Longtime Missouri GOP political consultant pleads guilty to felony tax fraud

Jason Hancock
Missouri Independent

David Barklage, a veteran Missouri political consultant and lobbyist, pled guilty to a felony tax charge in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon.

Barklage, who has been a fixture in Missouri Republican politics for decades, was indicted in April for failing to pay more than $150,000 in taxes over the course of a three-year period.

In a statement released after entering his plea, Barklage said he takes “full responsibility for my actions and intend to make full restitution. I am deeply grateful for the support of my family and friends, and apologize for any embarrassment my personal tax issues have caused for them.”

His attorney, Joseph Passanise, said he intends to ask the court for probation. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2.

According to the plea agreement, the maximum penalty Barklage could face would be 3 years in prison, a fine of $100,000 and a year of probation.

Prosecuting Barklage’s case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith, who specializes in public corruption cases and was the lead prosecutor in the indictment of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

In the 1990s, Barklage led campaign committees in both the Missouri House and Senate that eventually helped engineer the Republican takeover of the legislature for the first time in 50 years. He’s also long been a part of Gov. Mike Parson’s political team, most recently as a consultant for Uniting Missouri, a political action committee formed to help  Parson win a full four-year term.

Just this year, Barklage’s consulting firm has been paid roughly $70,000 by Uniting Missouri.

Barklage’s former business partner is Robert Knodell, who is Parson’s deputy chief of staff and has been serving as acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The indictment focuses on failure to report income from 2012 to 2014, a time when Barklage was in business with Knodell. During that time, the indictment says he failed to report $443,633 in income and failed to pay $151,843 in taxes.

Most of that income — $209,499 — came from a Missouri political campaign, the indictment says. Another $30,000 came from lobbying fees and $122,580 came from “an independent media producer” that is not named.

Barklage deposited all of these funds into his personal bank account, the indictment says, instead of his business bank accounts. These funds and earnings “were not included on Barklage’s tax returns for the years 2012, 2013, and 2014,” the indictment says.

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