From Hannibal to Joplin, St. Joseph to Cape Girardeau, editorial boards are calling for desperately-needed reforms to change the way big donors, lobbyists, and partisan politics hold Missouri back. Here are six that Clean Missouri believes highlight the problem loud and clear…
St. Joseph News-Press: “Gift ban at capitol overdue”
From the News-Press in May 2016:
“[A] ban on most lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is a necessity. There is no ethics victory to proclaim without this component…”
Kirksville Daily Express Editor: “If you don’t think this is a problem, you’re not paying attention.”
From the Kirksville Daily Express Managing Editor, Jason Hunsicker, in May 2016:
“Missouri used to have some campaign contribution limits but a court ruling a few years ago broke the dam and the elected officials experiencing the flood – the only people who can stop it – are just riding the wave. Sure, you have a few brave souls who file legislation each session but those bills go nowhere. If you don’t think this is a problem, you’re not paying attention.
Unlimited and often untraceable campaign contributions compound the issue. Person X writes a $100,000 check to a private group, which makes a donation to a political action committee, which in turn makes a donation to a state campaign committee, which in turn makes a donation to or spends money on behalf of a candidate. Who is pulling the strings? You, the voter, will never know.
Missouri has a problem, folks, and I don’t know how it gets fixed. Citizen petition for an amendment? Even if it passes, the Legislature can “fix” those items before they become law. Anything with teeth will surely have them removed. Lawmakers won’t bite the hand that feeds them so well.
Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Missouri. Money, money, money.
This is not a list we should strive to be part of.
While they’re cleaning up, legislators also should subject themselves to the state’s “Sunshine Law.” Lawmakers have contended that they are not “public governmental bodies” under the law. Thus, their emails and calendars are considered closed records. That’s nonsense.
No wonder the public doesn’t trust politicians.
Legislators arrive in Jefferson City and forget where they came from: a place where lunch isn’t free, dark money doesn’t pay the rent and selling out isn’t the way to land a better job.”
Blue Springs Examiner: “Missouri needs to overhaul the way it draws political boundaries.”
From the Examiner in March 2012:
“An answer for Missouri’s overly partisan mess
The Round 2 bipartisan commission came up with a map – the one in play at the moment – that sent current officeholders, particularly some from St. Louis, into a state of shock and outrage at the very idea that two incumbents might have to run against one another.
That’s just one part of the problem. There are also disputes about the state House map and the U.S. House map, and the Associated Press points out that so far this year there’s been just one week without a new lawsuit, a hearing or a redistricting commission meeting.
Big picture: Census figures have been out for a year, and new districts to reflect the population shifts reflected by those figures could have been – should have been – done by the Fourth of July last year. That’s if the state had a nonpartisan redistricting process – one that pays no heed to where the incumbents live. Other states do it.
We get gerrymandering, and we get self-interest ahead of public interest. We can demand better.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri got a D-minus in a recent report by a nonprofit group that analyzed whether states have adequate laws to prevent corruption. The only surprise is that the state didn’t get an F.”
From the Post-Dispatch in November 2015:
“Missouri got a D-minus in a recent report by a nonprofit group that analyzed whether states have adequate laws to prevent corruption. The only surprise is that the state didn’t get an F.
Legislators in the Show-Me State can take unlimited campaign checks. They enjoy unlimited lobbyist-provided meals, ballgame tickets and lavish receptions. And they can cash in on their public service by resigning as legislators one day and registering as lobbyists the next.
Missouri is the only state in the country with no limits in all three of those areas, an embarrassing trifecta that you might think would prompt action
A zero tolerance or “no cup of coffee” law is needed because laws capping gifts will always have loopholes. Last session, the House proposed a $25 per-gift cap. But that would still have allowed four lobbyists to each chip in $25 for a legislator’s $100 meal.
And the public might never know who was wined and dined. Today, lobbyists can simply report that they furnished food for a committee or the full House, rather than identify specific individuals. Thus, the recipients of hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbyist largesse each year cannot be tracked.
In another neat trick, some legislators use campaign funds to reimburse lobbyists for meals and tickets. Voila! The expense disappears from online lobbying reports.
Legislators argue that an ethics bill must be drafted narrowly. They say covering too much ground would invite defeat. That is a bogus argument. The bills die because legislators balk at changing the cozy status quo.
An ethics bill needs to reinstate campaign contribution limits and outlaw the secret channeling of money through sham nonprofits. Any 501-c-4 organization that spends money on election advertising ought to be required to register with the Missouri Ethics Commission and identify its donors.”
Columbia Tribune: “Missouri’s ethics laws are the most lax in the nation.”
From the Tribune in January 2016:
“We can definitely say that after the legislature rolled back campaign contribution limits in 2008, Missouri had the worst ethics laws in the country.
Missouri’s ethics laws are the most lax in the nation. We have no limits on campaign contributions or lobbyist meals, travel and entertainment gifts. Several lawmakers have made news by resigning to become political consultants, and others do so while remaining in office.”
Kansas City Star: “Passing tough new laws would show that Missouri lawmakers are serious about ethics reform. Alas, they are not.”
From The Star in April 2016:
“Missouri ethics reform? Riiiight.
Put this in the believe-it-when-you-see-it category: The Missouri General Assembly is headed toward approving a watered-down ethics reform bill.
House and Senate negotiators recently decided they could support making lawmakers wait six months before coming back to the Capitol to get paid to lobby their former colleagues.
In Jefferson City, this is considered a victory because — right now — there’s no limit. In fact, in recent years a few lawmakers have abruptly left office and immediately started work as lobbyists. That kind of system raises a good question in the public’s mind about whether lawmakers vote certain ways just to help line up good-paying private sector gigs.
However, legislators still have not handled the disheartening fact that Missouri allows unlimited campaign contributions. Passing tough new laws would show that Missouri lawmakers are serious about ethics reform. Alas, they are not.”
Hannibal Courier-Post: “Government works best when it is transparent and communicative with constituents.”
From the Courier-Posts session review editorial in June 2016:
“But most people can agree: government works best when it is transparent and communicative with constituents.
Perhaps the most troubling issue to arise from the 2016 Legislative session is the weakening of the Missouri Sunshine Law — the rule that allows regular citizens, not just the press, to ask for documents and information from any publicly-funded entity.
Laws enacted are designed to exempt information from Sunshine Law requests, including police information and agricultural information.
Open, transparent government best serves the people. The Missouri Legislature took a step back from that this year, a disappointing mark on what could be considered a successful year.”
But we know – change is coming.
Kansas City Star endorses Clean Missouri: “Here’s how citizens can finally clean up Missouri Government” – September 2017:
“If anything is going to get done when it comes to cleaning up state government, the responsibility will fall to the people themselves.”
With the Clean Missouri amendment, we can hold politicians accountable and crack down on lobbyists to level the playing field for everyday people.
Here are the facts – The Clean Missouri amendment will:
- lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
- eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts
- require politicians wait two years before becoming lobbyists
- require that legislative records be open to the public
- ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission