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Missouri Democrats Target Graves’ Aides

Missouri Democrats charged on Tuesday that the family of U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, the brother of Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), was recently awarded $3.6 million in no-bid contracts by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R). Democrats called the move a conflict of interest for Todd Graves, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, and urged his removal from office.

Two of Rep. Graves’ Missouri-based employees were also awarded no-bid contracts, according to Democrats. They are Dean Brookshier, Graves’ deputy chief of staff, and Naomi Boss, a field representative.

The contracts that the Missouri Democrats are complaining about involve handling fees paid to four different motor-vehicle department offices, at least one of which is located in Rep. Graves’ district. According to The Associated Press, there are 171 of these offices scattered across Missouri, with contracts usually awarded to political allies of the governor.

The arrangement with Tracy Graves, Todd Graves’ wife, could be worth as much as $2.6 million over four years. Todd Bartles, brother-in-law to Todd Graves, won a contract worth more than $1 million during the same period.

The contract given to Brookshier, Rep. Graves’ aide, is estimated at around $100,000 annually before expenses, while Boss’ deal could be worth around $72,000 each year, also before expenses.

Corey Dillon, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, sent a letter on Tuesday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking the Justice Department to investigate the circumstances surrounding the awarding of these contracts. Dillon said Todd Graves violated the department’s standard of conduct and should be replaced.

“This arrangement goes far beyond the appearance of impropriety,” said Dillon. “This raises serious ethical and legal questions concerning Mr. Graves’ ability to perform his job, which includes investigating and prosecuting public corruption in federal, state and local government, including the Blunt administration, those who might attempt to influence the Blunt administration, or [Matt] Blunt’s father,” House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Gov. Blunt’s office dismissed the Democratic accusations as a partisan political ploy.

“We stand by all the people who were recommended to receive these contracts,” said Spence Jackson, a spokesman for the governor. Those awards were made on Feb. 9.

Jackson said as governor, Blunt has the right to decide who will get such contracts. He added that some potential recipients lobby for the contracts, while others are chosen by Blunt through other methods. “They are the governor’s decision,” Jackson said.

Jason Klindt, a spokesman for Rep. Graves, said the third-term lawmaker had no involvement in the awarding of these contracts to Brookshier and Boss, and did not discuss the issue with Gov. Blunt.

“The Congressman is proud of their service and he is aware of their new venture,” Klindt said of Brookshier and Boss. “They are very respected public servants. The Congressman is confident they will serve their community well.”

According to Congressional disbursement records for July through September 2004, the most recent available, Brookshier is paid at an annual rate of just under $52,000, while Boss receives slightly less than $16,000.

Neither Brookshier nor Boss is covered by House ethics restrictions on outside earned income since neither qualifies as a senior-level staffer.

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