Friday, February 23, 2007

Riederer Slimed

A week and a day ago, I wrote about a slimey postcard attacking mayoral candidate Mark Funkhouser. Today, a very similar postcard with similarly poor production values came out, attacking Al Riederer:

This piece of junk was mailed to anti-LGBT and anti-Choice voters in Kansas City.

Obviously, Mark Funkhouser is the best candidate in the mayoral race, and Riederer has embarrassed himself by running a completely bogus faux-outsider campaign funded by lawyers who need to appear before his wife/judge. But I have to stand up for Al and say that if your only reason to vote for a different candidate is because of this sort of bigotry and hatred, please reconsider your vote.

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Anonymous Tom said...

NEVER assume that Judge Midkiff could be swayed by anyone who contributes to her husband's campaign. She is the soul of integrity and is frankly so far above political operatives(her husband's or anyone else's) that any impropriety simply could not occur in her courtroom. Furthermore, anyone with a case before her can request a change of judge.

2/24/2007 7:16 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


That's great that Judge Midkiff is the soul of integrity. I've never had much experience for her, so I have no reason to doubt that is the truth. I think the Jackson County bench as a whole is outstanding.

BUT - we both know that the appearance of unfairness, of partiality, or of corruption is destructive to the public's faith in the judicial system, which is far more important than having a 12th candidate in the mayoral race. Your assurances don't address that problem. And it is a real one.

And the "change of judge" dodge is bogus, because it proves too much. The appearance of impropriety is not erased just because people can avoid confronting a tainted judge. Is it?

2/24/2007 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Aimee Gromowsky said...


My understanding is that you are a lawyer. Do you practice outside of Jackson County? Do you ever go to Platte or Cass County? How about Johnson County, Missouri? Every single one of those judges RUNS for office every four years. Every single one of those judges take donations from lawyers who practice in front of them. Nobody has accused those judges of the appearance of impropriety.

Judge Midkiff is not even the candidate like the judges I have mentioned. So why the double standard with Judge Midkiff?

Seriously why?

2/24/2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


There IS an appearance of impropriety with elected judges, and that's why I'm glad we have the Missouri Plan in Jackson County. Aren't you glad we don't elect our judges here? Isn't this the next worse thing?

Al & Judge Midkiff could have avoided this by being out front with it. Some sort of a pledge to not attend fundraisers, and to "chinese wall" herself from information about the campaign would have sufficed.

2/24/2007 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Aimee Gromowsky said...

You didn't answer the question.

When you go to Platte County, do you look at the judge's ethics disclosure before you practice in front of him or her? I doubt it b/c you are holding Judge Midkiff to a different standard because you want your guy elected.

Your contention is intellectually dishonest.

Why the double standard?
You didn't answer the question.

2/24/2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


Which part of "There IS an appearance of impropriety with elected judges" confused you? Yes, I do think that there is an appearance of impropriety in outstate counties, and I would hire local counsel if I were trying a significant case in an outstate county.

I'm holding Judge Midkiff to the standard of Jackson County, where, coincidentally, she is a judge, and where, coincidentally, her husband has long been an insider. No double standard at all.

You didn't answer my questions, either.

2/24/2007 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you and your sliming of Riederer and his wife. If you actually go to Riederer's website, his wife is barely mentioned, and there aren't even any photos of her. You can choose what you want to believe through your Funk-encrusted glasses, but it really looks like Riederer's campaign has gone out of its way not to exploit his wife's position.

You really ought to bother to learn something about people and the issues before you level personal attacks against them and their families.

You can choose to support whoever you want and to even vote against whoever you want. But you're wrong to slime good people just because you're supporting someone else. So far, I haven't seen anyone from the
Riederer camp or any of his supporters make any sort of personal attacks on Funkhouser, Nace, or anyone else in the race. They've pointed to differences on the issues, but not personal attacks with no more merit than what Jeff Roe said.

Shame on you.

2/25/2007 11:30 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


I think Al has one of the most highly developed senses of morality of all the candidates, based on prior contact with him. And I have certainly NOT claimed that Judge Midkiff, who I don't know well, is anything less than the soul of integrity. Have I? No.

I'm not sliming either of them. I am pointing out that it is fantastically stupid of them not to have addressed this totally foreseeable problem.

Is it your contention that there is not an appearance of impropriety when financial support for the campaign comes from "lawyers who need to appear before his wife/judge"? If that's not at least the appearance of impropriety, why is it "sliming" to mention it?

