NEW: Schweich seeks auditor’s office

JEFFERSON CITY — From the fields of Afghanistan to the battlefield of Missouri politics, the Republican candidate for state auditor, Tom Schweich, swept into the world of campaigning, fundraising and elections with a little help from his friends.

“When I came back to Missouri after serving our country (as special ambassador in Afghanistan), a lot of Republicans said, ‘You know, you can fight crime, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse for corporations, you’ve been doing it at the U.N., you’ve been doing it around the world, you can do it right here in Missouri,'” Schweich said in the only auditor debate of the campaign.

Schweich began filling roles in federal agencies in 1999, first as the chief of staff to Jack Danforth for the Waco investigation. He was later chief of staff to U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations Danforth and John Bolton, a deputy assistant secretary of state and former acting assistant secretary of state for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and coordinator with the rank of ambassador for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Afghanistan.

“I always knew I wanted to do public service, but I never planned to run for office until I got into this race,” Schweich said, “I was asked by some local Republicans in the St. Louis area if I would be willing to run for office because they thought I could continue my public service that way.”

Schweich, who has never held an elected position in the government, cites endorsements from major GOP players and touts his own experience with investigation, law and audits. His endorsers include big Republican names like Danforth, Bolton and John Ashcroft, as well as two other former Missouri state auditors and a handful of state Senate members.

Former Missouri Attorney General, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Senator Danforth first met Schweich at Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis where Schweich has worked since 1985. Danforth said he was impressed with the way the young lawyer handled significant cases at the firm, so when given the opportunity, Danforth asked Schweich to step up.

“When I was asked by Janet Reno to be the special council for the investigation of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, I in turn asked Tom to be my chief-of-staff for that investigation,” Danforth said. “He is very smart, very well-organized and able. When he takes something on, he does it right.”

Schweich said the first issue he wants to take on is ensuring federal stimulus money is being appropriately audited to avoid waste and frivolous spending.

For voters, Danforth said he thinks it will be to Schweich’s advantage that he has never held an elected position in the government.

“I’m not sure that, as far as the public is concerned, long experience as an elected politician is viewed as the greatest of all qualifications,” Danforth said. However, Schweich has plenty of support from some elected officials, including nearly a quarter of a million dollars from Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

So far, Schweich’s largest campaign donation has come from the Friends of Peter Kinder campaign finance committee, which has shifted a total of $220,000 into the Schweich for Auditor account before the primary.

Kinder first donated $100,000 in December 2009, about six months after Schweich announced his decision to run for auditor. Schweich had looked into running for U.S. Senate, which would have pitted him against Roy Blunt for the Republican bid in August’s primary. Kinder said he did not support Schweich for Senate but he is the right man for state auditor.

“At a time when we have five point something billion dollars in stimulus money coming into the state, this is just the kind of person we need,” Kinder said. “He’s just a terrifically qualified candidate who I was proud to support.”

In the auditor debate, Montee criticized the support Schweich got from Republicans like Kinder when he announced he would run in the auditor race.

“I’m the only one up at this table who got up one morning and said I’d like to be the state auditor,” Montee said. “In fact, Mr. Schweich, you know, toyed around with playing a different race until they took him in a backroom and put him into this one.”

However, Kinder painted Schweich as a candidate willing to be a true public servant.

“He’s going to take a huge pay cut. Tom Schweich does not need to work,” Kinder said. “He is legitimately offering himself for an important public service at a unique point in the history of our state and our nation.”

Democrat and incumbent candidate Susan Montee said in the debate that Schweich lacks a key qualification if he wants to be auditor: to be a Certified Public Accountant — something Schweich is not.

Schweich said he has the skills and qualifications needed to be state auditor, despite the fact that he is not a CPA .

“The idea of someone suggesting that I’m unqualified for the job is almost joke,” Schweich said.

Schweich stands on his “experience finding and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse,” a phrase frequently repeated throughout his campaign. Catchwords like “aggressive,” “tough,” and “fiscal hawk” spatter Schweich’s campaign website, projecting the image of a conservative candidate with teeth.

According to his July radio ad, the bearing arms and being pro-life are important conservative values for the candidate. Schweich said he’ll maintain his support for Republican issues while he’s in office, although he recognizes that the auditor is non-partisan and non-biased position.

“As a general matter, the auditor is not going to be heavily involved in those (partisan) issues in his capacity as auditor,” Schweich said. “Now I’m still a Republican and I would still support Republican causes independent of my activities in the auditor’s office, completely independent.”

In contrast to the aggressive image his website conjures, Schweich said he also considers himself a music man. During the primary election season, Schweich incorporated his passion for guitar into his campaign — but that love for rock turned into a campaign gaffe. Schweich recorded a campaign music video that Oregon rock band The Dandy Warhols claimed was plagiarized.

Schweich denied the connection between his song, “Gimme Back My Freedom,” and the band, although he later told St. Louis radio station KMOX he had offered to pay The Dandy Warhols to let him parody the song “Bohemian Like You.”

The video no longer can be accessed online — instead, this message appears: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by King, Holmes, Paternos.” (King, Holmes, Paterno & Berlinger, LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that specializes in entertainment law.)

Born and raised in Missouri, Schweich headed to the East Coast for college after he graduated from Clayton High School in St. Louis. Schweich graduated with a bachelor’s in history from Yale in 1982 and a law degree from Harvard three years later.

In 2008, Schweich began teaching as a visiting professor of law and ambassador-in-residence at Washington University. Schweich, his wife Kathy and children Emilie, 18, and Thomas, Jr., 12, currently live in St. Louis. Schweich dedicated each of the books he has penned on finance, law and business to his family.