April 21, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

27 Months for “Rising Star in Democratic Party”

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Last January, the Sentinel congratulated the Kansas City Star for pointing out in the very first sentence of its article on the disgraced former Jackson County executive and prosecutor, Mike Sanders, that he was “once a rising star in Missouri’s Democratic Party.”

At the time, the Star transcended the media habit of burying the party affiliation of a troubled politico if he or she were a Democrat. Alas, in its Wednesday article on Sanders’s sentencing, the Star reverted to form by not mentioning Sanders’s party affiliation until the 20th paragraph.

The Sanders star has ceased to rise.

“Sanders, 51, was once seen as a promising candidate for statewide office or Congress,” reported the Star. “He led the Missouri Democratic Party from 2011 to 2013.” This is the article’s only mention of Sanders’s political orientation.

In any case, Sanders’s future is looking grim. Federal Judge Roseann Ketchmark sentenced the former Jackson County executive to 27 months in a federal prison after Sanders pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The sentence reportedly took the Sanders entourage by surprise. Federal prosecutors recommended 18 to 24 months. “It causes cynicism and disengagement from our democracy,” Ketchmark said of the crime. “So the harm, in terms of the harm of the offense, is hard to measure and hard to repair.”

The way the scheme worked Sanders would pay high school friend Steve Hill, a quadriplegic, from campaign bank accounts that Sanders controlled for services that Hill did not perform. Hill would keep a little of the money and kick the bulk of it back to Sanders. Hill told the Star, “I thought about it for a minute. What the hell? All right, I’m in a wheelchair, man. I’m hurting for a few bucks. And $200 or $300 would help me out.”

The scheme started in 2010. Hill claims to have cashed more than $60,000 in checks made out to him. According to prosecutor Lauren Bell, Sanders used the money to support his own indulgences and also to subsidize “underhanded political tricks.”

Sanders’s dirty tricks included paying people to pull out opponents’ yard signs, which, presumably, helped his Democratic star to rise.



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