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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Big money can't guarantee support

Friday, September 6, 2002

A well-funded bad idea is still a bad idea. No one learned that lesson more than supporters of the failed Proposition B effort in Missouri. In a classic David vs. Goliath, David won in a landslide. Goliath meanwhile is still trying to figure out what happened.

Election finance reports out this week show that supporters of Prop B outspent the opposition by a 300 to 1 margin and still lost the ballot initiative. When the dust settled, supporters spent $3.7 million. Opponents spent $12,176. And as you know by now, opponents defeated the measure comfortably. Let that be a lesson in the world of politics.

Here's an even more interesting kicker. Just five days before the crucial August election, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association gave $100,000 to supporters of the tax plan. That shows first that the RCGA is grossly out of step with their neighbors. But it also shows that no amount of money can assure passage of an issue that promises much and delivers little.

Those in positions of power oftentimes are simply clueless on how society works. That in itself is amazing. But it's true. The contractors and urban folk who so wanted those tax dollars for their pet projects were fooled into thinking that spending alone would advance their cause. They forgot the first rule of politics - a bad idea is a bad idea regardless of how many bows you tie on the package. Prop B failed in 113 counties in Missouri including both urban centers of Kansas City and St. Louis. It was such an overwhelming defeat that backers are still trying to decide on another option. And it better be an improvement from the first plan or they'll just waste more money.

We selfishly urged lukewarm support for Prop B because of the money promised for Highway 60. We knew then that the proposal was in deep trouble. Only when the results surfaced did we fully realize just how mismanaged and misunderstood the proponents really were.

The lesson is a simple one. You don't have to spend enormous amounts of money to gain public support. You just have to start with an idea that has merit and value and worth. Without that, your money is useless.

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