Ethics Commission: Lobbyist Gifts in Missouri Now Exceed $1,000,000 for 2017

Lobbyist gift reports for January to August 2017 show that members of the Missouri General Assembly, their family members and their staff members now total  $1,001,249.88 for the year — with five months still to go.

The 2017 total for reported gifts is now the second-highest on record since 2004, the first year for which digital gift records are available from the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Year House Senate Group Total
2004 $124,169.18 $27,621.73 $822,777.41 $974,568.32
2005 $121,438.86 $46,188.79 $823,886.63 $991,514.28
2006 $130,518.74 $51,622.09 $823,909.48 $1,006,050.31
2007 $238,936.73 $82,006.16 $581,903.88 $902,846.77
2008 $214,720.10 $86,581.75 $621,931.94 $923,233.79
2009 $265,010.19 $114,100.03 $536,343.41 $915,453.63
2010 $243,514.30 $100,886.58 $508,716.20 $853,117.08
2011 $232,563.80 $117,482.22 $597,990.53 $948,036.55
2012 $223,114.15 $104,293.33 $540,691.04 $868,098.52
2013 $229,757.82 $113,090.48 $612,147.69 $954,995.99
2014 $188,888.63 $73,856.28 $587,820.60 $850,565.51
2015 $204,723.28 $76,725.73 $327,747.87 $609,196.88
2016 $174,382.20 $62,508.87 $284,252.01 $521,143.08
2017 $106,372.70 $47,068.54 $847,808.64 $1,001,249.88
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I Canvassed For the First Time and It Was Great

This past week I had the privilege to go out on my first canvass. To be honest, I went into it a little nervous. But after talking to the first few people and hearing what they had to say on ethics in Missouri, I settled in and had a wonderful time.

Here are just a few things that I took away from my first canvassing shift:

  • I shared my enthusiasm for making Missouri a better place with all of the people I met, and hopefully I convinced them to join us in calling for change;
  • I got to explore Kansas City, and saw parts of it I had yet to see;
  • I got to meet new people from all walks of life;
  • And I teamed up with nice, like-minded folks to canvass the area and spread the word about the CLEAN Missouri campaign.

So, if you are passionate about getting big money out of politics and are looking for a way to help, get out and canvass for signatures. You get the opportunity to make a difference and increase integrity, accountability, and transparency in our state government.

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Remember the three S’s.

We sat down with Melissa, a volunteer with Peace United Church of Christ in St. Louis, to talk about her experience as part of the Clean Missouri team, and some of her best tips for canvassing.

Q: Why are you a part of Clean Missouri?

A: There is so much craziness going on in Washington DC that I cannot do anything about. With Clean Missouri, I can get involved and have a real effect at the state and local level.

Q: What has surprised you most about this campaign?

A: How easy signature gathering is! Missourians are desperate to take action against the big money constantly flowing into our state. By signing the petition, people feel like they are doing something that affects them every day.

Q: What would Missouri look like if big donors didn’t run the show?

A: I think if these changes are implemented, it will make a huge difference. More people will come out and vote because they are more likely to feel like their vote matters. I also think candidates will have to think differently about how they run their campaigns. They’ll need to listen to the voices of their constituents and not the high dollar donors.

Q: What would you tell a first time volunteer?

A: Remember the three S’s: Step, Smile, Speak. I’ve never collected signatures for a petition before, and the Clean campaign provides lots of opportunities for training and practice. Everyone will have a different approach to gathering, you just have to figure out what works best for you.

Now, it’s your turn.

Help us get big money out of Missouri politics — sign up to volunteer and join the Clean Missouri team today.

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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From Hannibal to Joplin, Editorial Boards Are Calling for Reform

From Hannibal to Joplin, St. Joseph to Cape Girardeau, editorial boards are calling for desperately-needed reforms to change the way big donors, lobbyists, and partisan politics hold Missouri back. Here are six that Clean Missouri believes highlight the problem loud and clear…

St. Joseph News-Press: “Gift ban at capitol overdue”
From the News-Press in May 2016:

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

Kirksville Daily Express Editor: “If you don’t think this is a problem, you’re not paying attention.”
From the Kirksville Daily Express Managing Editor, Jason Hunsicker, in May 2016:

“Missouri used to have some campaign contribution limits but a court ruling a few years ago broke the dam and the elected officials experiencing the flood – the only people who can stop it – are just riding the wave. Sure, you have a few brave souls who file legislation each session but those bills go nowhere. If you don’t think this is a problem, you’re not paying attention.

Unlimited and often untraceable campaign contributions compound the issue. Person X writes a $100,000 check to a private group, which makes a donation to a political action committee, which in turn makes a donation to a state campaign committee, which in turn makes a donation to or spends money on behalf of a candidate. Who is pulling the strings? You, the voter, will never know.

Missouri has a problem, folks, and I don’t know how it gets fixed. Citizen petition for an amendment? Even if it passes, the Legislature can “fix” those items before they become law. Anything with teeth will surely have them removed. Lawmakers won’t bite the hand that feeds them so well.

Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Missouri. Money, money, money.

This is not a list we should strive to be part of.

