by educators haven't even been given a hearing, and none have been given the chance for a vote. As a result citizens, superintendents, teachers and legislators from across the state are rejecting their terrible education policies.”
The Rex connection
Why was Nasheed playing vicious attack dog for a Republican Speaker of the House (who previously made national headlines for joining a “birther” suit against President Barack Obama)? It could be because Jones and Nasheed share a funding source.
In October billionaire political investor Rex Sinquefield cut Jones an $100,000 campaign check – and Jones was running with no opposition.
In December, a group Sinquefield founded called Missourians for Excellence in Government donated another $100,000, split between three political campaigns: those of Mayor Francis G. Slay, Republican state Sen. Eric Schmitt and Nasheed.
As the EYE said at the time, the timing of this three-headed donation seemed to suggest that Slay had forged the connection between Sinquefield, his single largest donor, and the two state legislators. Slay previously had endorsed Nasheed over Robin Wright Jones and Jeanette Mott Oxford and donated money to Nasheed’s campaign; Nasheed repaid both favors, endorsement and donation, to Slay in his 2013 reelection campaign.
Aid in obstruction
Pushing an education bill opposed by educators while denying a hearing to education bills framed by educators was Jones’ recipe for failure – and a lose-lose proposition to which Nasheed contributed.
“Nasheed aids in this obstruction of good education policy,” Butler told The American. And she did so with a little old-school political brutality.
“During the final vote for SB 125, Nasheed attempted to intimidate me to change my vote; it didn't work,” Butler said. “She repeatedly retorted, ‘You do this and you ain’t coming back.’ Throughout her entire tirade I constantly reminded the senator that I would like to work with her on other issues, but this particular bill I cannot support.”
Nasheed may be losing track of whom she was sent to Jefferson City to serve, but Butler’s priorities are clear.
“I was elected to serve the people of the City of St. Louis and not the state senator,” Butler said. “I am in no way threatened by Sen. Nasheed. She cannot elect me as she does not live in my district, nor her own for that matter. The citizens of the 79th District voted overwhelmingly in support of the education solutions that I campaigned on, and I will continue to support them.”
As for Sinquefield and Jones’ education agenda, clearly they are going to need to buy more legislators before they can get it passed in Jefferson City. A house bill with similar provisions, HB631, lost a vote by an even wider margin of 55-102 earlier this year.
Show Me Koch Brothers
According to a new report by Progress Missouri, Nasheed can trace her new right-wing friendships back from Jones and Sinquefield all the way to the Koch brothers, Charles Koch and David Koch, President Obama’s most determined enemies. According to the report, the Koch-funded Donors Capital Fund has given $567,941 to the Show-Me Institute, which Sinquefield funded. The report, available at http://www.progressmissouri.org/SMI, presents the Show-Me Institute as part of a national chain of right-wing “belief tanks.”
“With its national backers in mind, it’s not surprising to see the organization work to keep Missourians trapped in poverty wages, attack Missouri’s middle class, oppose affordable health insurance options for Missouri’s working families, and work to make Missouri’s teachers and school administrators ‘at will’ employees,” says Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri.
Correction for Ald. Boyd
The EYE owes Alderman Jeffrey Boyd a correction.
In an April 18 column about the Democratic Caucus meeting to revise the rules that govern the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, the EYE reported that “Boyd handled another innocuous rule change about committee amendments and substitutes that was tabled as the meeting dragged on.” In fact, as the board’s attorney confirmed, Boyd’s rule change was confirmed as the meeting was emptying out. Perhaps the EYE’s source was the first alderman out the door and missed the final vote.
The point of the previous item was not so much that Boyd’s amendment was defeated (which in fact it was not), but that he and Alderman Marlene Davis carried proposed rule changes for the white majority on the board led by Aldermen Steve Conway and Fred Wessels.
“Now their colleagues know, if they didn’t before, that Boyd and Davis are the black aldermen whom the white aldermen think are pliable enough to do their bidding,” the EYE concluded that April 18 item. No need to correct that statement.
Blacks outvoted whites
Last week the U.S. Census Bureau reported that about two in three eligible blacks (66.2 percent) voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites who did so.
This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting. Black women in particular outdistanced every demographic in America.
The number of black voters in 2012 exceeded the 2008 turnout by 1.7 million, while the number of Latino and Asian voters increased by 1.4 million and 550,000, respectively.