Clean Missouri Brings Amendment 1 Fight to Sedalia

Originally posted on August 28 by the Sedalia Democrat:

With the promise of cleaning up Missouri politics, endorsers of Amendment 1 stood resolutely at the Pettis County Courthouse on Tuesday in support of the upcoming ballot measure

A short lineup of speakers, flanked by supporters holding “Yes on 1” signs, gave remarks during an endorsement press conference on the courthouse’s first floor.

The measure, also known as Clean Missouri, will appear on General Election ballots Nov. 6 and propose a new amendment to the Missouri State Constitution.

Clean Missouri seeks to draw new non-partisan districts for the Missouri State Legislature, make records of legislative meetings open, reduce campaign contributions, nearly eliminate lobbyist gifts and require state politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.

“Rather than focusing on our citizens, our legislators are stuck in a cycle of gamesmanship and attacks that are more about their political team than the voters they’re supposed to represent,” former state Sen. Bob Johnson said in his remarks. “I’ve served in both the Missouri House and Senate. I’ve seen the system fail Missourians firsthand.”

Johnson, a Lee’s Summit Republican, focused particularly on redrawing district lines for the state legislature. He argued that few of the elections in the current legislative map have been competitive.

“It’s been terrible,” he told the Democrat. “It’s almost always all over in August (after) the primary.”

The state legislature last redrew its districts in 2011 after the 2010 U.S. Census. It will have to adjust its maps for the state Senate and House of Representatives after the next census in 2020.

Clean Missouri has proposed having a non-partisan state demographer draw legislative districts that are compact and competitive. These districts, drawn in 2020, would then be subject to review by a citizen commission.

Districts should reflect city borders, county lines, school districts and political subdivisions among Missourians, said Johnson, who served in the state House from 1973 to 1977 and 2003 to 2007 and in the Senate from 1980 to 1994.

Johnson was involved in a bi-partisan citizen group in 2011 that attempted to draw new legislative districts. During his Sedalia visit, he denounced the maps that the legislature ultimately finalized in 2011 and 2012, saying they are “crafted to protect powerful incumbents.”

“(Amendment 1) finally gives some professionalism to it and also objectivity,” Johnson said. “The system now, my history with it certainly hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work, so let’s try something that’s a little more professional.”

Amendment 1 also seeks to cap campaign contributions at $2,500 for the state Senate and $2,000 for the House. Missouri law allows a donor to give a maximum of $2,600 for both.

It would also ban any gift from a lobbyist to a legislator that cost more than $5. This would eliminate more than 99 percent of lobbyist gifts to the state legislature, according to the Clean Missouri website.

Kathleen Boswell, of Sedalia, endorsed Amendment 1 on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. Boswell, the organization’s president, said the league’s values go hand-in-hand with Clean Missouri’s initiative to limit the influence of wealthy donors and lobbyists in Jefferson City.

Local constituents should have the greatest impact on state politicians, she said, not corporations or political action committees.

“As long as there’s such big money in the campaigning, the average Joe (or) Jody doesn’t have a chance to run,” Boswell said. “That falls right in with our mission all along, having a responsive and educated public to vote but then to also serve.”

Judy Hackworth, a retired teacher, was the final speaker during the endorsement press conference, participating as a concerned citizen.

She encouraged voters to take back their elections from lobbyists and wealthy donors, who lead politicians to contradict their constituents’ views.

“I want, along with you, for my voice to be counted,” Hackworth said in her address. “I, along with you, want my needs and concerns to not be overshadowed by big businesses, large donors and special interest groups.”

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Buying influence: Do dark money, lobbyist gifts affect Missouri legislators’ policy?

Originally posted on August 27 by the Kansas City Star:

Can a pair of baseball tickets, an expensive dinner or tickets to a social function buy a legislator’s vote? What about a campaign donation?

Whether lobbyists should be able to provide Missouri lawmakers with extravagant gifts and meals is a subject of hot debate in Jefferson City — even among those who don’t think a legislator would realistically change their vote in exchange for a steak.

“We shouldn’t have lobbyist gifts,” said former state Sen. John Lamping, a Republican.

Those gifts, he said, while small compared to campaign contributions that “special interests” might hand out to legislators, can influence legislators’ thinking.