While they’re cleaning up, legislators also should subject themselves to the state’s “Sunshine Law.” Lawmakers have contended that they are not “public governmental bodies” under the law. Thus, their emails and calendars are considered closed records. That’s nonsense.

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.”

Blue Springs Examiner: “Missouri needs to overhaul the way it draws political boundaries.”
From the Examiner in March 2012:

“An answer for Missouri’s overly partisan mess

The Round 2 bipartisan commission came up with a map – the one in play at the moment – that sent current officeholders, particularly some from St. Louis, into a state of shock and outrage at the very idea that two incumbents might have to run against one another.

That’s just one part of the problem. There are also disputes about the state House map and the U.S. House map, and the Associated Press points out that so far this year there’s been just one week without a new lawsuit, a hearing or a redistricting commission meeting.

Big picture: Census figures have been out for a year, and new districts to reflect the population shifts reflected by those figures could have been – should have been – done by the Fourth of July last year. That’s if the state had a nonpartisan redistricting process – one that pays no heed to where the incumbents live. Other states do it.

We get gerrymandering, and we get self-interest ahead of public interest. We can demand better.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri got a D-minus in a recent report by a nonprofit group that analyzed whether states have adequate laws to prevent corruption. The only surprise is that the state didn’t get an F.”
From the Post-Dispatch in November 2015:

“Missouri got a D-minus in a recent report by a nonprofit group that analyzed whether states have adequate laws to prevent corruption. The only surprise is that the state didn’t get an F.

Legislators in the Show-Me State can take unlimited campaign checks. They enjoy unlimited lobbyist-provided meals, ballgame tickets and lavish receptions. And they can cash in on their public service by resigning as legislators one day and registering as lobbyists the next.

Missouri is the only state in the country with no limits in all three of those areas, an embarrassing trifecta that you might think would prompt action

A zero tolerance or “no cup of coffee” law is needed because laws capping gifts will always have loopholes. Last session, the House proposed a $25 per-gift cap. But that would still have allowed four lobbyists to each chip in $25 for a legislator’s $100 meal.

And the public might never know who was wined and dined. Today, lobbyists can simply report that they furnished food for a committee or the full House, rather than identify specific individuals. Thus, the recipients of hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbyist largesse each year cannot be tracked.

In another neat trick, some legislators use campaign funds to reimburse lobbyists for meals and tickets. Voila! The expense disappears from online lobbying reports.

Legislators argue that an ethics bill must be drafted narrowly. They say covering too much ground would invite defeat. That is a bogus argument. The bills die because legislators balk at changing the cozy status quo.

An ethics bill needs to reinstate campaign contribution limits and outlaw the secret channeling of money through sham nonprofits. Any 501-c-4 organization that spends money on election advertising ought to be required to register with the Missouri Ethics Commission and identify its donors.”

Columbia Tribune: “Missouri’s ethics laws are the most lax in the nation.”
From the Tribune in January 2016:

“We can definitely say that after the legislature rolled back campaign contribution limits in 2008, Missouri had the worst ethics laws in the country.

Missouri’s ethics laws are the most lax in the nation. We have no limits on campaign contributions or lobbyist meals, travel and entertainment gifts. Several lawmakers have made news by resigning to become political consultants, and others do so while remaining in office.”

 

Kansas City Star: “Passing tough new laws would show that Missouri lawmakers are serious about ethics reform. Alas, they are not.”
From The Star in April 2016:

“Missouri ethics reform? Riiiight.

Put this in the believe-it-when-you-see-it category: The Missouri General Assembly is headed toward approving a watered-down ethics reform bill.

House and Senate negotiators recently decided they could support making lawmakers wait six months before coming back to the Capitol to get paid to lobby their former colleagues.

In Jefferson City, this is considered a victory because — right now — there’s no limit. In fact, in recent years a few lawmakers have abruptly left office and immediately started work as lobbyists. That kind of system raises a good question in the public’s mind about whether lawmakers vote certain ways just to help line up good-paying private sector gigs.

However, legislators still have not handled the disheartening fact that Missouri allows unlimited campaign contributions. Passing tough new laws would show that Missouri lawmakers are serious about ethics reform. Alas, they are not.”

Hannibal Courier-Post: “Government works best when it is transparent and communicative with constituents.”
From the Courier-Posts session review editorial in June 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.

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.”

But we know – change is coming. 

Kansas City Star endorses Clean Missouri: “Here’s how citizens can finally clean up Missouri Government” – September 2017:

“If anything is going to get done when it comes to cleaning up state government, the responsibility will fall to the people themselves.”

With the Clean Missouri amendment, we can hold politicians accountable and crack down on lobbyists to level the playing field for everyday people.

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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Kansas City Star endorses Clean Missouri: “Get this on the ballot, and the days of whiffing on ethics will finally end.”


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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#TBT from the Blue Springs Examiner: “Missouri needs to overhaul the way it draws political boundaries”

In 2012, Missouri redrew Congressional, State House and State Senate district lines in a drawn-out, extremely partisan process. The Blue Springs Examiner highlighted this process in 2012.

“The antics in Jefferson City during the past few weeks are more reason to drive home a point we’ve been making in this space for some time: Missouri needs to overhaul the way it draws political boundaries.”

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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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.
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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