Originally printed in the Herald-Whig on November 1, 2018
If the recent political scandal that consumed the office of the Missouri governor and forced the resignation of Eric Greitens has taught us anything, it’s that something must be done to rein in the flow of dark money into campaigns and to put an end to the influence it has.
While Greitens campaigned on a call for transparency and banned members of his administration from accepting gifts from lobbyists, he soon changed colors and refused to release information about how much lobbyists and corporations paid to help fund his inaugural ball.
The taint of dark money extends to the General Assembly, as well, where the Missouri Senate turned back a 2017 ethics reform measure.
So it’s clear if there is to be any sort of meaningful change in how politics operates in the Show Me State, it will not come from Jefferson City.
Enter Amendment 1.
The so-called Clean Missouri amendment is a bold, voter-driven effort to root corruption out of the capital and return Missouri’s political process to a system that benefits voters, not donors. And since legislators clearly cannot be trusted to clean up their own mess, voters have a chance Nov. 6 to send a resounding message across the country.
Among the common-sense proposals:
- All lobbying gifts in the General Assembly worth more than $5 will be banned. Lobbyists barely will be able to buy lawmakers a latte, greatly diminishing their influence.
- Politicians leaving office will not be allowed to become lobbyists until two years after their last session is over. Waiting one full session will force them to find other employment and would serve to cut some ties between lawmakers they might have served with.
- New, lower limits will be set for campaign contributions for General Assembly candidates: $2,500 for the Senate and $2,000 for the house.
- People and groups will be limited in their attempts to circumvent caps by giving money to single-source “committees.” That money will need to be reported and will count toward the total of the original, actual donors.
- Legislative fundraising will be banned on state property.
But it isn’t just money in Amendment 1’s aim. Transparency and fairness also will be top of mind.
All legislative records would become open to the public, the same as every other public entity in Missouri.
And a new position called the state demographer would be created and chosen through a bipartisan process that would add competitiveness to districts and make sure minority voices are heard.
For those wondering whether a bipartisan process to choose an independent demographer to take the lead on redistricting would work, we would point to the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan by which members of the judiciary are chosen. Originating in 1940, the plan has been emulated in several other states. We feel the role of the nonpartisan demographer would once again put Missouri on the cutting edge of a new wave of governmental reforms.
Amendment 1 has received bipartisan acclaim, from Republicans like former U.S. Sen. John Danforth to Democrats like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Is the plan perfect? That’s doubtful. But it’s an important step that would send a strong, clear message to Jefferson City that voters are taking back their state government, that they will no longer stand by and let lobbyists run their state and that they want all their neighbors to be counted.
We can’t think of a better message to send to lawmakers anywhere.
We urge Missourians to vote Yes on Amendment 1.