Let me be clear - I like Al Riederer. He's probably my second-favorite candidate (though second by a wide margin). But he's running a stupid campaign by not anticipating the lawyer/money problem and by acting like he is an outsider, when everyone knows that is a lie.

2/25/2007 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I guess in your Funk-encrused mind when you write things like this thread ("Riederer has embarrassed himself by running a completely bogus faux-outsider campaign funded by lawyers who need to appear before his wife/judge.") that you're not actually attacking anyone, right?

And is there some part of Riederer's campaign bending over backward to not highlight his wife -- again, her picture isn't even on his website -- that isn't part of addressing your trumped up concern? Amazing too how you'll rip on Jeff Roe when he criticizes your candidate but then you parrot his exact attacks on another candidate.

Talk about a double standard.

2/25/2007 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where was the piece mailed from?

2/25/2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous 2:23 - I didn't actually receive it - a trusted friend from Al's campaign sent it to me.

Anonymous 12:12 - I'm not sure what a "Funk-encrused mind" is, but, no, I don't feel like I'm attacking him when I say that his claims to be an outsider are bogus, and that he is getting funding from lawyers who have to appear before his judge/wife. The wife thing is absolutely true, and the bogusness (bogosity? what is the word?) of Al Riederer campaigning as an outsider is my sincere opinion, and certainly no different than his attempt to paint everyone else as an "insider".

As for the absence of his wife on his website, I don't really know what your point is. Are you actually claiming that the lawyers who donated to his campaign while having cases pending in her court didn't know that they're married?? Because if that's your contention, you MUST be kidding. Everyone in the bar knows that, and he mentions it in the second paragraph of his bio. And if they were smart enough to keep her picture off the site, why didn't they come up with a policy that may have avoided this whole appearance of impropriety?

And the fact that Jeff Roe happens to raise a good point doesn't mean that I can't use it, does it? Because a lot of Al's positions, and his use of orange, seem to come from a careful study of Funkhouser's successful campaign . . .

2/25/2007 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, you are a flaming hypocrite. You sit there and impugn the integrity of two good people based on ZERO facts and an attack leveled by Jeff Roe. Based on your argument then, we should all feel free to believe that Mark Funkhouser believes in taking health care away from poor people too, right?

You do realize that one of the attorney's that Roe cited has been a 30-year friend of Albert Riederer, right? So do you really think he was buying of Riederer's wife or supporting a longtime friend? And you do realize that the law firm Roe cited actually gave more money to other candidates than Riederer, right? Nah. You probably didn't bother to look at any facts, did you.

You'd much rather choose to level personal attacks on good people for the sake of helping your candidate win an election. And then you want to pretend that your candidate and his supporters' claim of the moral high ground is anything less than bogus? Ha.

Pot meet kettle, thy name is Dan.

2/25/2007 6:42 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Now, come on, Anonymous, I understand it is a difficult time to be a Riederer supporter, but try to pay attention. I am NOT impugning the integrity of Al or his wife. Can we get please get that straight? I am complaining, however, about the appearance of impropriety, and none of the anonymous Riederer supporters has had a word of response to my point. It smells bad, doesn't it? That's why you're so upset that everybody is getting a whiff it.

Again, the fact that Roe shares my concern about this doesn't mean that the point is invalid, does it? Isn't this just a form of attacking the messenger?

I certainly did NOT waste my time totalling the money received by Riederer or others from the STK law firm. Why would I? What difference does that make? I don't know how long Al has been friends with anyone, and again, I don't care. What does that have to do with the appearance of impropriety?

And to be crystal clear, this is my blog, and not Funkhouser's. I posted this piece, and I haven't talked to Mark or anyone with the campaign about it.

And, really, this is not about helping Funkhouser in the slightest. This post started off as a defense of Al from a sleazy postcard, and I included a little criticism of Al just so nobody would misinterpret it as an endorsement of Al.

I like Al. I think he'd be a fine mayor - he would be my second choice. If he were to be one of the two finalists against anyone but Funkhouser, I would volunteer for his campaign. BUT, I think he made a fantastically stupid mistake in the way he failed to handle this situation. Don't you? Really?

2/25/2007 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, you're backpedaling like crazy. Which is it, did you criticize Riederer or not? Your original post, which you might want to re-read, clearly said Riederer's campaign was "funded by lawyers who need to appear before his wife/judge."

