Republican And Democrat Auditors Agree – The Missouri Legislature Needs To End The Secrecy

The Missouri Legislature expects other government bodies to follow the Sunshine Law. But they keep their own records secret.

Many Representatives and Senators believe they don’t have to follow Sunshine Laws, often removing individuals who want to record hearings, refusing to turn over emails when requested, and keeping other key records away from the eyes of everyday Missourians.

State Auditors from both parties have called out our legislators for the double standard:  

Former Republican Auditor Tom Schweich stated in a 2013 report on the Missouri Senate:

“It is a double standard for the legislature to impose additional requirements on other public governmental bodies while enjoying a blanket exemption from the Sunshine Law.”

Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway reported:

“The two chambers…have significant shortcomings when it comes to open records and policies related to the Sunshine Law.”

No matter which party you believe in, this is not right.

The Clean Missouri amendment requires all legislative records to be open to the public – ensuring integrity and transparency in our government.

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
READ MORE

Signature Gathering is the New Brunch

It’s a Saturday morning, it’s beautiful outside, and you’re with your friends. What are you doing?

 

 

You might have thought about eating brunch on a patio, but nope. You’re gathering signatures for the Clean Missouri initiative. We’ll promise you, canvassing is better than brunch…

  1. You can get your workout in, but only if you want to. You can walk all over the city, or camp out in a place with lots of people. Up to you!
  2. You can still catch up with your friends. After all, the brunch conversation was bound to turn to politics anyway — it’ll feel better to actually get out and do something about the corruption and secrecy in Missouri’s government.
  3. You meet new people. No more eavesdropping on the table next to you. Canvassing gives you the chance to meet real people who care about the same issues you do.
  4. You’ll get to explore the city. Sometimes, canvassing happens in the places you’d least expect — and they’re beautiful!
  5. You can always go to brunch after. Canvassing is awesome, but it’s even better with waffles.
READ MORE

This $5k Steakhouse Dinner Shows How Missouri Politicians Have Hidden $8MM in Lobbyist Gifts

In 2013, the Missouri House Utilities Committee held a get together – something they are allowed and expected to do. But this one was different. The House Utilities Committee held their hearing at a Columbia steakhouse – 30 miles from the Missouri capitol. And lobbyists paid for the whole thing.

The Committee members took a $300 ride to the steakhouse, and enjoyed $48 in bonus drinks during their ride. At the end of the night, the steakhouse bill totaled $4,827.

It gets worse. The same group of legislators then enjoyed a $1,200 meal at the Jefferson City Country Club the very next night.

Here’s the kicker: We don’t know which elected officials enjoyed the $5,000 steakhouse extravaganza.

Due to a loophole in lobbyist gift reporting, lobbyists can report their ‘gifts’ as going to a group. This means that Missouri citizens don’t get to know who actually participates in and receives these fancy dinners, expensive transportation, and high-end cocktails.

To recap: An unknown combination of Utilities Committee members enjoyed a $5,000 steakhouse evening paid for by a lobbyist employed to influence the Utilities Committee members, and we have no idea who was there, or how much they free food and booze each elected official enjoyed.

No matter which party you believe in, this is not right.

The Clean Missouri amendment will ban all lobbyist gifts above $5 and increase transparency and accountability to our state government.

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
READ MORE

#TBT from St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Legislators arrive in Jefferson City and forget where they came from”

From November 2015 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 

“Missouri is the only state in the country with no limits in all three of those areas [campaign contribution limits, lobbyist gifts, and a waiting period before a legislator becomes a lobbyist], an embarrassing trifecta that you might think would prompt action. But every year, ethics bills die in the Republican-led Legislature. Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has sat on his hands on this issue for seven years, despite his vow to lead an initiative petition drive if legislators failed to act.

It’s up to the new House speaker, Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and the new Senate president pro tem, Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to change this. Both are seasoned legislators with fresh slates. Wouldn’t it be heartening if they kicked off the legislative session in January by passing something other than the usual lobbyist-driven agenda?…

So far, Mr. Richardson, is offering half a loaf. He said in a statement last week that “the first issue we will move forward during the upcoming session is substantive ethics reform.” The bill will include limits on lobbyist gifts and an end to “the lawmaker-to-lobbyist revolving door,” he said.

