Kansas City Star endorses Amendment 1


Citizens should clean up Missouri government, tighten ethics rules

What do Missouri lawmakers have in common with the Kansas City Royals?

Both groups have been doing a lot of whiff-whiff-whiffing lately — the Royals when it comes to hitting a baseball, lawmakers when it comes to beefing up their loosey-goosey ethics rules.

Now, citizens are stepping up, attempting to do what legislators won’t. It’s a welcome development.

Some 500 petitioners are roaming the state most weekends collecting signatures for something called “The Clean Missouri Initiative” that would go on the November 2018 ballot. This is the latest bid by regular folks to take control of their government back from the big corporations and the special interests.

The initiative would enshrine in the Missouri Constitution a series of proposals that lawmakers have kicked around for years. In one fell swoop, the state would:

▪  Require that lawmakers wait two years before they could turn around and lobby their colleagues.

▪  Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts. No freebie could be valued at more than $5. In other words, lobbyists could buy legislators a cup of coffee — and no more.

▪  Eliminate partisan gerrymandering when it comes to redrawing lines for legislative districts. The focus would be to return competitiveness to races that too often have become one-sided incumbent coronations.

▪ Set campaign donation limits at $2,500 for the state Senate and $2,000 for the House.

▪  Open legislative records to public review.

All these proposals have merit and would go a long way toward cleaning up Jefferson City. As an added bonus, members of both parties embrace this proposal. Unlike past initiative efforts that have fallen flat, this one has financial support thanks to a $250,000 donation from the Missouri National Education Association.

Once upon a time in 2017, long-awaited ethics reform appeared to be a promising prospect. Within minutes of taking the oath of office in January, Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order banning every employee in his administration from accepting lobbyist gifts. He had spent much of 2016 campaigning on a pledge to clean up government.

But hopes for real reform dissolved amid Greitens’ embrace of dark money and his refusal to disclose how much lobbyists and corporations paid to underwrite his inaugural ball.

Then, in the House, the first bill heard this year was a proposal to ban lobbyist gifts. The House approved the measure in just eight days, which amounts to blinding speed for a legislative body.

Then it hit the state Senate and went kaput.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, was incredulous, as were others. He said ethics and campaign reform rank as the “number one issue” for Missourians.

So much promise. So much disappointment in a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again in recent years.

So let’s posit this: If anything is going to get done when it comes to cleaning up state government, the responsibility will fall to the people themselves. Key leaders in the General Assembly seem determined to keep the steady stream of free tickets, free meals and free booze flowing.

Lawmakers have practically invited citizens to take matters into their own hands. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Missourians have voiced overwhelming support for clean-government initiatives over the years. Get this on the ballot, and the days of whiffing on ethics will finally end.

Read the original at http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article170869577.html

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Republican support for Clean Missouri ballot measure continues to grow

Supporters include former US Senator John Danforth, Hon. Paul DeGregorio, State Senator Rob Schaaf, and numerous local officials

The Clean Missouri campaign today unveiled its “Republicans for Clean Missouri” coalition. These GOP leaders are joining a broad and growing coalition of Republicans, Democrats, independents, community leaders, and editorial boards across the state, including the Washington Missourian, Kansas City Star, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who have publicly endorsed the full package of desperately-needed reforms in the Clean Missouri initiative.

The legislative reform package will increase ethics, integrity, transparency, and accountability in state government.

The Republicans for Clean Missouri coalition includes:

  • Former U.S. Senator John Danforth
  • Hon. Paul DeGregorio, former Chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and former St. Louis County Election Board Director
  • Trevor Potter, appointed to the Federal Election Commission by President George H.W. Bush; and president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center
  • State Sen. Rob Schaaf
  • State Rep. Nick Marshall
  • Former State Senator and Current Lee’s Summit Councilmember Bob Johnson
  • Former Sen. Jim Lembke
  • Mayor Clifford Harvey, Weston
  • Dick Bauer, former Assistant Director, St. Louis County Election Board
  • Vern Middleton, Republican business leader
  • John & Gail Russell, Buchanan County GOP former committee members
  • John Saxton, St. Louis GOP Central Committee former member

Some individual endorsers’ statements include:

Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth (R-MO): “Clean Missouri creates an independent process with clear, transparent criteria to ensure no party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census. Clean Missouri will ensure fair and competitive elections so elected officials cannot take their voters for granted and must earn their support. I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan group of reformers to ensure voters come first — and that Missourians’ voices will always be heard in our democracy. Clean Missouri will increase integrity, transparency, and accountability in state government.”