That's an attack, and it has nothing at all to do the hokum you're now trying to sell that you just meant they should have handled the potential appearance of blah blah blah better. You clearly attacked Riederer and his wife, and you absolutely said lawyers were donating to sway Albert's wife. Re-read your own post, Dan.

And the facts of who donated to Riederer -- not just the surface details put out by Jeff Roe and repeated by a lousy reporter for the Star and then by you -- are relevent and they do matter. When you learn that one of the donors in question is a long-time friend and that the law firm in question actually gave more money to other candidates, then it blows a Jeff Roe sized hole in the entire attack that you made against Albert Riederer.

It's fine if you want to attack another candidate, but at least have the integrity to stand behind what you put in print instead of weaseling out of your comments when someone calls you on it. Re-read your post, Dan. There's no mistaking that you did impugn the integrity of Albert Riederer and Sandy Midkiff. Maybe it's not what you meant. But it's clearly what you said. And if it's not what you meant, then have the integrity to apologize.

2/26/2007 9:01 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

For crying out loud, Anonymous, pay attention! Yes, I am criticizing Al for his blunder, and have done so consistently through the post and its comments. And, yes, the truth is that his campaign is being funded by lawyers who need to appear before his wife. I wrote it, and it's true. Is there any doubt about that?

Now did I say that lawyers were donating to sway his wife? No, you're making that up. I did not write that, and I don't think it's true. I know the lawyers involved, and they are first-class people. I don't know Judge Midkiff, but I have no doubt that she has complete integrity, as well.

That is why I don't care who else at STK or anywhere else gave to whom in the race. It's not relevant in the slightest. And it's not just those donations that give the appearance of impropriety - it's all the members of the bar who make donations to the spouse of a judge they appear in front of.

Let me ask a few yes or no questions here.

1. Do you think it looks bad for the spouse of a judge to solicit and receive donations from lawyers who appear in front of that judge?

2. Has Mr. Riederer solicited and received donations from lawyers who appear in front of his wife?

3. Was it not possible to defuse this whole controversy by announcing a "Chinese wall" approach before the campaign started?

4. Have I stated anywhere that lawyers donated to Al in an effort to sway Judge Midkiff?

2/26/2007 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, you still haven't re-read your original item, have you? You in no uncertain terms criticized Riederer for his "blunder," you said lawyers were contributing to buy off his wife.

Here's your exact quote, Dan: "Riederer has embarrassed himself by running a completely bogus faux-outsider campaign funded by lawyers who need to appear before his wife/judge."

What part of that isn't saying lawyers were trying to buy off his wife? Is it explicit? No. But the implication is beyond obvious. And I clearly wasn't the only one to draw that conclusion based on the other comments you got. So either you mistatated what you meant or you're backpedaling. Which is it?

As to your questions:

1. The system we've got is the system we've got. I don't know that it looks bad, as much as it sets up a situation where people like you and Roe can level unfounded attacks. Maybe it could have been handled better by the campaign, but the reporting on it by the Star in particular fell short too. Regardless, that does nothing to diminish the lack of merit behind the attack you put in your original post. You said nothing about appearance, and you clearly implied wrongdoing.

2. Yes, according to the reporting, but the donors were also long-time friends, which completely changes the perception of those donations. How many city contractors or people hoping to do business in the future have donated to candidates? How many people with something to gain have donated to the candidates? Where exactly do you want to draw the line? Should we have 200 checkboxes that everyone has to tick before they can give money to declare any and all potential conflicts of interest? Or maybe folks like you should take the time and be responsible enough to look at all the facts before tossing out lines that question the integrity and honesty of good people.

3. Should his wife have to resign her position or should Riederer have to refuse contributions that anyone else can take just because people like you and Roe are going to level unfounded attacks? Again, if you're going to raise this flag for Riederer, then where does it stop? Who else shouldn't be allowed to donate? I mean, you or I could be a potential defendant in a case before her, should we be barred from donating?

4. Again, you did not explicitly state that was why they were giving, but the implication is obvious to anyone who read your item. Read it again, Dan. Maybe it's not what you meant, but it's what any reader would infer. And where in your post did you say anything about a "chinese wall" or an appearance or anything else? You didn't. You made a snarky remark that clearly suggested people were donating to sway Judge Midkiff.

