The Missouri House has spent more than $1,100 in taxpayer money on a security camera to keep watch over a new bronze bust of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, the House clerk said Thursday.
Clerk Adam Crumbliss said he authorized the camera after discussions with Republican legislative leaders because of concerns the sculpture of Limbaugh's head and shoulders might be vandalized.
"We recognize that there was a level of controversy around it, and we want to make sure that property is protected," Crumbliss said. "We've had lots of calls, and some calls and complaints have been a little beyond the pale."
Limbaugh was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians last week during a closed-door ceremony in the House chamber as police stood guard to keep out any uninvited political opponents or protesters.
After news broke in March that House Speaker Steven Tilley had selected Limbaugh for the honor, the chamber's Republican leader was sharply criticized by Democratic lawmakers, liberal activists and some women's groups. Protesters wheeled 600 rolls of toilet paper into the middle of Tilley's Capitol office encouraging him to "Flush Rush!" and delivered about 35,000 petition signatures against Limbaugh's induction.
But Tilley, who like Limbaugh is from southeast Missouri, refused to reverse his selection.
The Rotunda in the third floor of Missouri's Capitol features dozens of statues honoring people such as President Harry S. Truman, Walt Disney and former Cardinals baseball star Stan Musial. Like the others, the Limbaugh bust was funded with private donations. It went on public display after lawmakers ended their annual session last Friday.
Although there is a general security camera in the center of the Capitol Rotunda, Limbaugh's statue is the only one with its own additional security camera.
Assistant House Minority Leader Tishaura Jones said Thursday that the special security camera was both a surprise and a concern to her. She said the money could have been better spent on salaries for legislative staff.
"If they thought that the bust might be defaced or vandalized and they have to guard it with a camera, it's another indication that maybe they shouldn't have put it there," said Jones, D-St. Louis. "It's another chapter in this never-ending saga of this man who deserves no honor in the people's house."
Crumbliss said the special security camera is serving a dual purpose. He said the House has been considering installing cameras in the chamber so that it can have live broadcasts of its session. The camera pointed at the Limbaugh statue outside the chamber can serve as a pilot project to test the resolution and quality of its picture, he said.