Former Senator Doyle Childers gave this observer of the political scene a bunch of stuff from the estate of one of his predecessors, Senator W. E. Freeland, a couple of months ago. Before taking the items to Columbia and to the State Historical Society of Missouri, I thumbed through them and found Freeland’s campaign finance report for the August, 1940 primary election. One can read material like this in several ways, we suppose. It can be a source of amusement. It can be read nostalgically as a document of an unfortunately bygone era. It can be seen as an example of how far our political campaigning has come—or fallen. But as we get close to a campaign year and a legislative session in which Governor Nixon and some others think campaign finance and ethics reforms should be significant issues, this campaign report might be of some interest.
Here is the Candidate’s Affidavit Under the Corrupt Practices Act, filed with Secretary of State Dwight Brown on September 2, 1940 listing payments to:
H. M. Blunk for distributing literature including auto use 17.00
J. R. Gideon, same 10.00
Wash Wade for having cards distributed 2.00
Verne Holloway same as first item 10.00
Tom Cower for having literature distributed 2.00
Clarence Benage ditto 3.00
Roy Beaman for having literature distributed and for 19.00
mailing list, this service by others not for service by him
Robert Biggs for distributing literature 6.00
Junior Biggs same 3.00
Tom Wilhite for two persons to distribute cards at Eudora 2.00
Sally Lou Moran for distributing literature 1.00
Bobby Moran same 1.00
Clifford Crouch same 7.50
Chas Boyd to have cards distributed at Ozark 3.00
L. E. Tooley to have literature distributed 2.00
Edgar Lawson for distributing literature, same as first item 10.00
Paper and supplies for advertising 90.00
Filing fee 25.00
Fair Play Advocate publicity 7.00
Humansville Star-Leader, publicity 12.00
Bolivar Free Press publicity 7.00
Dallas County Republican, publicity 7.00
Buffalo Reflex publicity 7.00
Marshfield Mail, publicity 7.00
Seymour Citizen publicity 7.00
Christian County Republican, publicity 7.00
Billings Times, publicity 8.00
Douglas County Herald, publicity 7.00
Ozark County Times, publicity 7.00
Stone County News-Oracle publicity 11.60
Miscellaneous items 15.00
Last items such as giving a boy a small sum to distribute literature and incidental items that are not of record.
As far as donations none are known of other than certain publicity by the White River Leader at Branson and an announcement carried by the New Oracle at Galena. Amount unknown.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that amount is the equivalent of $6,279.01 today, an unheard of amount for a state senate election in 2014 in these days of unlimited campaign donations. But there was precious little radio and no television in 1940 requiring huge amounts of money to get the message across. And Freeland also did not appear to have a campaign consultant telling him what voters wanted to hear, whether he believed in saying it or not, in that message. Some newspaper advertising, a lot of personal hand-shaking, and distribution of cards and flyers dominated campaigning in those days. Freeland had an advantage, though. He was the owner of the Taney County Republican in Forsythe which is not listed as a donor or as an expense. Today’s campaign laws probably would require some kind of listing of in-kind contributions if the newspaper printed the flyers and cards.
Freeland, who had served in the Missouri House 1923-35, was elected to the Senate in 1936 but lost the 1940 primary election in a three-way race to eventual general election winner D. Raymond Carter. Carter had about 8,984 votes. Freeland had 6,193 and a third candidate had 6,161. So Freeland’s service in the Missouri Senate lasted only four years before his voters decided what his term limit was, as they unfortunately are prohibited from doing today.
There’s a little more to the Freeland story that we found in the papers former Senator Childers gave us. We’ll have other entries from those papers later.