Paul DeGregorio, Former Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission and former St. Louis County Election Board Director: “In recent years Missourians have experienced serious political corruption, much of it due to the influence of big money and the lack of ethics by public officials. There are many steps we need to take to address this serious issue. Clean Missouri is clearly a step in the right direction to put measures in place that will increase transparency and accountability, and give us more competitive elections.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph): “Clean Missouri would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly, banning any single gift worth more than $5. … [T]here’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that’s why lobbyists give the gifts: they know they’ll get something in return.”

Former Senator and current Councilmember Bob Johnson (R-Lee’s Summit): “The Clean Missouri amendment will make sure legislators focus on important priorities, not what special interests and extremists want. Voters should be able to hold politicians accountable in fair and competitive general elections. That’s why I was an early supporter of the effort, and will be voting yes on November 6.”

Former Sen. Jim Lembke (R-Lemay): “Clean Missouri reforms our broken redistricting process, which is driven by insiders in both parties to protect powerful incumbents. Additionally, many conservative colleagues rightly criticize that the process often falls to judges who draw maps in secret. The Clean Missouri amendment sets out a fair process in which both parties would have a say in picking an independent expert, who then would draw fair, competitive maps according to clear, transparent criteria. Maps would then be reviewed by a citizen commission to ensure neither political party is given an unfair advantage, resulting in a plan that is representative of voters’ preferences. Districts would still be required to be compact and follow existing city or county lines where possible.”

Mayor Clifford Harvey of Weston, MO: “I signed the Clean Missouri Initiative petition, and will be voting for the desperately-needed amendment in November. … I’m a conservative Republican, but good government is something we should all be able to agree on. No matter which party you support, your elected officials should be working for you, for my own constituents, and for everyday Missourians.”

Former St. Louis Republican Central Committee Member John Saxton: “I gathered signatures for Clean Missouri, which would decrease the corrosive influence of special interest lobbyists and money, and make Republican votes like mine matter in otherwise safe Democratic districts. In light of the legislature’s lack of action to pass meaningful ethics laws, this is one major reform that fellow conservatives can join me in supporting.”

National conservative reform expert Trevor Potter, appointed to the Federal Election Commission by President George H.W. Bush, and current president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center: “Clean Missouri addresses two of the major problems facing our democracy: partisan gerrymandering and the influence of special interests over elected officials… These common sense solutions would help ensure Missouri’s government reflects the will of its citizens.”

The Clean Missouri amendment will increase integrity, transparency and accountability in the Missouri General Assembly.

The Clean Missouri initiative will:

  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly
  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • require politicians to 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 adding criteria for fairness and competitiveness of the overall map, which will be reviewed by a citizen commission and keep compact and contiguous districts

With its broad coalition of support from across the state, the Clean Missouri coalition submitted 346,956 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on May 3, more than enough to qualify the initiative petition for the November 2018 ballot.

Signatures are now being counted and verified by local election authorities, and then the Clean Missouri amendment will be certified for the November 6, 2018 ballot.

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Report: Missouri Lawmakers Take An Average of $885,000 in Lobbyist Gifts Every Year

Today, Clean Missouri released a new report on the Jeff City lobbyist gift culture, by the numbers—with a few colorful stories, as well.

A few highlights:

  • Lobbyists have reported giving an average of $885,020 in gifts to the Missouri General Assembly every year, for years 2004-2017.
  • The reported gift total for 2017 of $1,070,653 is the highest on record at the Missouri Ethics Commision. The second highest reported total was $1,006,050 in 2006. In just the first few months of 2018 for which records are available, legislators had already taken $248,004 in freebies.
  • Almost 70% of the gifts reported since 2004 — more than $8 million worth — have been reported as going to legislative caucuses, committees, and groups. This loophole in reporting effectively hides from public view which legislators, staffers and family members are taking most of the gifts in Missouri.
  • Missouri’s lobbyist gift culture crosses partisan lines. Of the top 10 gift recipients from 2004 to 2018, six have been Democratic lawmakers, four Republicans. Meanwhile, a growing bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders have sworn off gifts entirely, showing the way forward for a gift-free Jefferson City. Forty-seven state representatives and ten state senators have zero dollar balances for 2018 in the Missouri Ethics Commission’s lobbyist gift database.
  • Legislative leadership has repeatedly broken promises and failed to reform lobbyist gifts. Dozens of reform bills have been filed in the past decade, by legislators of both parties — but the General Assembly remains a no-limits world when it comes to free booze, food, tickets, junkets and other gifts.
  • Every one of our bordering states has stronger limits on lobbyist gifts than Missouri.

