Columbia Daily Tribune Endorses Amendment 1

Originally in the Columbia Daily Tribune on October 28, 2018:

Ballot Amendment 1, better known as Clean Missouri, isn’t perfect. If it has one key fault it’s that the amendment might be trying to do too much.

But trying to do too much, in this case, is better than doing nothing at all.

Clean Missouri’s aim matches its name, to clean up and prevent corruption big and small that has invaded statewide politics.

If passed by voters Nov. 5, Amendment 1 would:

Impose a $5 limit on the value of lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers.

Bar former lawmakers and legislative staff from working as lobbyists for two years after leaving office.

Limit campaign donations to $2,500 to candidates for the state Senate and $2,000 to candidates for the Missouri House.

Count donations to legislative candidates from political action committees that have one donor that provides more than 50 percent of the funding against that donor’s personal limit for candidate donations.

Establish an office known as the state demographer to draw House and Senate districts to be competitive between the two major parties, with other provisions intended to make the districts compact, with lines that do not cross the boundaries of political subdivisions.

None of these changes would harm voters or the electoral process. It will help reign in harmful practices that give special interests and partisan politicking a louder voice than Missouri voters.

The limit on campaign gifts is overdue. Whenever a politician accepts gifts, whether it be a t-bone dinner or event tickets, the appearance of impropriety can’t be escaped. The truth is some politicians can be influenced by such gifts. Lobbyists will tell you that gifts don’t impact public policy debates. If that were true then why bother with gift-giving at all? The practice’s existence is proof of its usefulness.

Most importantly, however, is the role Amendment 1 will play in cleaning up Missouri’s gerrymandered mess when it comes to legislative districts. Boone County is a perfect example of this.

In Missouri’s 50th House District, it’s impossible to travel from one side to the other without using a boat to cross the Missouri River or driving outside the district. The 44th House District snakes south across the Randolph County and Boone County border to encompass most of Columbia’s Third Ward. The 47th House District, like the 44th and 50th, also crosses county lines.

Columbia alone is large enough to fit three House districts inside it. Instead only the 45th and 46th House Districts are contained within its borders. This has minimized the voice and will of Columbia residents in the Missouri General Assembly.

Amendment 1 will honor existing geographical and political boundaries. That alone makes this amendment a necessary yes vote on Nov. 6.

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Missouri leaders and national experts praise Amendment 1’s strong protections for the voting power of communities of color

Redistricting experts say that language in Amendment 1 will make Missouri a national leader in protecting the voting power of communities of color

Language to protect and expand the political power of racial and language minorities reads as follows, and is explicitly listed as more important than other criteria that will be used to evaluate future redistricting plans for the General Assembly:

Districts shall be established in a manner so as to comply with all requirements of the United States Constitution and applicable federal laws, including, but not limited to, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as amended). Notwithstanding any other provision of this Article, districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or diminishing their ability to elect representatives of their choice, whether by themselves or by voting in concert with other persons.

Michael Li, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice explains what this means:

“At a time when the scope of future federal protections becomes more uncertain, Amendment 1 would make Missouri a national leader in protecting the voting power of communities of color. The proposal is absolutely clear—districts must be drawn to allow minority voters to elect their preferred candidates. And, if their political power is at all diminished, voters of color could bring a challenge. Passing Amendment 1 would be a major voting rights victory.”

Justin Levitt, Professor at Loyola Law School, a national redistricting expert:

“It’s evident from the drafting that the initiative’s authors spent a great deal of time and attention on the particular phrasing, especially on the provision concerning minority rights.  It’s carefully calibrated, and designed to account both for Supreme Court precedent and for practicalities on the ground. It’s true that the courts have addressed race and redistricting a fair amount recently, but no Supreme Court case – out of Texas or otherwise – keeps Missouri from doing what the initiative proposes.”