So here's are my questions for you, Dan:

1. Where in your original post do you say anything about appearance or setting up a "Chinese wall" or anything of the sort?

2. If there is no such mention, then where exactly is a reader like me supposed to infer any of that?

3. Why is it so tough for you to admit that you attacked Riederer in your original post? Why can't you just own up to the words you used? Any reader would clearly infer what I did, and no amount of parsing or spinning on your part will change that.

4. Why can't you just apologize for your choice of words and the implication that was behind them? If you say that's not what you meant, then why not apologize for any misunderstanding?

2/26/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous -

There's an important distinction between impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Even when you are not guilty of impropriety, you may be guilty of the appearance of impropriety. I have not accused Al, or his wife, or the lawyers who donated to Al, of impropriety. But, I did state uncontroverted facts that, IMHO, give rise to the appearance of impropriety. Now, it appears that you interpret my language to imply impropriety, and if you read it that way, so be it. I didn't write it that way, and there is a good reason for that - the reason being that I do not have any evidence of impropriety by anyone involved, and I would not make that accusation against Al, or Judge Midkiff, or any of the attorneys I've seen named. I think they are all honorable people - I really do - but I think that the campaign was sloppy and allowed for the appearance of impropriety to arise. You prove my point, by arguing that I have actually made such an accusation, when, in fact, I have merely stated the uncontroverted facts. You even go so far as to claim that the "implication is beyond obvious". It was you that jumped to the conclusion I was claiming impropriety, when, in truth, the facts I set forth merely established the appearance of impropriety. Your own vehemence on the point demonstrates just how sloppy the campaign was in failing to anticipate and address the problems.

Since you answered my questions, I'll answer yours.

1. I did not mention a Chinese wall in the original post because it wasn't my job to solve Al's problem. Still isn't, but I'm generous that way.

2. A reader like you ought to be able to infer that the facts stated give rise to the appearance of impropriety. If you want to go the extra mile and infer actual impropriety, you have far less faith in Al and Judge Midkiff than I do. All I did was state the facts.

3. I have clearly stated that the controversial sentence was a criticism of Al. To quote from above, "Yes, I am criticizing Al for his blunder, and have done so consistently through the post and its comments."

4. Do you want me to apologize for laying out facts that caused you to leap to a faulty conclusion? Well, sure, okay. I'm sorry that the fact that the Riederer campaign has solicited and accepted money from lawyers who appear in his wife's courtroom led you to conclude that there was actual impropriety, as opposed to the appearance of impropriety.

Best of luck tomorrow. Make sure your voters know that the polling places have changed, and that the KCEB website is giving outdated information about where to vote.

2/26/2007 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever Dan, we'll just have to agree to disagree. You leveled a smarmy hit on Riederer, and I think other readers of your blog saw it the same way I did. But you're entitled to your state of denial -- or to be so full of yourself that you can't even admit to making an overreach with your original statement. Speaking of which, I'll reject your disingenous apology, thank you very much.

And speaking of being in a state of denial, are you pro-voucher like Funkhouser too? I'm shocked he came out and said it, but it's got to rankle you a bit that your choice for mayor wants to gut funding for our public schools.

2/26/2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Do you have a source for that, Anonymous, or are you making that up?

He sent his children through the KC public schools (have the other candidates?), and he has said to the Star that "he doesn’t think the mayor should be dictating policy changes to school leaders."

I'd love to see your source if you have one.

2/26/2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Hey, Anonymous - you got that right, apparently. Interesting issue.

2/26/2007 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing. First you assume I'm dead wrong and then you skirt my question. Do you support vouchers too?

2/26/2007 8:57 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I sincerely don't know yet. Studying the issue now. I'm not really an expert on the issue, but I'm glad to see someone not settling for the status quo.

(See, when I'm wrong, I admit it.)

2/26/2007 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Dan, proposing to burn down all the schools and enslave every school age child would be not settling for the status quo as well. It would also be nominally worse than vouchers.

Study up and maybe you'll start to realize that the idea of the candidate you are supporting is much better than the candidate himself. I went through the same evolution myself. I liked Funkhouser for a bit, but the more learned, the less I liked.

2/27/2007 9:02 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous -

You're not very persuasive. I can see how a voucher program, if it draws money away from the schools, could damage the schools. But I can also see how it would help individual students. I think I'll study the issue a little more carefully than you have.

