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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