Greg Moore, former Executive Director of the NAACP National Voter Fund, and a statewide leader in the Ohio Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition:

“The state of Missouri, like Ohio earlier this year, has a rare opportunity to take a giant leap forward to advance fair districts, roll back corruption in state government and protect minority voting rights by supporting the Clean Missouri Initiative on the November 6 ballot. This year we are witnessing an unprecedented wave of citizens across the country working together to build stronger, more representative and more responsive state and local governments. African Americans and all voters of Color will be key to the success of this historic effort in Missouri. Support Amendment 1. Please don’t miss this opportunity to let our voices be heard!”

Nimrod “Rod” Chapel, Jr., President of the NAACP Missouri State Conference and civil rights attorney:

“Opponents of Amendment 1 are spewing lies to protect the broken status quo, because they know they can’t win on the merits. We’re excited to keep sharing the facts on what Amendment 1 will do with voters, and why it’s so important to pass this desperately-needed measure to move Missouri forward.”

Former St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley:

“When big money and big lobbyists speak the loudest in Jefferson City, the voices of the people back home get drowned out. Amendment 1 will change that, and be a great first step to getting our state pointed back in a good direction.

“Amendment 1 will also make Missouri a national leader in protecting the voting power of communities of color. The plain language of the measure requires that districts be drawn to allow minority voters to elect their preferred candidates, and makes sure that protections for people of color outrank other criteria. That’s huge, and is a big reason why I’m so excited to be voting yes on November 6.”

Rev. Dr. Rodney E. Williams, pastor of the Swope Parkway United Christian Church, president of the Kansas City Chapter of the NAACP, and Board Chair for Missouri Faith Voices:

“We need Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri initiative, to clean up Missouri politics, take power away from big money and make our voices matter more in Jefferson City. The amendment would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts, decrease the influence of big money in the General Assembly and require transparent records and meetings. It would require fair state legislative maps so politicians are no longer protected by safe, gerrymandered districts. It would also protect minority voting rights.”

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones:

“Amendment 1 enshrines the Voting Rights Act into the Missouri Constitution to protect our right to vote in majority-minority districts. Amendment 1 puts working families first, instead of lobbyists and big money.”

Amendment 1 will ensure neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by requiring a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission.

Read the full Amendment 1 policy here.

 

Amendment 1 will also:

  • Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly, by banning any gift worth more than $5.
  • Require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists, after the conclusion of their final legislative session.
  • Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates to limit the influence of big money and lobbyists in state government.
    • Establish new campaign contribution limits for General Assembly candidates — $2,500 for state senate, and $2,000 for state house.
    • Limit the ability of individuals and organizations to circumvent caps by counting money from single-source committees towards totals for original, actual donors.
    • Stop legislative fundraising on state property.
  • Require legislative meetings and records be open to the public by ensuring that the legislature operate under the same open records law as other public entities in Missouri.

Amendment 1 endorsements include:

  • Organization for Black Struggle
  • Missouri Jobs With Justice
  • A. Philip Randolph Institute – St. Louis Chapter
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Common Cause
  • Communities Creating Opportunity
  • DEMOS
  • Metropolitan Congregations United
  • Missouri AFL-CIO
  • Missouri Faith Voices
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys
  • MORE2
  • NAACP Missouri State Conference
  • Service Employees International Union
  • The League of Women Voters

Amendment 1 has also been endorsed by Rev. Starsky Wilson, Rev. Dr. Rodney E. Williams, Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Pastor Michael Brooks, Rev. Tex Sample, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, the St. Louis American, Washington Missourian, Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Columbia Daily Tribune.

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Columbia Daily Tribune Endorses Clean Missouri

In the July 20 paper:

Everyone should want fairly drawn legislative districts that aren’t designed to give any political party favor. It’s troubling that any politician would say otherwise, but we’d be naive to assume the parties aren’t constantly jockeying for any advantage they can get, including when it comes to the shape of districts.

However, we will never achieve government that truly works for its constituents until we can eliminate as much partisan gamesmanship as possible. The Clean Missouri plan goes a long way toward doing just that.

