Kansas lawyer, Missouri medical marijuana companies fill coffers of pro-Parson PAC

Jason Hancock
Missouri Independent
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson at a bill signing in St. Louis in October 2020. Photo courtesy of Missouri Governor's Office

The political action committee created to support Missouri Gov. Mike Parson raised $56,000 at an April fundraiser organized by individuals and companies that have been awarded lucrative medical marijuana licenses by the state

The haul from the April 27 event was disclosed last week in the quarterly report filed by the Uniting Missouri PAC. 

Parson, 65, is barred from running for governor again because of term limits and has dismissed the idea of seeking another office in the future. Yet he’s continued raising and spending money through Uniting Missouri, which unlike candidates is not restricted by the state’s campaign contribution caps.

The PAC reported raising roughly $160,000 from April 1 to June 30. Nearly half of that total came from the Kansas law firm of Michael Ketchmark, which donated $75,000 on June 3. 

The timing of Ketchmark’s donation drew attention at the time because it was reported the same day Parson replaced a University of Missouri curator who had refused to resign amid controversy over an appointee backed by Ketchmark. 

The controversial curator nominee supported by Ketchmark was Todd Graves, an attorney and former Missouri GOP chairman who won Senate approval only after Parson cut a deal with Democrats. 

A company Graves created in 2016 — 105 High Street LLC — gave $560 each month to Uniting Missouri as an in-kind donation. The company owns the building Uniting Missouri moved into earlier this year.

The largest donation from the April medical marijuana fundraiser was $25,000 from MO Majority PAC, a political action committee tied to lobbyist and longtime Parson adviser Steve Tilley. 

Tilley, whose activities have been under FBI scrutiny for nearly two years, represents numerous medical marijuana businesses, including the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association. The industry is regulated by the Parson administration, and has faced scrutiny over allegations of impropriety in how licenses were handed out

Tilley was also at the heart of the controversy over the board of curators nominations, after a longtime member of the board objected to Tilley using his connections to the university to leverage business for his other lobbying clients.

Though Uniting Missouri raised $160,000 last quarter, it spent nearly $200,000. 

The largest expense is also tied to Tilley.

Uniting Missouri paid more than $22,000 in early May to IGH Aviation LLC for travel. 

According to incorporation paperwork filed with the secretary of state’s office, IGH was registered by Tilley’s sister. The company’s address is the same as a “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s” restaurant in Perryville that lists Steve Tilley as its owner.

The PAC paid political consulting firms around $25,000. That includes monthly payments totaling $12,500 to David Barklage, a veteran GOP adviser who was indicted by federal prosecutors in late April for tax fraud

Barklage is expected to plead guilty later this month.