Originally in the Kirksville Daily Express on October 27, 2018
A popular refrain from partisans on both sides of the aisle in recent years has been something with regards to “taking back” our country.
If Missourians want to take back our state, a good place to start is with a “yes” vote on Amendment 1.
While we have long been supportive of campaign finance reform measures, loyal readers should recall that we did not endorse Amendment 2 in 2016. Of that issue we said, “We feel this amendment may have the unintended consequence of moving money out of the light and into the darkness of political action committees.”
Almost 70 percent of Missourians disagreed, Amendment 2 became law, and Missouri’s campaign finance system became more of a mess than one thought possible. It has become increasingly difficult to track campaign donations, and the influence of wealthy donors was not curbed one iota. Instead, dummy political action committees have sprung from the earth and used to easily (and legally) circumvent Amendment 2.
There is no quick fix to our state’s campaign finance laws (or lack thereof) but Amendment 1 takes smart, efficient steps in the right direction. In addition to furthering the limits on total donations, the amendment moves to reduce some of the ways political action committees can be established to abuse the system. If 50 percent or more of a PAC’s funding comes from one source, dollars spent by that PAC to fund a candidate’s campaign would be counted toward that original source’s limit.
This is key. While we are all subject to a $2,600 limit in donations to candidates for the Missouri House or Senate, there is really nothing stopping anyone from setting up 10 political action committees, writing 10 $2,600 checks to those political action committees, and then those committees directing all of that money to a single candidate. Sure, PAC donors are not supposed to direct PAC spending, but while it might be obvious it’s happening, proving it is another story.
And if you think that scenario is outlandish, spend a few hours digging through Missouri Ethics Commission reports. We have. It happens.
Amendment 1 also rolls back to $5 the amount lobbyists can spend on a single gift to elected officials. Lobbyists have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Missouri lawmakers in 2018, from steak dinners to event tickets and more. Some lawmakers say these gifts do little to influence their policy decisions, and in some cases that may be true. But if you’re asking us to believe all lawmakers are above this influence, standing ready to bite the hand that’s literally feeding them, we have a hard time accepting that.
Finally, Amendment 1 gets politics out of redistricting, instead using a nonpartisan expert called “math” to create fair, competitive legislative districts. Regardless of what political party you support, we should all agree that competitive elections encourage better candidates and ideas. Those are winning qualities for us all.
Democrats and Republicans, both those currently serving in office and who are retired, have come out to offer Amendment 1 bipartisan support.
The group opposing Amendment 1 is funded solely by St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield.
Let’s take a step toward cleaning up state politics. Let’s vote “yes” on Amendment 1.