 

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Columbia Daily Tribune Endorses Amendment 1

In the July 20 paper:

Everyone should want fairly drawn legislative districts that aren’t designed to give any political party favor. It’s troubling that any politician would say otherwise, but we’d be naive to assume the parties aren’t constantly jockeying for any advantage they can get, including when it comes to the shape of districts.

However, we will never achieve government that truly works for its constituents until we can eliminate as much partisan gamesmanship as possible. The Clean Missouri plan goes a long way toward doing just that.

 

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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: How Missouri Lawmakers Ignore the Sunshine Law

Clean Missouri has released a new report on the lack of transparency in the General Assembly, by the numbers—with some colorful stories.

Official meetings are supposed to be open to the public, but there have been government meetings held in private country clubs, and journalists have even been denied access to public hearings. The state legislature even keeps their own records secret, yet expects others to follow open government laws.

A recent Missouri court ruling has allowed the legislature to essentially ignore some of the Sunshine Law, despite bipartisan agreement that the Missouri General Assembly needs to be more transparent and accountable.

A few highlights:

  • Both Republican and Democratic State Auditors have called for the legislature to come into compliance with the Sunshine Law.
  • Legislators from both parties have refused to turn over their emails to reporters in Sunshine requests. At the same time, legislators from both parties have demonstrated that compliance is possible.
  • Reporters and citizens have been denied the right to record public hearings.
  • Legislative committees have met in private country clubs and restaurants instead of publicly accessible hearing rooms where proceedings may have been recorded. Beyond what has been disclosed in lobbyist gift records, official House journals show committees have held sham hearings all over Jefferson City at private locations — including 16 at the Jefferson City Country Club and an additional 16 times at other eateries around town. At least seven sham hearings were held in the offices of special interests with business before the state.

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

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How to Create Fair and Competitive Elections

A recent article in WIRED magazine explains how simple math can be used to establish fair and competitive elections and how gerrymandering has helped engineer election results for incumbents for decades.

These unfair fights affect how we are governed and help majority-party incumbents coast to re-election term after term…Objective mathematical tools like the efficiency gap may be the only way to root out gerrymandering and keep our political battlefields in balance.

You don’t have to be a math major to know that the scales are tipped in Missouri (and have been for awhile) when it comes to our legislative districts. Having an impartial expert redraw district boundaries in Missouri will create a more level playing field for both parties and eliminate any unfair advantages one has over the other. The criteria will be clear and transparent—requiring open records of the data used to draw new maps—ensuring a fair process.

We think it’s time to make this happen. Voters deserve fair and competitive elections.

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A government that works for everyone

The Clean Missouri initiative seeks to increase integrity, accountability, and transparency in Missouri government. Lobbyist influence and gifts are a real problem with records showing that since 2004, there has been an average of $885,020 per year in lobbyist gift giving in Missouri.

All these gifts mean legislators are putting special interests and wealthy donors ahead of every day people.

This is not right. And Clean MIssouri is here to give power back to the people.

Here’s what a few folks have to say about why they’re a part of the Clean Missouri initiative:

“It’s time for everyone to have a say in who gets elected, instead of just big money donors.” – Cathy, Springfield

“This isn’t the way our government is supposed to work.” – Richard, St. Louis

“I don’t have $1,000,000, but I still want my legislators to listen to the issues that are important to me.” – Andy, St. Louis

“The opportunity to be directly involved in the democratic process is amazing.” – Erin, Springfield

“I’m tired of money driving our government, it should be the people.” – Libby, Kansas City

“I want a representative government.” – Sarah, Kansas City

“There’s a lot of money, and we need to put a stop to that.” – Victoria, Springfield

Tell us why you’re a part of the Clean Missouri initiative.

 

Share Your Story
 

Here are the facts – The Clean Missouri amendment will:

Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts
Require politicians 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 asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission

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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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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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