The full report is available at http://www.cleanmissouri.org/lobbyists.

Missourians will have the opportunity to end Jefferson City’s lobbyist gift culture for good by passing the Clean Missouri initiative on the November ballot. The Clean Missouri measure will ban any single gift worth more than $5. Full initiative text is available here.

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Jeff City politicians broke their promise to ban lobbyist gifts. Again.

The Missouri General Assembly has adjourned without taking any action to end Jefferson City’s obscene lobbyist gift culture.

Again.

Missourians are done waiting for politicians and lobbyists in Jefferson City to clean up their act.

Since 2004, lobbyists have given an average of $885,020 worth of free meals, drinks, tickets and other gifts to members of the General Assembly, their staff members, and their family members. Just last year, lobbyists reported a whopping $1,070,653 in gifts to the General Assembly.

 

To make matters worse, 68% of the gifts reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission since 2004 have been listed as going to legislative groups, meaning Missourians have no idea who actually accepted $8,660,463 worth of gifts in the past 15 years.

The Clean Missouri initiative will eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly by banning any single gift worth more than $5.

With its broad coalition of support from across the state, the Clean Missouri coalition submitted 346,956 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on May 3, more than enough to qualify the initiative petition for the November 2018 ballot.

A growing number of Republicans, Democrats, and independents have publicly endorsed the full package of desperately-needed reforms in the Clean Missouri initiative to increase integrity, transparency and accountability in the Missouri General Assembly.

Signatures will now be counted and verified by local election authorities, and then the Clean Missouri amendment will be certified for the November 6, 2018 ballot.

Year House Senate Group Total
2004 $124,169.18 $27,621.73 $822,777.41 $974,568.32
2005 $121,438.86 $46,188.79 $823,886.63 $991,514.28
2006 $130,518.74 $51,622.09 $823,909.48 $1,006,050.31
2007 $238,936.73 $82,006.16 $581,903.88 $902,846.77
2008 $214,720.10 $86,581.75 $621,931.94 $923,233.79
2009 $265,010.19 $114,100.03 $536,343.41 $915,453.63
2010 $243,514.30 $100,886.58 $508,716.20 $853,117.08
2011 $232,563.80 $117,482.22 $597,990.53 $948,036.55
2012 $223,114.15 $104,293.33 $540,691.04 $868,098.52
2013 $229,757.82 $113,090.48 $612,147.69 $954,995.99
2014 $188,888.63 $73,856.28 $587,820.60 $850,565.51
2015 $204,723.28 $76,725.73 $327,747.87 $609,196.88
2016 $175,194.18 $62,508.87 $284,252.01 $521,955.06
2017 $140,625.92 $63,347.24 $866,680.06 $1,070,653.22
2018 (Jan-Mar) $39,950.93 $20,217.17 $123,664.58 $183,832.68
Grand Total $2,773,126.81 $1,140,528.45 $8,660,463.33 $12,574,118.59
Average $195,226.85 $80,022.23 $609,771.34 $885,020.42
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GOP Sen. Rob Schaaf: “I will be doing all I can to support Clean Missouri”

This op-ed originally appeared in the Kansas City Star on November 3, 2017:

A Clean Missouri is a Free Missouri
By Rob Schaaf

Liberty. This is the core of what I, as a conservative, believe in and strive to defend. Our liberty has been hard-won, paid for with the blood of our forebears, and it can so easily slip away. We must defend it, continually holding the line against those who would undermine it.

Today, we face a crisis of liberty, with many of our liberties being eroded — our freedom of speech, our freedom to maintain our privacy, our freedom from excessive government intervention in our lives. But what should worry us most is erosion of the freedom which underpins all others: the freedom of self-government. For if we lose the freedom to govern ourselves — if the political system itself becomes corrupted and responds less and less to the will of the people — then all our other liberties will be vulnerable, and the power of the state will be abused.

