Former Gov. Wilson receives probation for illegal campaign donation
Former Gov. Roger Wilson will serve probation and perform community service for misappropriating money from Missouri Employers Mutual to make a campaign contribution.
Wilson – a Democrat from Columbia – formerly served as president of Missouri Employers Mutual, the state’s largest provider of workers’ compensation insurance for employers. He pleaded guilty in April along with St. Louis attorney Edward J. Griesedieck for misusing money from the agency to reimburse campaign contributions to the Missouri Democratic Party.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Ann Medler sentenced Wilson to two years of probation as well as 100 hours of community service. He also was fined $5,000 and forced to pay restitution to Missouri Employers Mutual. Wilson told reporters that he had paid the fine and made $2,500 in restitution.
During sentencing, Medler noted that she had received “numerous” letters on Wilson's behalf. She said that Wilson should be “grateful and humbled” by the people who went to bat for him.
Former Gov. Roger Wilson speaks to reporters after being sentenced.
After he had been sentenced, Wilson told reporters outside the courthouse that he “had made a mistake and I acknowledge that mistake.”
“I apologize to everyone,” Wilson said. “And I’d like to move forward and give back to my community as much service as I possibly can.”
Wilson’s sentencing provides a somber end to a storied political career. After stints as Boone County’s collector and a state senator, Wilson served two terms as lieutenant governor. He had his eyes on the governor’s mansion in 2000 but was outflanked by then-state Treasurer Bob Holden. Wilson – whose distaste for raising money was well-known – eventually stepped aside from that race. Holden was elected that November and became governor in 2001.
But in October 2000, Wilson unexpectedly became Missouri's chief executive after Gov. Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash. After Carnahan posthumously won the 2000 U.S. Senate race against Republican John Ashcroft, Wilson appointed Jean Carnahan – Mel Carnahan’s widow – to the U.S. Senate for two years, until the next general election in 2002. (She lost to Republican Jim Talent).
Wilson jumped back into the political ring in 2004 when he became a vocal surrogate for then-state Auditor Claire McCaskill’s Democratic primary bid against Holden. After McCaskill defeated Holden, she installed Wilson as chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party.
Wilson led the state Democratic Party until February 2007 when he unexpectedly stepped down. There were rumors in 2008 that he would run for the 9th District congressional seat, which was being vacated by Republican incumbent and gubernatorial aspirant Kenny Hulshof. But Wilson chose not to do so.
Despite forgoing attempts at electoral offices, Wilson was still active within the Boone County Democratic Party. He was a key endorser of Stephen Webber’s bid for the Missouri House in 2008. His name – as well as a bust – adorned the Boone County Government Building in Columbia.
Asked what he was going to do next, Wilson said “go back and work on the farm.”
“I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world,” Wilson said. “I had family, friends and community [that stood] steadfast through all of this. I love every one of them.”