“If somebody sits across the table from you and you look them in the eye and you explain to them your personal problem and how it affects you and they’re eating your free food and drinking your free wine and you’re paying for it, they are much more likely psychologically to put themselves into your shoes, to feel what you’re feeling — to feel your pain, so to speak — and to understand why it is that you need a certain thing,” said Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

Schaaf and Lamping are part of a cadre that would like to see the stream of gifts to legislators shut off. They’re not alone. Asked what they wanted to know about political corruption and transparency in Missouri, Star readers wanted to know whether gifts and campaign contributions — including those made by dark-money organizations — could influence legislators to the detriment of the state.

Many of the Missouri Influencers, The Star’s panel of dozens of leaders from across Missouri, expressed concern about the potential for lobbyist gifts to influence legislators, but some argued they weren’t significant enough to affect policy solutions. For most, the issue paled in comparison to the influence of money in campaigns, especially untraceable “dark money.”

“I am confident that those giving gifts and making political donations are convinced that such things influence policy,” said Patrick Tuohey, director of municipal policy for the Show-Me Institute. “Otherwise, why bother? I don’t know if it is necessarily detrimental, but it should be transparent.”

This year, lobbyists have spent nearly $120,000 on meals and tickets to baseball games, charity events and other social engagements for individual Missouri legislators and their staffs and families, and more than $146,000 on events and meals for the whole group. That total has been on decline for years.

“I do not think lobbyist gifts sway lawmakers,” said James Harris, a political strategist and like Tuohey one of the Influencers. “Often, trade associations have constituents in Jefferson City and want to sit down with lawmakers for a meal, and I think this is understandable. I have never seen a lawmaker sell out over a hamburger.”

From now until Election Day, The Star will be asking its readers to submit questions on a variety of political topics for the Missouri Influencers Series. The goal of the series is to create a conversation between readers and influential Missourians about the biggest policy issues facing the state. Readers can ask questions and vote on topics they want the Influencers to address.

Lobbyist gifts

This year, Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, set out to ban lobbyist gifts in exchange for a tweak to the state law that limits lawmakers to eight years of service in each chamber of the Missouri General Assembly.

Holsman doesn’t take lobbyist gifts. He and several other Missouri lawmakers have zeroes next to their names on the Missouri Ethics Commission’s list of lobbyist gift totals for legislators. While Holsman said he doesn’t think most legislators would flip their votes in exchange for a free dinner, he said 97 percent of his constituents opposed legislators accepting lobbyist gifts.

“I do think that’s more perception than it is reality,” Holsman said. “… In 12 years of serving in the legislature, I’ve never seen a lobbyist gift influence a legislator’s action.”

Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles County, doesn’t support banning lobbyist gifts, and said dinners have historically served as a means of “purchasing time” with legislators whose schedules are packed when they’re in Jefferson City for the legislative session.

“For me, if I had to pay my own way to meet with a lobbyist from a group that represents a group I don’t agree with, typically, I simply wouldn’t meet with them and I wouldn’t hear from their side,” Bahr said, adding that he recognized that might be “churlish,” but it’s “human nature.”

Considering the fact that lawmakers are term-limited, Bahr said, meetings with lobbyists can be beneficial for lawmakers who need to learn more about various policy proposals. He said he rejects “the notion that a lobbyist gift — a lunch or a dinner — is sufficient to buy off a legislator” unless the legislator has poor moral character anyway.

Activists hoping to pass a sweeping ethics reform and redistricting ballot initiative would also like to halt the practice. Clean Missouri, which will be on the November ballot, would lower campaign contribution limits, eliminate most lobbyist gifts, impose a waiting period for former legislators to become lobbyists, open records and reform Missouri’s redistricting process. Critics raise issue with the redistricting proposal they say would give Democrats an advantage.

Advocates for Clean Missouri argue that gifts allow lobbyists undue influence.

Benjamin Singer, communications director for the campaign, said lobbyists wouldn’t spend money on lawmakers “if there weren’t a return on that investment.”

“The cup-of-coffee rule makes it so that lobbyists can’t afford to take legislators out for more lavish gifts and things than the constituents back at home can afford,” Singer said.

Ken Novak, an Influencer and professor of criminal justice and criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said he had no idea whether dark money and lobbyist gifts had a detrimental effect on the state.