What I have seen, in 15 years as a member of the General Assembly, is increasing corruption in our state government, and increasing detachment from the will of the people. More and more, lobbyists and special interests get their way. They buy results with gifts and donations, but, ultimately, it is Missourians who pay the price, with healthcare costs spiraling out of control, taxpayer dollars wasted on corporate welfare, and powerful interests from out-of-state increasingly determining how Missourians are governed.

The legislature could pass reforms that would fix this, but they won’t. Legislators have had many opportunities, but most lawmakers don’t want to change the political game when they are winning it. So it’s up to the citizens to set things right, and there now is an historic opportunity to do so. It’s called Clean Missouri.

Clean Missouri is a ballot initiative supported by reformers from across the political spectrum. We are currently gathering signatures to place it on the ballot in November 2018. If passed, this constitutional amendment would solve many of the problems corrupting our state government.

For example, Clean Missouri would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly, banning any single gift worth more than $5. Members of the General Assembly, together with their staff and families, have already accepted over $1 million this year in gifts from lobbyists. Most lawmakers deny that these gifts affect them — the free meals, the free drinks, the free vacations. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that’s why lobbyists give the gifts: they know they’ll get something in return.

Also, Clean Missouri would require legislators and their staff to wait two years before becoming lobbyists after they leave the Capitol. That way, the people making our laws would no longer be looking to lobbyists as potential employers. To understand why this is important, consider this quote from the infamous ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff: “When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, ‘You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.’ Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.”

Clean Missouri would furthermore ensure that legislative district maps are drawn fairly after each census, rather than being drawn in such a way as to protect incumbents or to unjustly favor one party over the other. In other words, it would prohibit gerrymandering — what President Ronald Reagan called a “national scandal” and an “anti-democratic and un-American practice.” To do so, it would enforce an objective standard endorsed by numerous esteemed conservatives, among them Sens. John Danforth and Bob Dole and Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Kasich.

Clean Missouri contains other reforms as well. It would lower the contribution limits for legislative candidates. It would apply the Missouri Sunshine Law to legislative records and legislative meetings. And it would prohibit political fundraising on state property — for example, in the Missouri Capitol, where lawmakers should be focused on making laws, not asking lobbyists for money.

Clean Missouri is an expertly-drafted and well-vetted proposal. Among those who have vetted Clean Missouri are experts at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization run by Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. He was appointed to that post by President George H.W. Bush and has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.” On the subject of Clean Missouri and his organization’s support for the measure, he has written, “These common sense solutions would help ensure Missouri’s government reflects the will of its citizens.”

As Reagan once said in a speech commemorating the anniversary of D-Day: “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” Many have died for our democracy, and the least we can do to honor that is to preserve the democracy we have inherited. Right now, in Missouri, that means making sure Clean Missouri passes. We need to collect signatures to get it on the ballot. We need to defend against the misinformation campaign that will likely be waged against it. And we need to get out the vote next fall. During this final year I have in the General Assembly, I will be doing all I can to support Clean Missouri, and I hope you will consider joining me. You can learn more and sign up to help at cleanmissouri.org.

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Ethics Commission: Lobbyist Gifts in Missouri Now Exceed $1,000,000 for 2017

Lobbyist gift reports for January to August 2017 show that members of the Missouri General Assembly, their family members and their staff members now total  $1,001,249.88 for the year — with five months still to go.

The 2017 total for reported gifts is now the second-highest on record since 2004, the first year for which digital gift records are available from the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Year House Senate Group Total
2004 $124,169.18 $27,621.73 $822,777.41 $974,568.32
2005 $121,438.86 $46,188.79 $823,886.63 $991,514.28
2006 $130,518.74 $51,622.09 $823,909.48 $1,006,050.31
2007 $238,936.73 $82,006.16 $581,903.88 $902,846.77
2008 $214,720.10 $86,581.75 $621,931.94 $923,233.79
2009 $265,010.19 $114,100.03 $536,343.41 $915,453.63
2010 $243,514.30 $100,886.58 $508,716.20 $853,117.08
2011 $232,563.80 $117,482.22 $597,990.53 $948,036.55
2012 $223,114.15 $104,293.33 $540,691.04 $868,098.52
2013 $229,757.82 $113,090.48 $612,147.69 $954,995.99
2014 $188,888.63 $73,856.28 $587,820.60 $850,565.51
2015 $204,723.28 $76,725.73 $327,747.87 $609,196.88
2016 $174,382.20 $62,508.87 $284,252.01 $521,143.08
2017 $106,372.70 $47,068.54 $847,808.64 $1,001,249.88
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Kansas City Star endorses Clean Missouri: “Get this on the ballot, and the days of whiffing on ethics will finally end.”


