Amendment 1: Missourians versus lobbyists

Op-Ed by state Senator Rob Schaaf and former Senators Jim Lembke and Bob Johnson originally posted on September 17 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

This week should bring an important victory for voters over Missouri’s corrupted politics, as an appellate court is poised to keep Amendment 1 on the statewide ballot to clean up Jefferson City.

We’ve served in the Missouri House and Senate and watched as powerful lobbyists, big money and partisan insiders steamroll the will of Missourians. That’s why we filed an amicus brief in support of Amendment 1 because it will force legislators to pay more attention to their constituents, not special interests.

You may have heard that three lobbyists are suing to stop Missourians from voting for Amendment 1 to clean up state politics. These lobbyists want legislators to be able to keep taking an average of nearly $900,000 in gifts from lobbyists every year — while ignoring voters back home.

The lobbyists are throwing the kitchen sink at the initiative to stop it, including a “single-subject” challenge, but we have good news: They are wrong. When it comes to Amendment 1, the law is on Missourians’ side.

We agree with Attorney General Josh Hawley’s legal brief on Amendment 1: “The measure, if enacted by the voters, would promote transparency and accountability in the General Assembly.” He wrote that Amendment 1’s “single subject, and central purpose, is to regulate limited aspects of the Missouri General Assembly and its members.”

Of course, it’s no wonder that these lobbyists are out of touch with the people and laws of Missouri. Their lawsuit is being funded by a secretive group in Virginia, registered by a law firm that specializes in “untraceable pressure groups.” Amendment 1, on the other hand, was signed by over 300,000 Missourians, from every county in Missouri, gathered by over 1,500 volunteers.

Here are the facts:

• The single subject, “regulating the legislature,” was certified by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

• The initiative is in line with other initiatives and bills that have withstood frivolous single-subject challenges, and the judgment should be reversed.

• Amendment 1 is supported by a bipartisan coalition of reformers, including former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.

• Amendment 1 would eliminate expensive lobbyist gifts, require legislative records be open to the public, lower campaign contribution limits, stop legislators from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving the Legislature, and add independence, transparency, fairness and competitiveness to our redistricting process.

In our brief co-signed by watchdog Common Cause, we wrote: “The will of the voters should determine who legislates and what influences legislative decisions. The Clean Missouri initiative seeks to enact this fundamental principle. … The voters of Missouri rather than the courts should decide the fate of this important initiative.”

We have a bipartisan problem. While legislators take unlimited gifts from lobbyists, 90 percent of Democrats and Republicans coast to re-election in uncompetitive districts. President Ronald Reagan called gerrymandering a “national scandal” and an “anti-democratic and un-American practice.” Indeed, year after year, Missouri legislators of both parties are re-elected in safe districts drawn by lobbyists, politicians and partisan insiders, evading accountability for their actions in the Legislature.

Amendment 1 is a bipartisan solution to ensure politicians are accountable to the people. It incorporates important redistricting principles of fairness and competitiveness advocated for at the national level by leading members of our party, including former Sen. Danforth, Gov. John Kasich, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Sen. Bob Dole and the late Sen. John McCain, who jointly signed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in another lawsuit.

Amendment 1 also maintains requirements for compact and contiguous districts, and would add new requirements for following city and county lines, ensuring no party gets an unfair advantage, and protecting minority representation. It would have an independent expert draw maps to be reviewed and voted on by a citizen commission, after taking public testimony.

This isn’t about one party versus another. This is about voters versus corruption, secrecy, and special interests.

Seeing the desperation of these three lobbyists to keep their stranglehold on Missouri politics makes it more important than ever to put the Legislature back in the hands of its intended rulers: the people of Missouri.

We expect a favorable ruling for voters, and we’ll be voting yes on Amendment 1 this November to clean up Missouri politics.

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The Campaign Legal Center: “If enacted, the initiative will institute practical methods for ensuring that each vote matters as much as the next.”

Originally posted on September 10 by the Campaign Legal Center:

New Ballot Initiative Promises to Minimize Republican and Democratic Gerrymanders in Missouri

Clean Missouri has proposed a new ballot initiative that promises to make Missouri elections fairer and more transparent. This plan will minimize the gerrymanders by either party by having a nonpartisan state demographer draw the redistricting map. A bipartisan citizen’s commission, composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from around the state, may make minor changes to the map if seven-tenths of the commissioners approve.

Currently, a bipartisan commission selected by the Governor and the majority and minority party leaders in the Missouri legislature draw Missouri’s House of Representatives maps. State Senate maps are also drawn by a bipartisan commission selected by the state committee for the two largest parties and the Governor. While the bipartisan nature of these commissions are appealing, the members of the commissions tend to have extreme conflicts of interest as they are often lobbyists and political consultants.

Clean Missouri’s ballot initiative prevents this sort of malfeasance by mandating that the nonpartisan demographer not have served in a partisan elected position for four years prior to appointment. The proposal also excludes the nonpartisan demographer from holding office as a member of the general assembly for four years thereafter.