“But that’s the point, isn’t it?” Novak said. “Full transparency is critical in order to promote legitimacy within public service. We don’t know whether, or to what degree, gifts or political donations impact decision making. But since it is very reasonable to believe they could, maximum transparency is necessary.”

Influencer and Kansas City Council member Alissia Canady suggested an ethics review to study the correlation between political donations and votes on critical issues.

“Also, most importantly, all political donors should be disclosed as well as any business interest they may have, including money received from PACs,” Canady said.

Jason Grill, a media, public affairs and crisis communications consultant and Influencer, said he doesn’t believe lobbyist gifts influence policy decisions, but there are possibly “a few bad apples in every group.”

“More transparency in political donations is a good thing and dark-money contributions have to be brought to light in order to continue to promote ethical behavior in politics,” Grill said.

Influencer Scott Charton agreed.

“Sunshine is the best disinfectant — transparency about sources of political funding can help address growing distrust and cynicism about our political system,” said Charton, CEO of Charton Communications.

Campaign donations and dark money

More concerning than the idea of lobbyists wooing lawmakers with booze, Holsman said, is the influence of campaign donations.

“Most legislators are professional people and understand that just because somebody picks up a check at dinner or you go to a ballgame — it’s not a determining factor in why or why not you would vote yes or no on an issue, but a $10,000 check certainly could be,” Holsman said.

Of particular concern, Holsman said, is money that can’t be traced to its original source, something some lawmakers and onlookers think is a growing problem in Missouri politics.

Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, an Influencer, said dark money was the “largest risk to our democracy.”

Influencer Brenda Bethman, director of the UMKC Women’s Center, suggested public financing of campaigns so no private donations are allowed.

“Dark money,” defined as campaign contributions routed through nonprofits or companies to hide where the money originated, isn’t a new phenomenon in Missouri.

In 2012, then-Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder saw an onslaught of attack ads targeting him paid for by a political action committee. The sole donor to that committee was a nonprofit. That same year, the payday loan industry funneled millions through a nonprofit into a PAC to successfully fend off efforts to put tougher regulations on these types of loans on the ballot.

But it wasn’t until the rise of former Gov. Eric Greitens that dark money came to dominate Missouri politics.

While Greitens was publicly decrying anonymous campaign cash, his staff was laying the groundwork for what would become $6 million in dark-money support for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

After taking office in 2017, his staff set up A New Missouri Inc., a nonprofit established solely to support Greitens and his agenda.

A bipartisan group of senators essentially held the Missouri Senate hostage in May 2017, demanding that GOP leaders allow a vote on legislation aimed at forcing political nonprofits like A New Missouri to disclose their donors. The effort was derailed when a group of Republican senators staged a filibuster, calling the disclosure requirements an infringement on free speech and personal privacy that could subject donors to retaliation.

Bahr rejected the term “dark money” and said the idea of requiring transparency in political donations forced individuals to be transparent to the government when it’s the government he believes should be transparent to individuals. He said some individuals may not want to disclose their donations if they give to a group their peers might not approve of.

“I think that allowing people the freedom … to not disclose who they donate money to is an anti-bullying measure within our public discourse of free speech,” Bahr said.

A Missouri House panel concluded that A New Missouri was “a criminal enterprise” designed to illegally skirt campaign finance laws and conceal the identities of major donors. Greitens ultimately resigned June 1, but a Republican lawmaker still filed a complaint against A New Missouri and Greitens’ campaign with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Dark-money spending has now managed to creep up and down the ballot.

A special election last year for a Jackson County-based state Senate seat saw hundreds of thousands of dollars in anonymous money spent to help Republican Mike Cierpiot win. And three state Senate races earlier this month saw GOP candidates win primaries with the help of largely anonymous cash routed through a political action committee called Missouri Senate Conservatives Fund.

Influencer Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library and co-founder of the Show-Me Institute, said dark money and lobbyist gifts have a detrimental effect on policy.

“Everyone believes the money in the system supports things they disagree with except when it’s spent on things they agree with,” Kemper said. “I’m in favor of more transparency and also more media focus on disclosing local interests at work.”

