July 18, 2015

539 words 3 mins read

Can John Brunner's Consultant Do His Duty?

Republican consultant David Barklage is in a weird place.

Barklage grew up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, along with Peter Kinder. Barklage has been Kinder’s campaign consultant for years—all of Kinder’s races, as far as I know. They were a team. David Barlage was Peter Kinder’s chief of staff when Kinder was president pro tem of the Missouri Senate in 2002.

And a loyal consultant is a great tool for a politician. Consultants know everything about their candidates. They do opposition research on their own candidate before they look into opponents. It’s not a stretch to say David Barklage knows more about Peter Kinder than Peter Kinder does.

The consultants I’ve talked to say they don’t like going negative, especially against other Republicans. But they have no choice. Consultants believe they have a fiduciary duty to their candidates. A duty to do “whatever it takes” to win the race.

Earlier this year, David Barklage signed on as John Brunner’s consultant in Brunner’s run for governor. Kinder was planning to run for re-election as Lieutenant Governor at the time.

Now, Kinder has parted ways with Barklage to run for governor.

Think about Barlage’s position.

If Barklage prosecutes an all-out, fiduciary campaign on behalf of Brunner, he’ll betray a lifetime of loyalty to and from Peter Kinder.

But if Barklage pulls punches against Kinder, he’ll violate his fiduciary duty to his client John Brunner. Should Barklage go soft on his old friend Peter Kinder and Kinder win the Republican nomination, who, besides Kinder, would ever trust Barklage again?

On the surface, David Barklage is in a no-win situation. But Barklage prides himself on his strategic maneuvering.

In the days following Tom Schweich’s suicide, word on the street was that the Blunt-Wagner establishment was pushing Brunner into the race. Not because they thought Brunner could win against Democrat Chris Koster, but because, win or lose, a gubernatorial campaign in 2016 would eliminate Brunner as a Senate candidate in 2018 when Claire McCaskill’s seat opens up. Representative Ann Wagner would like that seat, and she doesn’t want to go up against Brunner.

I have no idea. Just stuff I heard at some Republican events in the spring.

But it makes an interesting story, doesn’t it? Brunner, the libertarian businessman gets suckered into a race he’s not supposed to win. Brunner is a self-funded millionaire. A consultant can make a lot of bank from advertising buys on behalf of a self-funded candidate.

And if that self-funded millionaire candidate should lose the primary? Well, then his consultant is free to hook up with his old buddy, should the old buddy win the nomination.

I honestly have no idea that any of this conspiracy theory is fact. But one reason I detest electoral party politics is that I would not be the least surprised if it were true. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if it weren’t.


An earlier version of this post inelegantly implied something I absolutely did not intend. Reasonable people would have concluded that I was questioning the character of David Barklage or Peter Kinder or both. I am sorry for my crappy writing or poor construction. My apologies to David and Lt. Governor Kinder who do great work advancing noble causes.