Citizens should clean up Missouri government, tighten ethics rules

What do Missouri lawmakers have in common with the Kansas City Royals?

Both groups have been doing a lot of whiff-whiff-whiffing lately — the Royals when it comes to hitting a baseball, lawmakers when it comes to beefing up their loosey-goosey ethics rules.

Now, citizens are stepping up, attempting to do what legislators won’t. It’s a welcome development.

Some 500 petitioners are roaming the state most weekends collecting signatures for something called “The Clean Missouri Initiative” that would go on the November 2018 ballot. This is the latest bid by regular folks to take control of their government back from the big corporations and the special interests.

The initiative would enshrine in the Missouri Constitution a series of proposals that lawmakers have kicked around for years. In one fell swoop, the state would:

▪  Require that lawmakers wait two years before they could turn around and lobby their colleagues.

▪  Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts. No freebie could be valued at more than $5. In other words, lobbyists could buy legislators a cup of coffee — and no more.

▪  Eliminate partisan gerrymandering when it comes to redrawing lines for legislative districts. The focus would be to return competitiveness to races that too often have become one-sided incumbent coronations.

▪ Set campaign donation limits at $2,500 for the state Senate and $2,000 for the House.

▪  Open legislative records to public review.

All these proposals have merit and would go a long way toward cleaning up Jefferson City. As an added bonus, members of both parties embrace this proposal. Unlike past initiative efforts that have fallen flat, this one has financial support thanks to a $250,000 donation from the Missouri National Education Association.

Once upon a time in 2017, long-awaited ethics reform appeared to be a promising prospect. Within minutes of taking the oath of office in January, Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order banning every employee in his administration from accepting lobbyist gifts. He had spent much of 2016 campaigning on a pledge to clean up government.

But hopes for real reform dissolved amid Greitens’ embrace of dark money and his refusal to disclose how much lobbyists and corporations paid to underwrite his inaugural ball.

Then, in the House, the first bill heard this year was a proposal to ban lobbyist gifts. The House approved the measure in just eight days, which amounts to blinding speed for a legislative body.

Then it hit the state Senate and went kaput.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, was incredulous, as were others. He said ethics and campaign reform rank as the “number one issue” for Missourians.

So much promise. So much disappointment in a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again in recent years.

So let’s posit this: If anything is going to get done when it comes to cleaning up state government, the responsibility will fall to the people themselves. Key leaders in the General Assembly seem determined to keep the steady stream of free tickets, free meals and free booze flowing.

Lawmakers have practically invited citizens to take matters into their own hands. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Missourians have voiced overwhelming support for clean-government initiatives over the years. Get this on the ballot, and the days of whiffing on ethics will finally end.

Read the original at http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article170869577.html

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Missouri Legislators Take $872,000 in Lobbyist Gifts — Every Year

Lobbyists spend an average of $872,000 each year on gifts for politicians in Jefferson City. That’s almost a million dollars in meals, drinks, sports tickets, and other freebies.

Every year.

Lobbyists spend an average of $872,000 each year on gifts for politicians in Jefferson City. That’s almost a million dollars in meals, drinks, sports tickets, and other freebies.

Every year.

It gets worse. We don’t know who actually received over $8 Million of these gifts. Because of a loophole in current ethics laws, when lobbyists report their freebies as going to a ‘group’ or ‘committee,’ they don’t have to reveal names of the individuals receiving those gifts.

No matter what party you believe in, this is not right.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why we’re coming together to get big money out of state politics and make sure our elected officials represent us. The Clean Missouri initiative will close loopholes and ban all lobbyist gifts over $5 – making state government more transparent and our legislators more accountable.

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