Mr. Richardson needs to go further. Limits aren’t enough. It’s time to ban lobbyist gifts for lawmakers, statewide officials and their staff members….

No wonder the public doesn’t trust politicians.

Legislators arrive in Jefferson City and forget where they came from: a place where lunch isn’t free, dark money doesn’t pay the rent and selling out isn’t the way to land a better job.

An initiative petition drive may be the only way to rein in the pernicious influence of special-interest money. But we hope Mssrs. Richardson and Richard prove us wrong on that. They can, if they make real ethics reform their election-year priority.”

Missourians deserve better.

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
READ MORE

4 Ways Gathering Signatures is Easier Than You Think

Some folks think being successful at collecting signatures for an initiative petition is difficult, but that’s just not the case. Here are four ways gathering signatures is easier than you think:

  1. People are curious
    • People are naturally curious about what you have to say. Once you introduce yourself and why you’re out collecting signatures to make Missouri a better place,  people ask tons of questions and take an interest in what you are saying.
  2. People want change
    • Citizens want their representatives to be held accountable and be transparent about what happens in Jefferson City — when they’re supposed to be working for us! No matter their party, they want a level playing field for everyone, politicians and citizens alike.
  3. You get to meet new people
    • From the people who sign your petitions to your fellow canvassers, there are a ton of new people that you get to meet and interact with.
  4. The reward is so worth it
    • At the end of the day, that common goal is making Missouri a better place for its citizens. By giving citizens access to their government and holding politicians accountable, the Clean Missouri initiative strives to create a better environment for better laws to be created. And that will create a state government that is open, accountable, and not beholden to special interests.

Help make Missouri better by increasing the integrity, accountability, and transparency in government —  join the team at Clean Missouri.

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
READ MORE

Meet John. He’s an Awesome Signature Gatherer.

Last week, we had a chance to sit down and talk with John, a Sierra Club volunteer from Chesterfield, MO, about what it’s like to be a part of the CLEAN Missouri team.

Q: So you’ve been volunteering with the CLEAN campaign for about a month. What does that look like?

A: Well, I go out each day in my neighborhood and talk to people about this great thing we’re trying to do. I stay out until I have about 20 signatures, and then I start over the next day.

Q: Why are you a part of this campaign?

A: If you compare Missouri ethics laws to the rest of the country, we’re at the bottom. But if the CLEAN Missouri amendment goes through, we’ll be near the top.

Q: What types of people do you meet?

A: I’ve met people from all different walks of life while I’ve been out canvassing. The other day a woman and her daughter both signed on, and while they were filling out the petition, she told me she was going to be 100 years old in August! One time I talked with a kid – maybe 14 years old – for 20 minutes. He was too young to sign, but he was really excited to learn about what I was doing.

Q: And how do you end conversations with people who sign on?

A: Oh, every person who signs, I tell them, “You’re a good citizen.”

 

Why are you standing with the Clean Missouri ballot initiative? Share your story today!

Share Your Story

READ MORE

#TBT from St. Joseph News-Press: “[A] ban on most lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is a necessity.”

Over a year ago, the St. Joseph News-Press called for a ban on lobbyist gifts in Jefferson City. Since 2004, the Missouri Legislature has received $872,000 every year in gifts and freebies from lobbyists and special interests.

[A] ban on most lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is a necessity. There is no ethics victory to proclaim without this component…

One measure passed by the House and Senate will bar statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly from receiving compensation as paid political consultants. A second measure approved specifies a six-month waiting period after terms end before the officials can become paid lobbyists. A third proposal approved requires elected officials to disburse leftover campaign funds before taking jobs as lobbyists.

All of these are steps forward on the path to ethics reform, but alone they are not enough.”

We’re not waiting on the #MoLeg 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
READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

#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
READ MORE

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
READ MORE