Gregg Keller, an Influencer and principal of Atlas Strategy Group, said “the left” coined the phrase “dark money” to outlaw ordinary citizens from taking part in public policy.

“They’d prefer the old way, where only liberal editorial pages and labor unions could participate in such ways,” Keller said. “We need more citizen participation in our policy discussions, not less.”

Influencer Ryan Silvey, a Missouri Public Service commissioner and former Republican state senator, said dark money is the greatest threat to the political system.

“Donors being able to influence elections without transparency for the people to hold them — or the candidates they support — accountable is not healthy at all,” Silvey said. “For instance, if the captains of industry want to push policy that is harmful to their employees or customers, the public should know so they can pull the free market levers available to them in response.

“You cannot have balance without transparency.”

 

 

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Northwest Missouri Leaders Endorse Amendment 1

Originally posted on August 27 by the Maryville Daily Forum:

Northwest Missouri Leaders Endorse Amendment 1

MARYVILLE, Mo. — At a noon press conference held Monday several members of northwest Missouri communities endorsed Amendment 1 or “Clean Missouri,” that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Held at the Nodaway County Courthouse, Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, along with Cheryl Barnes with the League of Women Voters of Missouri; and Rev. Scott Moon of the First United Methodist Church in Maryville spoke in support of the ballot issue.

The bipartisan effort intends to fight against political corruption by lowering campaign contribution limits; eliminating almost all lobbyist gifts; requiring state government be more transparent; stopping the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists; and requiring fair state legislative maps.

Sen. Schaaf explained that he’s been in the legislature for 16 years, and that the biggest problem he’s seen has been the legislature doing the wishes of special interests and of the lobbyists instead of those of the people and to their detriment.

“I’ve watched as we’ve taken up issues designed to help one special interest over another, perhaps to make more money in the market place, to advantage one group over another and it’s taken up valuable time that we could be spending working on issues that are important to all of the people, so that’s why I’m here supporting Clean Missouri,” he said.

He gave examples of some of the bills taken up on behalf of special interest groups: a bill to help big alcohol fight their competitors, big tobacco over little tobacco, or who gets to hang equipment from telephone poles.

“I didn’t go to Jeff City to deal with those kinds of issues that nobody knows anything about,” Schaaf said.

He spoke in favor of the $5 limit on lobbyist gifts and redistricting so incumbent politicians are no longer protected by gerrymandered districts.

“(Ronald Reagan) said on the anniversary of D-Day that ‘Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man,’” Schaaf said. “There are a lot people who have died for our democracy, but at this point in time, the affect of big money is corrupting it. We need to clean it up and protect the democracy that so many people have died for.”

After the press conference, Schaaf explained slightly more in depth how the redistricting will help with regard to those incumbents.

“Right now, the districts are drawn kind of in the back room under the secrecy of darkness and nobody knows exactly what process is used and who made the decision and why,” he said. “Clean Missouri causes there to be a state demographer that is nonpartisan and the mechanism of choosing that state demographer is as fair as it can be.”

He said the maps have to be drawn in such a way to minimize the difference in wasted votes between the two political parties.

He explained that wasted votes are those that are made for the non-winners, but also those that are made in excess of the number of votes needed for the candidate to win. He explained that “packing and cracking” is used to pack voters into a district, so that there’s more of their votes wasted or “cracking” splitting them up so none of that party get elected at all so all of the votes are wasted.

“So all of that is created to waste votes among the opposing party,” Schaaf said. “But we could draw maps scientifically, using criteria that are outlined in Clean Missouri such that the difference between the parties and their wasted votes is as small as possible. It’s a mathematical mechanism and it’s been supported by people like John Danforth, Gov. Kucinich, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The mechanism will also be transparent so everyone can see how the lines are drawn.”

He went on to explain a citizen’s commission will look over the entire process.

“It’s going to be a giant improvement over what we have now,” Schaaf said. “These kinds of things show that the process right now isn’t very good, it needs to be fixed and I think clean Missouri is a good start.”

From the local perspective, The Rev. Scott Moon with First United Methodist Church in Maryville explained that he endorses the amendment because his denomination has taken a proactive stance on campaign finance reform and for the proper choosing of representatives and setting of districts.