According to Wendy Underhill, a redistricting expert with the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures, “There has been more interest this year than in the last few years, and perhaps ever, on changing how redistricting is conducted. Some reformers—inside legislatures and outside—are seeking to move to commissions, and specifically commissions that are at arm’s length from politics, if that is possible. Most reform proposals, like the one in Missouri, include a change in the criteria used for drawing maps as well. This year, for instance, legislators in Colorado and Ohio have sent measures to the voters with overwhelming bipartisan support to change the methodology to increase the level of bipartisanship in mapdrawing, and citizens in Utah and Michigan gathered signatures to put citizens initiatives on November’s statewide ballots as well.”

Missouri’s current maps were drawn in 2012 and exhibit signs of gerrymandering. In the 2016 state house elections, Republicans in Missouri received 59% of the vote and yet were able to control 72% of the seats in the Missouri House. This indicates that Republicans were able to turn their votes into seats more efficiently than Democrats, which is a telltale sign of rampant gerrymandering and a lack of partisan fairness.

Political scientists quantify the difference in each party’s ability to turn votes into seats by using a measure called the efficiency gap. Minority parties in states with high efficiency gaps often won’t be able to gain a majority of the seats in future elections, even if they receive a majority of votes in future elections.

Democratic and Republican incumbents are similarly guilty of manipulating the redistricting process to their benefit by drawing districts to ensure that they get reelected, with minimal concern for fairness criteria such as contiguity, compactness, preservation of communities of interest, and respect for political subdivisions. In fact, scholars have drawn maps of Missouri with lower efficiency gaps than the current map and that meet more of the fairness criteria than the current map.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this initiative is pending. However, it is premised on ideas that are demonstrably false. In the lawsuit, the Plaintiff assumes that the state demographer “will be forced either to draw noncontiguous districts (say, mixing a district of rural Missouri in with a slice of St. Louis or Kansas City) or conical districts that link slivers of traditional urban communities with swaths of rural Missouri.”

Fair maps that maintain communities of interest and adhere to other fairness criteria have already been drawn for Missouri. Maps like these have not yet been implemented because the people currently in charge of drawing maps have other priorities, such as keeping their seat and winning more seats for their party by any means, including diluting the votes of the opposing party.

This mentality is incredibly dangerous. Due to recent technological advancements and the wealth of personal information available to the public, partisan map drawers are able to gerrymander a map with surgical precision, carefully cracking and packing a map so that their party of choice will have more seats than votes.

The proponents of the Clean Missouri ballot initiative believe that voters should choose politicians, not the other way around. If enacted, the initiative will institute practical methods for ensuring that each vote matters as much as the next.

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Eat, drink and be corrupt — the Missouri Legislature’s way

Originally posted on September 8 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Like the annual late-summer return of some destructive insect, political fundraisers will swarm all over Jefferson City this week, coinciding with the one-day veto session of the Missouri Legislature. Lobbyists will gather in bars and restaurants at the invitation of the lawmakers they lobby. They’ll nibble on hors d’oeuvres, sip beer or liquor and hand over checks, generally tucked into little white envelopes. They’ll eat, drink and revel long into the night. Then, on Wednesday, those lawmakers will head for the House and Senate floors to take votes that may affect the fortunes of those lobbyists.

About half the states in America don’t allow their legislators to fund-raise while they’re in session, in recognition of how much such financial influence looks like legalized bribery. But Missouri lawmakers, seldom concerned with such ethical niceties, have more than two-dozen fundraising events scheduled between Monday and Wednesday, some of them physically within sight of the Capitol or a few steps from the Governor’s Mansion.

Banning this brazen practice isn’t among the batch of ethics ideas being considered as either pending legislation or current ballot measures. Reformers should start laying groundwork to change that.

The annual spate of fundraisers during veto-session week has become a nefarious tradition in Jefferson City. The lawmakers who participate often rake in tens of thousands of dollars each in a few short days, generally comprising their single biggest funding score for the year. A study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics found that, in 2014, Missouri legislators brought in $796,000 in donations during those precious few days.

There’s no reason to believe the envelopes have gotten any thinner since then. As the Post-Dispatch’s Kurt Erickson reported recently, this year’s 25 scheduled events involve more than 70 lawmakers, many teaming up to raise funds jointly.

Some will be held in bars, lending a party-like atmosphere to soften the edges of what’s going on here. Others — like the one with Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, and former Rep. Sheila Solon, running for a St. Joseph-area seat — will eliminate the middleman and invite lobbyists to party right there in the downtown offices of their campaign consultant.

At a restaurant across the street, another joint fundraiser will include Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, who is the incoming House speaker next year. Is any lobbyist worth his pinstripes going to miss that one?

Missouri is lax on political ethics in so many ways — unlimited donations, unfettered lobbyist gifts, revolving-door lobbying jobs — that it’s easy for a one-week-per-year embarrassment like the veto-session fundraisers to get put on the back burner by political reformers, both within and outside the Legislature.

But the troubling symbolism alone of this tradition spawns a stink that lingers long after autumn. Getting this unacceptable practice banned before its 2019 return should be on reformers’ agenda.

 

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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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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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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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