John Wright  raises -- and spends --  10 times the annual salary of a Missouri State Rep

COLUMBIA, 11/1/12 (Op-Ed) -- By the time his campaign is finished, John Wright will have raised and spent 10 times the salary of a Missouri State Representative to get that very job in Missouri's 47th District, which includes part of Columbia.

Voters worried about "tax and spend" politicians might be given pause, if Mr. Wright's campaign is any guide to his future as a legislator.

Since October 15, when he reported $299,615.00 in his campaign piggy bank, Wright and his hedge fund, Rollins Capital Management, contributed another $55,000.  His father and campaign manager John Riddick put in another $15,000.  Attorney Craig van Matre and other donors signed on for just over $1,000.

All of which brings Wright's campaign war chest to just over $370,000 -- and counting.  House members receive an annual salary of $35,915.   Maybe more troubling, Mr. Wright is showing around $6,400 left from a spending blitz like few others in relatively obscure statehouse races.  

Voters worried about large campaign donors and big money in politics would be right to question a money-raising and spending spree that has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous to the downright outlandish.

It wouldn't be fair to make such a judgment if Mr. Wright himself hadn't called for campaign finance limits and condemned big political donations during his primary battle with Nancy Copenhaver.   Wright, a Democrat, won that race and is now running against Republican Mitch Richards in the general election.   Self funding and out-of-town donors -- many with 4- and 5-figure contributions -- have built the bulk of his war chest. 

And all things relative, it wouldn't be fair to criticize Mr. Wright if there was any real precedent for such enormous Rep.-race spending, or if any other State Rep. candidates were raising even close to the mid-six digits.   Ken Jacob, a popular Democrat and former State Senator running for a different Columbia-area State Rep seat, has raised a comparative pittance:  $135,684 as of October 29.    Even Senate candidate Mary Still has only raised about $160,000 to date

Finally, Mr. Wright started a public-private Montessori School at Grant Elementary with a non-written commitment to provide scholarships for about half the class -- 10 or so low-income children -- while seeking donations from the community and taxpayer help from Columbia Public Schools.   Tuition at the school for parents who can pay averages $8-9,000/year. 

If Mr. Wright can raise and spend $370,000 to land a $36,000/year job, why the need for Montessori donations and taxpayer assistance?