When Missouri Was the Wild Wild West

After the Missouri Legislature repealed contribution limits in 2008, campaign spending exploded.

In 2000, Missouri statewide and legislative candidates raised just under $40 million. However, by the 2016 cycle, donations tripled with campaign contributions topping $120,000,000.

But that’s not all.

Today donations come from fewer, bigger donors, and the donations of regular people matter less and less.

Missourians deserve better.

The passage of Amendment 2 in 2016 was a step in the right direction, but flaws in the amendment language and legal challenges have left serious loopholes in Missouri campaign finance law.

The Clean Missouri initiative will implement new contribution limits of $2,500 for State Senate candidates and $2,000 for State House candidates, increasing integrity and confidence in our state government.

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#TBT from Hannibal Courier-Post: “Government works best when it is transparent and communicative with constituents.”

From the Courier-Posts session review editorial in 2016:

But most people can agree: government works best when it is transparent and communicative with constituents.

Perhaps the most troubling issue to arise from the 2016 Legislative session is the weakening of the Missouri Sunshine Law — the rule that allows regular citizens, not just the press, to ask for documents and information from any publicly-funded entity.

That tool, which is used to keep government accountable, withstood attack from legislators during the session.

They claimed their emails were not subject to Missouri Sunshine Law. Out of four top legislators, only one turned over appropriate emails to the Associated Press.

Laws enacted are designed to exempt information from Sunshine Law requests, including police information and agricultural information.

Open, transparent government best serves the people. The Missouri Legislature took a step back from that this year, a disappointing mark on what could be considered a successful year.

We’re not waiting on politicians to fix themselves.

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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Has your legislator been to sham Country Club ‘hearings’?

Missouri House and Senate committees in Jefferson City have regularly enjoyed lobbyist-financed meals during their hearings as they discuss specific pieces of legislation. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all underwritten by the special interest lobbyists who are paid to influence the legislators making decisions on policies that impact all of us?

Anyone else see the red flags here?

Not only are Missouri Legislators being wined and dined with fancy dinners, but they sometimes hold sham government meetings at private country clubs and restaurants as an excuse to enjoy more freebies.

The result is just about as absurd as you’d expect:

Official meetings are supposed to be public, but Missouri citizens and journalists trying have even been kicked out of public meetings in Jefferson City.

We deserve better.

The Clean Missouri amendment requires all state legislative records be open to the public; and creates a state government that is open, accountable, and not beholden to special interests.

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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#TBT from Kirksville Daily Express: “the districts were redrawn to make for less competitive elections”

From the Kirksville Daily Express, printed in October 2016 (no longer available online):

We had a report in our Oct. 27 edition (“The House’s fresh face already taking shape”) that detailed something that’s been happening for a long time, and something that needs to stop.

Gerrymandering.

Those in power want to keep their party in power and one of the ways they do that is by redrawing legislative districts in such ways that the registered voters within overwhelmingly favor one party.
If you don’t think that’s the casein Missouri, I highly suggest looking at a map. Google” Missouri congressional district map” and follow along. See how District 6, represented by our very own Congressman Sam Graves, reaches across the entire top half of the state, but then randomly slices downward and through the Kansas City suburbs, nearly bisecting District 5, which wraps around? You could jump in a car in Lee’s Summit and be in District 5, drive in a straight line to the east and enter District 6 for a spell before returning to District 5. Huh? The same goes for District’s 4 and 7, which have a strange relationship in the Springfield area. And District 3, which extends into parts of Camden County (southwest of Jefferson City) also wraps around the St. Louis suburbs.

For the Missouri Legislature, while the maps themselves aren’t as obvious, the districts were redrawn to make for less competitive elections. It’s not a coincidence that many officials are unchallenged for re-election. When you start at a 20-point disadvantage, why bother running? Some will argue that Missouri is a conservative state, so it doesn’t matter. Republicans represent Missouri in six of its eight U. S. congressional districts and the GOP holds historic super majorities in both the state House and Senate.

But statewide elections indicate a much different story. While Missouri has lost its “bellweather” status (and along with it much influence in Washington), our statewide offices show a much more evenly divided electorate. We currently have one Democrat and one Republican in the U. S. Senate, and that Republican is in the fight for his life against a Democrat, who currently holds the office of Missouri Secretary of State.

The two-term governor of this state is a Democrat.

Whoever replaces him will likely win by a very slim margin, and one of those candidates is the state’s attorney general – a Democrat.

The state’s treasurer, too, is a Democrat. In fact, out of the six state government offices, only two (lieutenant governor and auditor) were won by Republicans in the last cycle.

All of this is to say that Missouri’s representation doesn’t seem to reflect the diversity of its voters. As we move toward the next Census in 2020 and subsequent redistricting, more attention should be paid to the process with this reality in mind.

It’s time for a change.

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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Flashback: “Corruption in the Legislature? Republicans say yes”

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2013:

When Missouri Republicans level the charge of corruption at members of their own party, it’s time to start paying attention.

Such was the case not once, but twice on the last day of this year’s session of the Legislature…

Two years ago, we published a series called “Fix the Legislature” that identified three principal problems with the General Assembly: term limits, the redistricting process and campaign finance/ethics reform.

Each of them in its own way helped make this year’s one of the most forgettable legislative sessions in recent memory. Yet Republicans didn’t lift a finger to address ethics and campaign finance reform. They made only a half-hearted attempt to limit the damage of term limits. And the evils of gerrymandered districts were on full display as they traipsed from one conspiracy theory bill to another, all in a naked attempt to please the tiniest sliver of right-wing voters.

The Missouri Legislature remains a very broken place.

Don’t take our word for it. Listen to the Republicans who run the place.

It’s time for a change.

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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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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Independent Watchdog: Missouri earns a “D-” in state integrity investigation

It’s simple: Special interest lobbyists have too much control and influence over Missouri's state government. Records show that since 2004, there has been an average of $868,000 per year in lobbyist gift giving in Missouri. And too many legislators are becoming paid lobbyists shortly after leaving public office.  

No matter what party you believe in, this isn’t right.

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

It’s no wonder then that Missouri earned aD- grade” in a state in a national study of state ethics and integrity laws conducted by the The Center for Public Integrity.  From their 2015 report: 

Here in the “Show Me” state, ethics reform has been an uphill battle as steep as the streets of Jefferson City, the capital.

It’s not that ethics bills have no supporters. Indeed, they do. The number of ethics-related bills and joint resolutions introduced in the General Assembly has increased each of the last three years, with 39 introduced in 2015. Democratic Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon has pledged to take the issue directly to voters in a ballot issue if lawmakers didn’t act. But not one ethics bill has passed in the last three years, despite Missouri's dubious status as a state without campaign finance limits, lobbyist gift limits, or cooling-off periods for legislators registering as lobbyists.

We deserve better. 

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