Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brian Wahby, the Mother of all Candidates

“I’m going to win this race on my merits,” stated Brian Wahby for an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was speaking of his run for the post of Treasurer of the City of St. Louis. Written by David Hunn and printed on 2/2/2012, the article was headlined “Treasurer candidates call for Wahby to step down as chair of St. Louis Democrats.”

It seems that rival Democratic candidates for the Treasurers position wanted access to the Voter Action Network (VAN), the party’s database of Democratic voters, and the State Democratic Party said they had to get it by going through Brian Wahby, the chair of the City Democratic Committee.. His rivals feared he might “futz with the data” before handing over the lists.

Absolute silliness! After all, if you can’t trust your local Democratic Party chairman, what politician can you trust?

Anyway, everybody knows Brian - the spawn of the Seventh Ward - is a shoe-in for the post. His victory will be unanimous, as it should be. His merits speak for themselves. Let’s review some of them.

For one, Brian enjoys a national reputation. As a favor, Brian’s election pamphlet carries a picture of President Obama posing with Brian and Brian’s wife and two children. Brian says that President Obama was the one requesting the photo-op, to boost his re-election chances by showing that he associates with the best and the brightest. Brian and his family went out of their way to help President Obama, and they probably didn’t make him beg, either. It shows Brian’s generous nature, his loyalty to his party and his national standing.

The election pamphlet also notes that Brian already has extensive experience as a top official in the Treasurers Office. To quote the pamphlet: “As an assistant in the Treasurer’s Office in the 1990's, he was instrumental in building the Kiel Center Parking Facility downtown and the Schlafly Library and Argyle Parking Garage in the Central West End. After these successes, Wahby left the Treasurer’s Office in 1999 for the private sector.”

He worked tirelessly on many successful projects, of course. One not mentioned in his pamphlet was covered in glowing terms in a Post-Dispatch article dated December 2, 1995 and headlined “Treasurer’s Office Linked to Vote Ploy” and subtitled “Penny Alcott Testifies at Federal Trial.” The article by Tim Bryant follows:

“Penny Alcott said Friday that a top official in the St. Louis treasurer’s office was among those who urged her to become a last-minute spoiler candidate in the 1993 comptroller’s race.

“Alcott told a jury in U.S. District Court that Brian Wahby, executive assistant to Treasurer Larry Williams, provided her the $725 filing fee to become a candidate. She said he later gave her money for personal expenses, such as clothing and health insurance.

“In addition, Wahby was part of the group that pledged to help her after the Democratic primary election in March 1993, Alcott said. ‘They would try to help find me a job and help me out financially,’ she said.

“Alcott testified at the federal trial of Craig Walker, an investment banker from Los Angeles who was a longtime associate of Virvus Jones and a contributor to his campaigns. Jones won the comptroller’s race by a small margin in 1993.

“Wahby, Leslie Bond Jr. and Mark Magas, who became Alcott’s campaign manager, urged her in December 1992 to enter the comptroller’s race, she said. Alcott became a candidate less than two hours before the filing deadline on Dec. 31, 1992.

“‘My intent was to take away votes from James Shrewsbury,’ she said.

“Shrewsbury, D-16 Ward, has claimed that he would have won the election had Alcott not entered the race. Alcott and Shrewsbury are both white. Alcott was expected to siphon off some of Shrewsbury’s white voters.

“Jones got 44,670 votes in 1993; Shrewsbury got 42,661; and Alcott got 3,268.

“Wahby, who was scheduled to get married this weekend, was unavailable for comment. Bond, an executive in the comptroller’s office, has denied doing anything wrong in the 1993 race. He also has said he has cooperated with federal investigators in the case.

“U.S. Attorney Edward L. Dowd Jr declined to say whether charges had been considered against Wahby.

“Alcott and Jones are among five people indicted in June. The federal indictment alleged that the defendants conspired to defraud voters by putting Alcott in the race because Jones was worried that he would lose the election to Shrewsbury. Jones resigned in September after pleading guilty of tax fraud. Alcott pleaded guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the filing of false campaign disclosure reports. Also pleading guilty to a tax charge was Kerry Alexander, a former police officer accused of helping launder money from Jones’ campaign to Alcott.

