Jeff Rainford, St. Louis mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, lauds Martin for recruiting able workers to get the trains running on time. By November 2008, Rainford observed, the board of elections was "like night and day" from its 2000 woes, which he finds ironic, given that it probably hurt Martin's party.

"Though he is obviously one of the most partisan guys around," Rainford says, "Ed still wanted the place run right, even if that meant more Democrats would vote."

Clarence Dula, the Democratic commissioner, often differed with Martin. "We're both strong-opinion guys, we dig in our heels," Dula says. But Martin kept things light with jokes, and agreed to a mode of communication with Dula that they nicknamed "gloves off."

Republican challenger Ed Martin has raised $1.2 million as of September 30, 96 percent of it from individual donors.
Jennifer Silverberg
Republican challenger Ed Martin has raised $1.2 million as of September 30, 96 percent of it from individual donors.
Martin at his south-city campaign headquarters. He calls the basement "The Freedom Bunker." (The building next door? "The Freedom Annex.")
Jennifer Silverberg
Martin at his south-city campaign headquarters. He calls the basement "The Freedom Bunker." (The building next door? "The Freedom Annex.")

"When we went 'gloves off,' we would talk about things offensive to most people and make each other clear," Dula recalls. "That was the fantastic thing about working with Ed. I don't think I'd worked that closely with anyone before."

One fired board staffer, however, accused Martin and the other commissioners of excessive partisan zeal. Oddly, she was a member of the GOP.

In 2006, Jeanne Bergfeld, an assistant director of operations, filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was wrongfully terminated by Martin and his two colleagues for being "not Republican enough."

Martin denies it. "She said she was a Republican; nobody ever questioned that," he tells RFT, adding that Bergfeld was a patronage employee who had enjoyed "twelve years of not having to do anything" and who "wasn't interested in changing."

Martin concludes: "We did everything we could, appropriately, to have her do her job, but it wasn't in the cards."

The parties settled the suit in 2007. Chet Pleban, who represented Bergfeld, says only that it was "resolved satisfactorily."

By the time Governor Matt Blunt went hunting for a new chief of staff in 2006, Ed Martin had become the city's It conservative. The chairman of the board of elections was hosting a call-in talk show on KTRS (550 AM). He was president of the Federalist Society. He brought Supreme Court Justice Scalia here to speak before a capacity crowd of attorneys from the local bar association (Scalia and Martin then shared a meal with Rush Limbaugh).

Martin had also proven himself a staunch pro-life crusader. He founded his own law firm in 2004 and filed several lawsuits on behalf of pharmacists who refused, on religious grounds, to dispense Plan-B, better known as the "morning-after pill." He even argued his position on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight opposite then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Back in Jefferson City, Blunt's approval ratings had dipped. His first chief of staff, Ken McClure, had been a mild-mannered administrator. Observers said the governor was looking for new blood. He brought in Martin in September 2006.

Democratic senator Timothy Green of north St. Louis county says Martin proved himself a "vindictive" political hatchetman.

Says Green: "His solution to public policy is to create total chaos."

George Connor, a political science professor at Missouri State University, says that partisan warfare in Missouri government "didn't start with Ed Martin or end with him, either. It only got worse while he was chief of staff."

Martin hurtled the sharpest spears at Jay Nixon, then attorney general, who was expected to run for governor as a Democrat. Martin faulted Nixon for not prosecuting anyone after the Taum Sauk reservoir collapse devastated Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. When e-mails surfaced suggesting that Martin put pressure on the Missouri Highway Patrol to make the same critique, the chief of staff denied any impropriety.

One state employee in the Blunt administration, a Republican who declined be named, says Martin was known in the governor's office for "angry outbursts."

"I thought very highly of Ed before he took that job," the former employee said. "When he got that power, he became a ruthless animal."

On August 27, 2007, reporter Tony Messenger of the Springfield News-Leader sent the governor's office a modest request under Missouri's Sunshine Law, which ensures that government records are open to the public. Messenger wanted copies of any e-mails that Martin had sent to a certain pro-life group during the previous week.

Blunt's staff responded that no such e-mails existed.

Messenger insisted they did. A source had already forwarded one to him. And he believed that it strongly suggested that Martin was mixing "partisan campaigning with the process of doing his state job," or working for the GOP while on the public dime.

Martin acknowledged writing the e-mail in question, but maintained — and still does today — that all of his correspondence was policy-based, and therefore legit.

In that case, Messenger argued, the documents were public record and had to be retained. Yet Blunt staffers insisted at first that none of their e-mails were public record. That's exactly why they were getting deleted.

Deleted? The media collectively gasped. "Memogate" had begun.

At least one man working for Blunt in the fall of 2007 did believe some e-mails were public records: the governor's 30-year-old deputy general counsel, Scott Eckersley.

In a September 14 memo, Eckersley encouraged his superiors to concede that very fact. Not to honor the spirit of the Sunshine Law, however; Eckersley thought he'd found an escape hatch. Any e-mails generated in the "deliberative decision-making process," Eckersley reasoned, were public record only if they were retained. If the governor's office wasn't retaining them, ipso facto, they weren't public record.

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