JEFFERSON CITYA Missouri Capitol statue of Rush Limbaugh, like the man it honors, continues to be a source of controversy.
Most recently, it has sparked some Democrat-on-Democrat squabbling, with Gov. Jay Nixon's administration coming under fire from lawmakers who say the governor isn't living up to promises to give Limbaugh's likeness the boot.
Former House speaker Steve Tilley announced in March that he was inducting the conservative radio host into the Hall of Famous Missourians. In May, a private induction ceremony was held and the bronze bust of Limbaugh was unveiled.
Missouri House Democrats say they were repeatedly promised by Nixon's administration that the statue would never be installed alongside other inductees in the third-floor rotunda of the Missouri Capitol.
Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, a Webster Groves Democrat, said she was told personally by Office of Administration commissioner Doug Nelson that "it wasn't going to happen."
Once it was installed, Democrats say, they were assured it would be quickly removed.
Seven months later, however, the statue remains where it was originally placed, just outside the Missouri House chamber, "and there is no reason to believe it is going anywhere," House Minority Leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City and Assistant Minority Leader Tishaura Jones of St. Louis said in a letter to Nelson, whose agency oversees state facilities, contracting, computer services, accounting and budgeting.
Some Democrats feel as though they were lied to.
"As a result of your failure to act," the letter said, "we and many other House Democrats are forced to question the value of your assurances."
The letter to Nelson was sent in September but only made public this month, shortly after Nixon announced that he was formally appointing Nelson as commissioner of the Office of Administration. The longtime Nixon aide has served as acting commissioner since February. He must be approved for the job by the Missouri Senate.
Nelson responded to the letter by sending Talboy and Jones a report outlining who has authority over the Capitol rotunda. He never addressed the allegations.
Scott Holste, the governor's press secretary, denied the Democrats' accusation in an email to The Star. He said the memo Nelson included with his note was the only communication between the Nixon administration and House Democrats on the subject of the Limbaugh statue.
"This really was the extent of communications regarding the authority over the Hall (of Famous Missourians)," Holste said in an email.
Jones said several members of the Democratic caucus were given personal assurances by Nelson that the statue would be removed.
"I'm disappointed that the governor has failed to take action," Jones said. "In my opinion, the buck stops with the governor's office and he is ultimately responsible."
Limbaugh was inducted into the hall in May during a ceremony that was closed to the public and guarded by armed members of the Highway Patrol. Democrats were outraged by the choice of Limbaugh to be honored alongside Missourians Harry Truman, Dred Scott, Mark Twain, Walter Cronkite and George Washington Carver.
The main source of Democrats' anger was that Limbaugh's selection came shortly after the radio talker created a firestorm by calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute" because of her advocacy for expanded contraception coverage.
Republicans defended the choice, with Tilley arguing that Limbaugh, a native of Cape Girardeau, was more than qualified, adding that it's "not the 'Hall of Universally Loved Missourians.' "
According to a report released by Nixon's office, a state board within the governor's Office of Administration -- not the speaker of the Missouri House -- has the authority to determine which items are displayed in the rotunda. That board includes three members: the governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general.
Tradition suggests otherwise. House speakers have been placing statues in the rotunda as part of the Hall of Famous Missourians since 1982. Each inductee has been chosen at the sole discretion of the House speaker, with the bronze busts paid for by the Speaker's Annual Golf Classic.
Jones said that the Nixon administration has the authority to remove the statue at any time and that "the only thing that stops him is his will."
"Think about it: Is there one thing Rush Limbaugh has done to merit being next to Dred Scott?" Jones asked. "The governor needs to find the will to listen to the people who elected him and remove it."