It's a little difficult to be critical of someone when they're on the same page as you, so in one sense, I feel for First Ward City Council Candidate Jason Roe.
On the other hand, Roe's new billboard is tasteless and likely not within the strict confines of campaign finance disclosure law.
On a recent trip down Main Street towards I-70, before one approaches the Taco Bell on the left, I noticed a billboard for First Ward City Council Candidate Jason Roe.
"For smarter city spending in Boonville NOW," reads the billboard, "Vote Jason April 3rd."
The billboard also features a proud, robust Roe standing in front of a silhouetted Katy Bridge, with a red, white and blue banner flanking the bottom. He stands in a pose typically reserved for Batman, a boastful tableau, as if standing on the edge of a building after doing away with The Penguin.
Admittedly, I held back a laugh. According to Roe, that's been a side effect of the ostentatious ad.
"(The billboard) makes me look like Perry Mason," said Roe, referring to the 50s TV lawyer played by Raymond Burr. "I think the camera adds more than a few pounds."
He says the "unprecedented" ad wasn't even his idea. "It was my supporters in the community who said they wanted to do it," he said. "And I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth."
Roe's (possible, future) jurisdiction — ward one — is between Main St. on the west and the city limits on the east, with the river to the north. The southern boundary winds its way east from Main St. on Elm, Walnut, Gmelch, Locust and Morgan streets.
It's tiny, argues Roe, and it can be difficult to drum up supporters there.
"Ward one is the smallest by the number of registered voters," he said, with only 120 votes (of the 714 registered) in the last election cycle.
So something garish like a billboard could serve as a way to inspire voters. Well, if it was within the rules.
Missouri's Campaign Finance Disclosure Law is found in Chapter 130 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 2000. This law requires any printed matter (newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards, et al) pertaining to a candidate for public office to identify, in a conspicuous manner, the person who paid for the ad.
And if you look at Roe's ad, it doesn't. (I even got out of the car and examined the billboard up close, so don't blame it on the glasses.)
Julie Allen, director of the Missouri Ethics Commission, said that this is "not an unusual thing" and her office gets claims like this fairly regularly. And they do, with 14 resolved complaints listed on their website from the past 30 days.
Page 2 of 2 - Anyone can file a complaint, said Allen, which requires a notarized letter and a laundry list of other requirements. After the complaint is filed, the ne'er-do-wells are notified, investigators are called and results of the commissioner's final decisions are published online.
So, if Roe, who views himself as "kind of an opposition candidate," could stomach something as garish as a billboard to rope in supporters, why didn't his crew do their part well?
"I know that there are strict requirements," said Roe. "If there's anything I can do to rectify (the problem), I will."
Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you, Mr. Roe. I'm all for political campaigning, however gaudy you might like, but let's play within the rules.