“We come to this position, really, from an ethical and moral perspective as well as a political perspective,” he said. He went on to explain that as an individual who as a member of the United Methodist clergy is duty-bound to help those within his congregation, and also generally within the public to encourage persons to look seriously at the ways in which campaign finance reform, in particular, can be addressed.

“Very seldom do you have an opportunity such as we have this coming November to actually vote on an amendment that can make a difference,” Moon said. “I’ve looked at this myself. I personally can commend this for ratification and will be voting for this when it comes in the fall.”

He encouraged others to look at the initiative and apply their consciences before the upcoming general election.

Cheryl Barnes with the League of Women Voters of Missouri said she and her organization believe that lobbyists, big donors and small groups of political insiders have too much control and influence over Missouri state government, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“(Amendment 1) is an opportunity to make our state government more transparent and limit the power of lobbyists and big money donors on our legislature.”

Rick Oswald, a fifth-generation northwest Missouri farmer and former president of the Missouri Farmers Union spoke on behalf of the ballot initiative.

“It’s what we need in rural Missouri,” Oswald said. “It’s what’s going to give us back local control. It’s going to put us back in control of our local communities and it’s going to make it easier for us to elect people who reflect the values of those communities instead of the values of those big money donors in St. Louis.”

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The Washington Missourian: “If you really want to limit the money-influence environment in state government, you will vote for Amendment 1.”

Originally posted on August 25 by the Washington Missourian:

The Little People Against the Giants

It may not be exactly a David-Goliath battle, but proponents of Amendment 1, which will be on the November ballot, are the little people up against wealthy lobbyists and many legislators in pushing for major reforms in state government.

The little people have an organization called Clean Missouri, which has some funding, but nothing compared to what big money and powerful lobbyists and legislators can muster.

The little people collected the needed signatures to put the issue of ethics reforms on the ballot. It took over a year, but they had support from all over Missouri.

One of the proponents is Patricia Schuba, from Labadie, who has been a voice for reforms, from clean air to clean government, for a long time. She is co-owner of a farm, well-educated and an activist who is willing to do battle with powerful forces. When Clean Missouri kicked off its campaign for Amendment 1 in Washington Wednesday, she said this:

“When we rein in lobbyists and get big money out of state politics, we force candidates to win our votes, debate the issues, and represent us — their constituents. Too often, the only people running for political offices are the rich or well-connected, or people who cave to special interests once they are elected. This amendment levels the playing field, making it easier for citizens to run for office. That is good for Missouri’s democracy, and we need more regular people, like us, looking out for us.”

Angie Dunlap, board member of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, added: “Lobbyists, big donors and small groups of political insiders have too much control and influence over Missouri state government. Amendment 1 is an opportunity to make our state government more transparent and limit the power of lobbyists and big money donors in our Legislature.”

Amendment 1 would eliminate nearly all gifts to members of the General Assembly; require that legislative records be open to the public; establish a two-year waiting period for General Assembly members to become lobbyists after leaving office; lower campaign gifts to legislative candidates; and ensure that neither party is given an unfair advantage when new district maps are drawn after census figures are known.

Politicians, that is many of them, are attacking Amendment 1 because of  the redistricting requirement. They don’t want to give added public attention to gifts to members of the General Assembly, campaign contributions, the influence lobbyists have due to the money-force they represent and the current secrecy in government.

In other words, most officeholders who would be affected don’t want matters to change. They like the status quo. They eat up the perks given. Lobbyists, that is many of them, like things the way they are.

Money corrupts. It’s present in state government. Clean Missouri, if passed, would be a major ethics reform measure. If you really want to limit the money-influence environment in state government, you will vote for Amendment 1.

 

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League of Women Voters, NAACP Rally Behind Amendment 1

Originally posted on August 22 by Northeast News:

Thanks to an initiative petition that garnered roughly 340,000 signatures throughout the state, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to approve sweeping ethics reform when they cast their general election ballots on Tuesday, November 6.

Representatives from the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the Kansas City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gathered in front of the southern steps of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall on Wednesday, August 15 to support the legislation, known as Amendment 1.

Rev. Rodney E. Williams, President of the Kansas City, Missouri chapter of the NAACP, decried the threats to three pillars of democracy – economic justice, voting rights, and educational equality – that necessitates the voter approval of Amendment 1. In Missouri, Williams argued, big money controls too many of the state’s policy directives.

