#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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GOP Legislator: “All of the big money going into our state is… ruining it”

The St. Joseph News Press reported this weekend that Rep. Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph) will not be running for the open state senate seat for Buchanan and Platte Counties next year. His reason why was astounding:

“I wouldn’t go back [to Jefferson City] if they paid me three times the amount [of a legislator’s salary] … I’m finished with them. All of the lying, the bribery, the threats, all of the big money going into our state is doing nothing but ruining it.”

Rep. Higdon’s on the record comments echo those of numerous other Republicans who have seen first hand what big money and big lobbyists have been doing in Jefferson City.

Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) has been particularly critical of the role big money appears to have played in decisions made by Senate President Ron Richard and other Senate leaders:

“The facts are (Richard) received large contributions. He filed legislation that would dismiss a lawsuit against the people who made those contributions.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf, the current Senator from St. Joseph, has been very forceful in condemning the corrupted policy making process in Missouri:

“The whole idea of it is you give me something, I give you something…it’s understood.”

Former Rep. Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs) expressed outrage last year after a billionaire far from her district spent big to attack her in an August primary after she voted to protect her constituents’ interests:

“I do think we need to do something about caps on contributions— that hopefully will be addressed. My concern is, at this point in time, we have people who want to run statewide that are courting the favor of billionaires so they can get a million dollar check. And folks like, we make 35,000 a year. You’re going to be threatened with your job, if you don’t do what a billionaire wants you to do. You should represent the folks who elected you.“

Legislative leaders have repeatedly stopped bipartisan bills to reform campaign finance laws and limit lobbyist gifts — but we’re not waiting on the political leaders and lobbyists in Jefferson city to fix themselves any longer.

Join the fight today!

 

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We’re Going to Put Missourians Ahead of Big Donors, Lobbyists, and Partisan Politics

A diverse coalition of citizens and organizations are ramping up signature gathering efforts for the Clean Missouri initiative petition with a series of signature gathering trainings and canvasses this Saturday, May 20 in Springfield, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

Details for the regional events are as follows:

“When we get big money out of state politics, candidates work to win our votes, debate the issues, and represent us — their constituents,” said Rev. Starsky D. Wilson of St. Louis, President & CEO of the Deaconess Foundation and Pastor of Saint John’s Church. “Too often, the only people running for political offices are the rich, the well connected, or people who cave to special interests. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Clean Missouri amendment will level the playing field for the citizens who want to run for office because they understand the struggles of working families — and are tired of politicians ignoring them.”

“This measure will bring more transparency and fairness to Missouri government,” David Kimball, Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“We need a state government that is open, accountable, and not beholden to special interests,” said Bob Johnson, a Republican from Lee’s Summit who previously served in the General Assembly. “This amendment is a chance to take power away from special interests, and to increase integrity, transparency and accountability in government. I’m excited to be supporting the effort.”

The Secretary of State certified the Clean Missouri initiative for circulation in January 2017, and will appear on the November 2018 ballot if enough valid signatures are submitted by May 2018. Once enacted, it will:

  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly
  • require that House and Senate members wait two years before becoming lobbyists
  • require that legislative records be open to the public
  • ensure that 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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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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