“Under cross-examination by defense lawyer C. John Pleban, Alcott said Walker, 33, had no role in persuading her to enter the comptroller’s race, nor did he help run her campaign. She said that, if elected, she would have served.”

Wow, that story illustrates Brian’s meritorious work ethic and displays his willingness to build bridges across racial divides and to work with women. In newspaper circles, the article is known as a puff piece, because it throws the spotlight on Brian’s best side. A friend asked Brian about the story, and Brian replied: “It’s not true.” His modesty and willingness to share credit are widely recognized. Those are the personality traits of a dynamic St. Louis leader.

Brian is loyal to Democratic Party candidates, and he works tirelessly to promote them. An example was his endorsement of Rodney Hubbard for State of Missouri senator. The flier we all received in the mail, and which we treasure, was “From the Desk of the Chairman of the St. Louis City Democratic Party Brian Wahby.” Brian wrote: “Rodney is the only candidate that has a real record of legislative accomplishments. He is absolutely committed to improving the lives of people in Saint Louis and throughout Missouri.”

It continued: “His commitment to the Democratic Party and its principle of putting the interests of people over special interests is exceptional. Democrats have a clear choice - Rodney is the progressive candidate for Senator with the experience, vision and courage to effectively represent us in the Missouri Senate.”

Brian was spot on. After Rodney lost the election, Brian’s insight was proven in a December 14, 2010 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined “Ethics Commission fines Rodney Hubbard $322,000 for violations.”

Datelined Jefferson City, the lead read: “Former state Senate candidate Rodney Hubbard and his treasurer used various campaign accounts as virtual ATMs, withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash that was not properly recorded, according to orders in three cases made public Tuesday by the Missouri Ethics Commission.”

To quote further: “Two of the cash withdrawals were at Las Vegas casinos, the Flamingo and the Golden Nugget.”

There was a ready explanation. Brian’s protégée pleaded incompetence, claiming that he did not understand accounting. Apparently this explanation had legs, since Rodney’s fine was drastically reduced, and now he is the state director of Democrats for Education Reform - Missouri (DFER - Missouri), serving his party and the rest of us to the best of his abilities, doing to education in Missouri what he formerly did to Missouri election laws.

In his flier endorsing Rodney, modest Brian stated: “As someone who has spent the better part of my life getting Democrats elected to office, I am proud to support”...etc., etc. It is not just empty boasting from Brian that he has played a strong hand in the growth and revival of St. Louis.

Those sterling leaders nudged into power with the help of Brian have brought us Ballpark Village, the Bottle District, the Ice House District, tax breaks for the Cardinals, our declining population and loss of businesses, McGee (“to save St. Louis, first we have to destroy it”), and a spectrum of other triumphs, all benefitting family, cronies, contributors, and what have you, all road markers on the path to a booming St. Louis, to the prosperity we all enjoy today. .

Another of Brian’s merits is that he can be counted on to get the job done. Everybody in the Seventh Ward nodded knowingly in the summer of 2010 when it was revealed that Brian Wahby, chairman of the City Democratic Committee, was to spearhead the local bid to get the Democratic National Convention to come to St. Louis.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch (June 30, 2010 story headlined “St. Louis one of four finalists to hold 2012 Democratic Convention” by Jake Wagman), “St. Louis officials say hosting the 2012 Democratic Convention would bring 50,000 delegates, journalists and other visitors to St. Louis - and an economic benefit of $266 million.”

City leadership displayed wisdom and a keen understanding of their people assets by anointing Brian to bring home the bacon. We all knew the convention was as good as in the bag, under his able generalship.

And when something goes awry, Brian isn’t afraid to tell the truth about the reason for the debacle. After the whole national convention pipe dream fell apart, Brian had an insightful explanation: Claire McCaskill ruined everything. Brian went out of his way to mentor Claire, teaching her that there may be copperheads in out state Missouri, but the reptilian city politicians are far more venomous.