“We have a legislative body that pays more attention to the lobbyists, the big donors, the small groups of political insiders, than they do to the citizens who voted them in office,” Williams said.

Amendment 1 aims primarily to dull the effectiveness of donor and lobbying spending in Missouri politics. To that end, the legislation consists of five major reforms: 1) banning all gifts worth more than five dollars; 2) instituting a two-year moratorium on lobbying for politicians following their final legislative session; 3) lowering campaign contribution limits to $2,500 for Senate candidates and $2,000 for House candidates, while also closing contribution loopholes; 4) requiring legislative records to be held to the same Sunshine Law transparency rules as other public entities; and 5) directing the state to hire a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps after the next census.

According to Williams, the legislation is a bid to give the people of Missouri their voices back.

“We are here for that which is right, against that which is wrong,” Williams said.

Following the press conference, the Northeast News reached out to District 19 State Representative Ingrid Burnett, who offered her endorsement of Amendment 1. Still, Burnett lamented the fact that the Legislature hasn’t been able to enact ethics reform on its own.

“It kind of troubles me that we have to go to that length in order to get clean government,” Burnett said. “I like all of the ideas that are in there, I just wish we could have passed that as a legislative body.”

In part because of her own uneasiness with the Legislature’s inability to pass its own ethics reform, Burnett stands strongly in support of the initiative petition process utilized by Missouri voters to get Amendment 1 on the November ballot.

“That’s a good failsafe for our government,” Burnett said. “The fact that we have to continue to use it should be a warning to voters about who we are electing.”

Burnett added that the majority of Amendment 1, but especially campaign contribution limits, are key measures for Missouri to implement. She pointed to the rejection of Right-to-Work legislation during the August primary election as evidence that Republicans in the Legislature are not in lockstep with the voters who elected them into office. The Right-to-Work legislation (Prop A on the August ballot) was rejected by 67% of Missouri voters.

“Several different Republicans got up and said, we don’t need to put this before the people; they voted for it when they voted for us,” Burnett recalled.

While Burnett concedes that she’s occasionally accepted gifts in excess of $5, she says that she doesn’t mind the strict limit because she doesn’t receive much from lobbyists in the first place.

“I’m okay with $5, as long as everybody is playing by the same rules,” Burnett said.

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KC Star: Yes on 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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The League of Women Voters Endorses Amendment 1

Originally aired August 14 on KY3 in Springfield, MO:

League of Women Voters puts support behind legislative reform ballot issue

Missouri voters will be deciding a number of issues on the ballot this November including Amendment 1, a sweeping legislative reform measure that on Tuesday got the backing of the League of Women Voters.

The goal of Amendment 1 is to increase fairness, integrity, accountability, and transparency in the Missouri’s General Assembly.

And it has bi-partisan support, including that of the League of Women Voters.

“The league is nonpartisan as you may know,” announced Ann Elwell, the League’s Communication Chair at the start of their press conference in the rotunda of the Greene County courthouse. “We never support or endorse candidates or parties.”

Yet on this issue the League is throwing its statewide support in favor of Amendment 1 because “lobbyists, big donors, and small groups of insiders continue to have too much control and influence in state government,” said Joan Gentry, a League Board Member.

Two of the five Amendment 1 initiatives relate to lobbyists. One eliminates any gifts from lobbyists to legislators over five dollars. And the other prohibits legislators from becoming lobbyists until two years after their term expires.

“Since 2014 politicians in the Missouri General Assembly have taken over $12 million in gifts from lobbyists who have business before the legislature,” explained Kelly Wood, a past League President. “These gifts include liquor, sports events, concerts, international travel and expensive dinners.”

Amendment 1 would also limit campaign contributions for state legislative candidates, require all legislative records to be open to the public and have a nonpartisan expert draw up the district maps so that one political party doesn’t gain an advantage just because of the way the districts are drawn up. The new mapping would be done with statistical analysis.

“There will be provisions to make sure that the result is statistically correct,” Elwell said. ” And the party affiliation will not be a part of that.”

And at a time when our political world is more divisive than ever, the league hopes Amendment 1 will abate some of that cynicism.

