Missouri’s Million Dollar Man

 

 MEMO
 
To: Interested Parties
Fr: Caitlin Legacki, Missouri Democratic Party Communications Director
Date: February 17, 2012
Re: Missouri’s Million Dollar Man
 
Based on previous ad buys and spending reports, Senate candidate John Brunner is on pace to spend one million dollars of his personal fortune on television advertisements by Monday, February 20. But for Missouri’s political press corps, this weekend’s Lincoln Days events present their first opportunity since October to ask John Brunner questions about his questionable business practices and his strategy of trying to buy this election.
 
Missourians expect their Senator to be accessible and accountable, but Brunner has steadfastly refused to be available to Missourians. Brunner has used his personal fortune to create barriers between himself and the public in a concerted effort to buy the Republican nomination without answering any questions. Brunner refuses to announce his scheduled events and media inquiries regularly receive responses from Brunner’s paid mouthpieces, but seldom from Brunner himself.
 
Accordingly, it is incumbent upon Missouri’s press corps to make the most of the opportunity provided at this weekend’s Lincoln Days events.
 
Despite campaigning for more than nine months and making his campaign official in early October, Brunner’s used his personal fortune to hide behind $1,000,000 in misleading ads and expensive political consultants while refusing to answer questions from the press and public.
 
At Brunner’s current rate, the weekend’s Lincoln Days events will be the first and last opportunity for Missouri’s political press corps to ask serious questions about Brunner’s extreme positions and questionable business background until the summer, just weeks before the August 7 Senate primary. 
 
According to a recent report, Brunner, while serving as Chairman of Vi-Jon’s Board of Directors, filmed misleading “job creator” ads on Vi-Jon’s factory floor and took a salary of $372,000 while laying off dozens of Missouri workers.
 
Since Vi-Jon’s layoffs were first announced in late October, Brunner has refused to answer the following questions about his involvement in the layoffs and Vi-Jon’s questionable business practices:
  • What was Brunner’s involvement at Vi-Jon that warranted nearly $372,000 in annual salary?
  • Why didn’t Brunner, whose net worth is as much as $100 million, return his $372,000 salary in an effort to avoid layoffs?
  • Brunner launched his campaign on Vi-Jon’s factory floor just weeks before laying off workers. Were any of the workers present at Brunner’s campaign launch laid off by the company just weeks later?
  • Did Vi-Jon’s executives take a pay cut before laying-off workers?
  • Did Vi-Jon’s executives reduce their benefits in an attempt to avoid layoffs?
  • How many salaries could have been paid with the $1,000,000 Brunner has spent on fictional commercials?
  • Why did Brunner think it was more important to learn how to talk about creating jobs than actually creating jobs? (Note: Brunner spent at least $12,500 to travel to the East Coast for professional media training) 
The last time Brunner made himself available to reporters, during an October media tour, he was roundly panned. As a result, Brunner went back into hiding and refused to attend two debates with candidates Sarah Steelman and Todd Akin, despite the fact Brunner himself called for those debates.
  • Politico: Brunner Has Stumbled Out of the Gate. In December 2011, Politico reported that John Brunner “has stumbled out of the gate” in his campaign for U.S. Senate. [Politico, 12/29/11]
  • Hotline On Call: Brunner’s Rollout Was Unsteady. In January 2012, National Journal’s Hotline On Call reported that, “Brunner's rollout was unsteady, his own company has suffered layoffs (not the image a candidate who is running as an outsider/businessman wants) and is dodging debates.” [Hotline On Call, 1/3/12]
  • Politico: Brunner Has Unimpressed, Flopped His Media Rollout. In October 2011, Politico reported that, “St. Louis businessman John Brunner is willing to put his own money down, but he's unimpressed insiders and flopped his media rollout.” [Politico, 10/15/11]
  • Steve Kraske: Brunner's Not Ready for Senate Run. From St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Kraske's weekly column: "John Brunner made a fortune from his family’s household-products company.  These days, he’s Missouri’s newest GOP Senate contender.  He swung through KC this week, and here’s my first reaction: Brunner’s not ready.  Not even close.  In an interview, he couldn’t articulate a clear vision or expand on even basic questions, such as on creating jobs.  Mr. Brunner, you need some more practice. Either that, or try it again some other year." [Kansas City Star, 10/8/11]
  • Bob Priddy: Brunner's Senate Campaign Off to a "Vague, Wandering" Start. In October 2011, Missourinet's Bob Priddy described Brunner's campaign for U.S. Senate as "vague" and "wondering."  Priddy also criticized Brunner for being "unable to answer specific questions with answers that specifically state what their opinion is," and described interviewing Brunner as being like "chewing on a cloud." [Missourinet, 10/11/11] 
BACKGROUND
 
Brunner Was Paid $372,000 by Vi-Jon in 2011. According to his personal financial disclosure, Brunner received $372,000 in salary from Vi-Jon in 2011. [Brunner Personal Financial Disclosure, Filed 2/2/12]
 
October 2011: Vi-Jon Commissioned Round Of Layoffs. Reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Political Fix, “The campaign website for Republican businessman turned U.S. Senate hopeful John Brunner dubs him ‘John the Job Creator.’ But, less than a month after Brunner's kick-off, his company has joined the long list of firms adding to the nation's unemployment toll. An official for Vi-Jon, which produces the hand sanitizer Germ-X, confirmed Thursday the Vinita Park company did commission a round of layoffs this week. ‘We did have a reduction in force and as a matter of policy we don't talk about personnel matters,’ said Scott Wilson, Vi-Jon's chief human resource office. ‘We are a privately held company.’” [Political Fix, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/27/11]
  • Headline: Germ-Ex: Senate hopeful Brunner's company trims workforce. [Political Fix, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,10/27/11]
Brunner On His Role As Chairman Of Vi-Jon: I'm Standing By To Make A Call On Strategic Issues, Opportunities. During an interview with MissouriNet in October 2011, Brunner was asked about his current role within the Vi-Jon company.  Brunner explained that he is the Chairman Emeritus, meaning that he is "standing by to make a call on an important costumer, meet with some different employees, or on some strategic issues or opportunities." [MissouriNet, 10/4/11]