Brian is highly intelligent. In fact, he displays traits of a genius. As his campaign pamphlet notes, Brian earned his BS in Public Administration at UM-St. Louis and his MBA at Washington University. Education makes for a well-rounded man. For example, Brian once related that, during his bachelor days and when he was the committeeman of the Seventh Ward Democrats, he signed a lease and moved into a new apartment, only to realize that he had moved outside the boundaries of the Seventh Ward. After a year of enjoying another ward, he re-assumed his post as committeeman after moving back into the ward at the conclusion of his lease.

We should not skip over the biggest 7th Ward contribution by Brian, who has long been involved in the greatest growth engine in St. Louis: the Soulard Mardi Gras.

Everybody has heard Brian remarking that he engineered the morphing of Mardi Gras from a neighborhood event to an industrial money maker for the booze industry and politicians. To monitor all that loose money rolling around, he took control from the Soulard bars and presented it to politicians and Dean Martin wannabes. If you can’t trust that crowd, who can you trust? Word has it that 7th Ward Alderperson Phyllis Young resigned from the MGI board because she did not want to be involved in the mg money which found its way into miscellaneous pockets. But we are sure this is just here say.

Brian, ever generous, shares this Mardi Gras bonanza with others. Before the 2012 Mardi Gras, Brian offered to and provided a number of ward committee persons with free tickets to one of the $100 “all you can drink and eat” tents on Grand Parade day. Residents of city wards who endorsed Brian’s candidacy should ask their committee persons how they enjoyed the drunk. If they did not participate, then they must not be much fun or important. And Brian has keys to the new Mardi Gras offices on Dolman Street in Soulard. He holds his political meetings there. He sure knows how to earn the respect of those who bring so much to Soulard and St. Louis.

It goes without saying that if you believe that the Soulard Mardi Gras is the second biggest mg festival in the nation and a credit to St. Louis, then you believe that Brian Wahby should be our next Treasurer. It is fair to say that if you vote for Brian and if he wins, you are going to get what you deserve.

Of course, not everybody has climbed on Brian’s unstoppable bandwagon. Those pouters on the St. Louis American staff are an example. They say Brian carries a carpetbag full of demerits.

In the May 31 - June 6, 2012 issue of the American, the “Political Eye” writers refer to a television story: “KMOV-TV news reported that Wahby was issued a ticket on June 25, 2011 by the Missouri Highway Patrol for not having a valid driver’s license. Wahby did not have a valid license because of the unpaid parking tickets issued to him when he was working in the Treasurer’s Office. As the headline on the online story read, ‘Candidate for parking meter boss has registration suspended for unpaid parking ticket.’”

Big deal. Who among us hasn’t put a bunch of miles on our vehicles without a driver’s license? Similarly meaningless was a reference in the”Political Eye” column in the May 24 - 30 issue to “Brian ‘my wife works for the mayor and I [have] been snagging consulting contracts from Larry Williams since before Jim Shrewsbury was aldermanic president’ Wahby.” Well, isn’t that the St. Louis way? If you are in charge of grading the playing field, then grade it to suit yourself. After all, everybody knows taxpayer money is for lining politicians pockets.

And in a display of posturing, the “Political Eye” writers in the Dec. 15 - 21 issue comment: “[T]he eye is frankly amazed to hear that Brian Wahby is willing to have his personal and family finances and actions thrown open to the public domain by filing for meaningful elective office...As chairman of the woefully mismanaged city Democratic organization, Wahby permitted all manners of dubious pass-throughs for campaign funds in the era of campaign funding limits...Indeed, one of the contracts awarded by Williams that raised eyebrows in the most recent state audit of the Treasurer’s Office was awarded to Wahby.”

Well, nobody has heard anything from anybody about Wahby demerits, except from the St. Louis American. We doubt if we ever will. Besides, Brian has been criticized by all sorts of people, and all of it just runs off his back. He has a smirk for everybody. All need to get on Brian’s bandwagon, for a better, more honest St. Louis.