“We feel like this amendment really cleans up politics in Missouri,” Wood said. “Money is power, and we are really more concerned with the voters having the power to decide the issues rather than the people behind closed doors.”

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Clean Missouri is on the ballot! Vote YES on Amendment 1 to clean up Missouri politics!

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office certified Amendment 1 to appear on the November 6 ballot. That means voters will have a chance this November to increase integrity, transparency, and accountability in state government.

Amendment 1 will:

  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly
  • require that legislative records be open to the public
  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • require politicians to wait two years if they want to become lobbyists
  • 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

“Amendment 1 is a chance to increase fairness, integrity and transparency in government,” said Kathleen Boswell, President of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. “Year after year, politicians are re-elected with big money, in districts drawn by politicians and party insiders. Amendment 1 limits the influence of special interests in the legislature and ensures no party is given an unfair advantage when redistricting occurs after the next census. Amendment 1 establishes clear, transparent criteria to ensure fair and competitive maps, which are reviewed by a citizens’ commission.”

“Amendment 1 will ensure fair and competitive elections so elected officials cannot take their voters for granted and must earn their support,” said Republican former U.S. Senator John Danforth. “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. Amendment 1 will increase integrity, transparency, and accountability in state government.”

“Lobbyists and a small group of big donors have too much control over Missouri state government,” said Pastor Cassandra Gould, Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. Amendment 1 will make our state government more transparent, limit the power of big money in our legislature, and make sure we can hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public’s interest.”

A growing number of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and editorial boards across the state have publicly endorsed the full package of desperately needed reforms in Amendment 1, including the Washington Missourian, Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Columbia Daily Tribune.

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Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri Endorses Clean Missouri

Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri held an endorsement press conference for Clean Missouri in Springfield. Speakers included Dr. Robert Perry of the Greene County Baptist Association, Lee Ann Worman of the League of Women Voters, Barbara Burgess, a payday loan survivor, and Judith Peavey of Temple Israel Sisterhood. All spoke to the need to take power away from special interests and give it to the people of Missouri. Check out a video and an excerpt of the coverage from KOLR 10’s Brea Douglas:

Nearly 350,0000 Missourians are pushing for an increase in government integrity. That’s how many signatures were collected for the Clean Missouri Initiative to be on the November ballot.

Supporters say the initiative will ensure the best interest of Missourians are put before big donors, lobbyists and partisan politics. …

The Clean Missouri initiative will lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates, eliminate lobbyist gifts in the general assembly, require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists, and require that legislative records be open to the public. …

The message shared on Tuesday was if Clean Missouri passes, lawmakers won’t be influenced by what’s in the best interest of their donors rather they will be forced to work in the best interest of the people.

“We need laws that reflect the will of the people here in Missouri and overwhelmingly people in Missouri want to see predatory lending reform. Why have we not gotten the predatory lending reform that we need? It’s the influence of big money, big money speaks louder than people,” says [Clean Missouri] advocate, Susan Schmalzbauer.

 

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Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel: “Time after time, big donors get their way, as politicians put their wish lists ahead of the needs of their constituents.”

Nimrod “Rod” Chapel, Jr., President of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, wrote an op-ed supporting Clean Missouri in the Springfield News-Leader titled “Liberty and Justice for the Wealthy and Well-Connected.” An excerpt:

How will you feel when the legislature’s wasteful political favors force them to raise taxes on working families or cut funding to vital services?

This is what happens when big money drowns out the people back home.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s why I’m proud to support the Clean Missouri ballot initiative as a big step forward for Missouri to restore balance, fairness, and integrity to state government.

Here are the facts about Clean Missouri:
• Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts by banning any gift worth more than $5
• Lower contribution limits to state legislative candidates to ensure our legislature is not for sale to big money donors
• Require legislators wait 2 years to become lobbyists so they focus on public service, not doing the bidding of big companies
• Require legislative records be open to the public so we know why decisions are made
• Ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, and protect the political power of minority communities against vote dilution

With the way our current political system is set up, it’s no wonder our legislators sell us out when they get inside the Capitol.

This will take a lot of work and will take years. But together, we will secure the promise we have all pledged to achieve: liberty and justice for all.

Join us in the fight. Our democracy depends on it. To learn more or get involved, visit www.cleanmissouri.org.

 

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