2/27/2007 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, it could help some individual students but at the expense of others. Think about this, if the Catholic schools are pretty much at capacity already, then where are poor voucher kids going to go? To the other private schools? I don't see Pembroke Hill throwing its doors open. And do you think some non-Catholic private schools will raise their tuition to take advantage of the vouchers and to price-out disadvataged kids? Probably.

So if the poor kids in the bad schools don't have anywhere to go, then who's benefiting from the vouchers? The families who are already sending their kids to other schools and who can already afford the luxury of choice in education.

Meanwhile, the bad schools will get worse because they've had their budgets cut to reward the families who already have kids in private schools.

Where exactly is the logic in that? Believe me, I'm all for looking for real solutions, and the status quo definitely ain't working. But vouchers are a terrible idea.

2/27/2007 1:12 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thanks for the calm and reasonable reply, anonymous.

My understanding is that the Catholic schools are not anywhere near capacity, and I don't know about other schools.

Of course, church/state issues raise concerns here, as well.

Again, accountability is key here, and I think Mark is aware of that. Glad to be hearing a good discussion of an important issue . . .

2/27/2007 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to come to Dan's defense here. He's a lawyer. One of the ethical principles that most lawyers and judges live by is to not only avoid impropriety, but to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety."

Many laymen may not understand why we are so anal about the "appearance of impropriety". Let me try to make it simple. Our system of justice works best when it not only runs fairly, but when lawyers and judges don't do anything that makes it APPEAR unfair. If the system is fair, but the public believes it is not, then the public loses faith in the system and there is a risk that citizens will take problems into their own hands.

I think we can all agree that lengthy expensive trials are not good. But having the family of a murder victim or the victim of fraud turn around and kill someone they believe wronged them is even worse. (Even if they kill the actual bad guy rather than someone they just think is the bad guy.) If the system looks unfair, even if it is not, that creates a problem. Just so we don't get off track here, I am not suggesting the justice system is flawless. I do believe, however, that most lawyers and judges work extremely hard to make it fair.

In summary - Dan criticized AR for the appearance of impropriety, not actual impropriety. It is an important distinction, but it is still a criticism of AR who should know better.

2/27/2007 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous2: I understand what you are saying, and I understand the point that Dan eventually came to make. To some degree I agree with it, though I think he's still blowing it out of proportion.

My main point was that Dan didn't make that point in his first post. If you read what he wrote at first, not his defense of what he wrote, I think you'll see that he did appear (not saying you did it on purpose Dan) to slam Riederer and his wife. There was no mention of appearance or anythign else, but rather a not so veiled suggestion of impropriety. If then bothered me that he couldn't (and still hasn't) owned up to what he said. But I've decided to drop it and let Dan hold on to his (state of) denial.

2/27/2007 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, on vouchers and Funkhouser, I think it's really important to raise a serious flaw in Funkhouser's personality and his approach to issues that permeates his campaign and the rhetoric of his supporters. I'm trying to say this without being vitriolic or personally critical, but I think it is a real issue and a real reason for concern.

Funkhouser, in no uncertain terms, called every other candidate on the dais a "defender of the status quo" because they disagreed with him on vouchers. It's great that YOU want an open dialogue, but it's highly disingenous for Funkhouser to say he wants a dialogue when he A) joins the conversation on education late and B) vilifies anyone who disagrees with him on one possible solution.

As to the Catholic schools, there's no chance that they can take in the number of students who would be looking to move if the opportunity arose, and there's no way Pembroke Hill will take them either. And there are major church/state issues.

The "accountability" thing is a red herring/dodge. All of the private and charter schools in KC are already accountable to the state and have to meet standards, blah blah blah. So that really means absolutely nothing but that he will maintain the status quo. The real question of accountability is who is going to be accountable to the kids who can't afford to go to a private school even with vouchers? Who is going to be accountable for the schools that deteriorate because we stole from Peter to give money to Paul started vouchers?

And most importantly, shouldn't our goal be to fix the public schools rather than throwing our hands up and saying, yeah, we can't fix this. You'd better go someplace else if you can afford it. It's not bold leadership. It's surrender.

2/27/2007 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the private and charter schools in KC are already accountable to the state and have to meet standards, blah blah blah

An important note here. A charter school is a public school not a private school.

2/28/2007 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, charter schools are private institutions, and some actually operate for a profit. Their funding, however, does come mainly from the public, which is why you might think they are public schools.

3/01/2007 9:49 AM  

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