JEFFERSON CITY — A wealthy candidate for U.S. Senate may have breached state election law by pledging to forgo her congressional salary if she wins the race.
Trudy Busch Valentine, a Democrat seeking to replace Republican Roy Blunt in the Senate, issued a news release Wednesday saying she will not accept a salary if she is sent to Washington.
“All my life I’ve known that true meaning is found in service to others. That’s why I became a nurse serving the most vulnerable in our state,” Valentine said. “To me, public office is another way to give back. That’s why I’m committing to taking no salary as a U.S. Senator.”
But under state election law, candidates cannot promise to serve for a “less sum than the salary” paid for the office as an “inducement to voters.”
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“According to election law … it is a class 4 election offense for a candidate to make statements regarding salary declination to entice votes,” said a spokesman for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who oversees elections in Missouri.
The offense is classified as a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in jail or a fine of not more than $2,500.
Her campaign said Friday it was not a violation.
“That law is specific to inducements for someone’s vote, not a press release which just states Trudy’s plans,” said campaign manager Alex Witt.
Valentine, a first-time candidate who is an heiress to the Busch beer brewing fortune, filed paperwork Sunday as part of her bid for the office showing she has a net worth between $69.4 million and $219.4 million.
Her yearly income is listed at between $4.3 million and $30.7 million.
Valentine’s one-fifth ownership stake in Grant’s Farm, the family-owned south St. Louis County tourist attraction where she grew up, is worth between $5 million and $25 million.
The filing shows that Valentine holds much of her wealth in stocks, bonds and securities.
The personal financial disclosure form she submitted to the U.S. Senate shows she owns $34 million in stocks, including Google, Apple, CVS, Bank of America and General Motors. She has delegated control of her finances, including which stocks she owns, to outside professional managers, a campaign spokesman said.
She also owns a farm in Montgomery County, north of Rhineland.
Valentine is among a large field seeking to replace U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican who announced his retirement last year. Other Democrats include Lucas Kunce and Spencer Toder.
Republicans seeking the seat include Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, former Gov. Eric Greitens, state Senate President Dave Schatz, St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey and U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long.
Republican attorney John Wood announced this week he’s mounting an independent bid for the office backed by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth.
Valentine is not the only candidate planning to spend some of her wealth to get elected.
Schatz, a Sullivan businessman, earlier made a $1 million loan to his campaign. Long, an auctioneer from Springfield, put $250,000 into his campaign.
Toder, a St. Louis businessman, has put at least $240,000 into the race.
In addition to promising to not take the Senate’s $174,000 per year salary, Valentine pledged to institute a ban on members of Congress trading stock while in office.
“No Senator should be able to earn money using inside information when they should be focused on serving the people who elected them,” Valentine said.
She and her husband, John Fries, plan to put their fortune in a blind trust if she wins.
Valentine, a registered nurse, is a member of the family who owned a majority stake in Anheuser-Busch until it was sold to InBev in 2008 for $52 billion.
In 2020, Forbes magazine listed the overall wealth of the family at $17.6 billion, making the Busches the 16th-wealthiest family in the nation.
Valentine, 65, is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., who died in 1989. Her mother, Gertrude Busch, was Busch’s third wife.
In 2019, the St. Louis University School of Nursing was named for Valentine after she contributed $4 million to the school. She graduated from the school in 1980.
It’s not the first time a candidate has gotten into hot water over a pledge to not take a salary.
In 1990, officials cried foul over similar pledges by Joan Kelly Horn, a Democrat who challenged U.S. Rep. Jack Buechner in the 2nd Congressional District, and state House candidate Martin “Bubs” Hohulin, a Republican from Lamar.
Horn, who defeated Buechner but served only one term, promised to give her share of a pay raise to social service organizations in her district.
During his campaign, Hohulin promised to use some of his paycheck to give scholarships to students in his southwestern Missouri district. He was elected and served 13 years in the House.
Summary of Trudy Busch Valentine’s Assets
|Asset Type||Asset Value||.||Income||.|
|Lower Bound||Upper Bound||Lower Bound||Upper Bound|
|GF Holdings (1/5 Grant’s Farm ownershp)||$5,000,001||$25,000,000||$0||$0|
|Heart 6 Ranch||$3,002,005||$15,030,000||$0||$0|
|Retirement Accounts & Investment Portfolios|
|Bank Deposit & Cash||$349,010||$960,000||$0||$0|
|Money Market Fund||$1,650,004||$6,350,000||$65,002||$150,000|