MO SoS Proposes Ethics, Lobbying, Campaign Finance Overhaul

Sedalia News Journal (1/5): “Secretary of State Jason Kander today announced legislation to overhaul Missouri’s worst-in-the-nation ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws. The comprehensive approach is contained in a series of bills filed on Kander’s behalf by Representatives Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City), Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) and Jon Carpenter (D-Gladstone).

“Provisions in the bills include campaign contribution limits, a ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials and their staff, improvements in transparency, mandatory ethics training for state officials, an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door, whistleblower protections for individuals reporting wrongdoing and stiffer criminal penalties for obstructing ethics investigations.”

“Current Missouri law allows politicians to accept both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited lobbyist gifts. Kander’s plan would prohibit politicians from collecting six-figure donations and free sports tickets. It would also put an end to the political money laundering practice of a campaign receiving contributions from a political action committee that is funded primarily by one person who has already reached his or her contribution limit by creating the presumption that a law has been broken. It places the burden on the politician to prove otherwise.

NM, AR MO, CT, ME Most Likely Places to Seek Reform

Huffington Post:

New Mexico: Outside Spending & Coordination

“New Mexico was one of the worst-prepared states for the altered campaign finance landscape wrought by the Citizens United decision. The state’s laws had no legal definition or standard for either independent expenditures or coordination between an independent group and a candidate or party committee. And, like every other state, New Mexico did not require disclosure of donors to nonprofits active in electoral politics.”

Arkansas: Ethics & Disclosure

“Arkansas voters this year passed a ballot initiative with significant campaign finance and ethics reforms, including a total ban on direct corporate contributions to candidate campaigns. The state-level reform group Regnat Populus hopes to build on this success with an initiative in 2016 to expand these reforms and enact new disclosure rules for independent groups.”

Missouri: Contribution Limits, Gifts & Disclosure

“These outsized contributions [from a Missouri mega-donor] that came after Missouri ended its campaign contribution limits are sparking action.

“Democratic lawyer Brad Ketcher said he will propose a constitutional amendment for the ballot that would re-establish contribution limits for legislative candidates, place limits on lobbyist gifts and impose strong coordination rules on independent spending.”

“The issue is gaining attention from Republicans as well. Republican state Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Jefferson City) introduced legislation to require disclosure of dark money spent by nonprofit groups on elections, ban lobbyist gifts and increase campaign finance disclosure.”

Maine & Connecticut: Public Financing

“In Maine, this means lawmakers would be allotted public funds in an amount appropriate to counteract the dramatic increase in independent spending since Citizens United. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is working to get an initiative on the ballot in the next election.

“Connecticut legislators are expected to tackle similar fixes, according to groups involved in reform efforts.”

MO Leg. Introduces Lobbying, Disclosure Reforms as Outside Groups Push Gift, Contribution Limits

Columbia Tribune: “The bill filed Tuesday by Rowden would ban gifts, bar legislators from working as lobbyists for two years after they leave office and prevent them from soliciting lobbying jobs while in office. It also would require subcontracting lobbyists hired by principal lobbyists to disclose the actual client being served and make it illegal for the governor to offer jobs in exchange for votes on legislation. He addresses campaign finance issues by requiring that legislators and statewide elected officials disclose donations greater than $500 within 48 hours during legislative sessions. Rowden’s proposal would control anonymous campaign funding by not-for-profit companies by requiring any not-for-profit that spends more than 25 percent of its budget on politics to disclose all of its donors. The seven bills filed today, four by Rowden and three by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, cover many of the same issues but do not include a ban on lobbying gifts. Instead, Barnes filed bills for faster and more detailed reporting.”

MO AG Denies Doing Favors for Contributors, Pushes Ethics & Disclosure Reforms

Ozarks First: Attorney General Chris “Koster was pointed in his response to the article, and the formation of that committee in response to it. Speaking about the 5-Hour energy investigation, Koster said, ‘To assert that this is the type of case that Missouri should be prosecuting is just silly. Back when I was a Republican we would have considered a lawsuit of this kind to be frivolous and abusive to Missouri’s business community, but today the Speaker has convened a House investigative hearing to inquire as to why this case was never brought.’

“He challenged the legislature to lower from $5,000 to $2,500 the amount of a donation which must be reported within 48-hours, to ban of lobbyist gifts to public officials, and to have lawmakers refuse contributions from entities with bills pending in the legislature during the session and for 90 days after a session’s end.

‘Koster also urged that 501(c)(4)s – nonprofit, so-called ‘social welfare” groups who under tax law must spend less than half of their money on politics – be required to register with the Missouri Ethics Commission 90 days before an election or be disallowed from advertising, and be required to fully disclose all contributions received in the previous four years or disclose the names of their top three donors in all advertising.”

Following Bipartisn Scandals, MO May Consider Ethics Reforms

Columbia Tribune: “In October, the Kansas City Star reported House Speaker Tim Jones, House Majority Leader John Diehl and three other lawmakers were treated to a $3,000 meal Aug. 1 while attending an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Dallas. Seven lobbyists who split the bill reported the meal as being provided to the ‘entire General Assembly’ while five others reported it was provided to the lawmakers who actually attended.”

“Later that month, the New York Times, in an investigation of lobbying influence on state attorneys general, reported Koster dropped an investigation of deceptive advertising practices by the makers of 5-Hour Energy drink after being lobbied at a meeting of the Democratic Attorneys General Association in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard of Joplin, in the only bill he has filed for the upcoming session, addresses issues raised in those reports. His bill would bar out-of-state travel and entertainment paid for by lobbyists and would require invitations 48 hours in advance for any meal or entertainment reported as being provided to the full House, Senate or both.

“Other provisions in Richard’s bill would bar lawmakers from hiring colleagues as political consultants and make retiring lawmakers wait two years before taking a job as a lobbyist.”

US Senator Seeks MO Ballot Measure to Limit Contributions, Reduce Impact of Mega-Donor

News Leader: “But for Sen. Claire McCaskill, the real campaign-finance boogeyman is Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s own mega-donor.

“And in a showdown that could upend Missouri’s electoral system, McCaskill is now at the center of a new effort to counter Sinquefield’s growing political influence. The Missouri Democrat is quietly working with others in the state to put campaign finance limits on the ballot in 2016, a move that also raises fresh questions about her own plans for the next election.

“McCaskill shrugged off queries about whether the ballot initiative is a way to elevate her profile for a possible gubernatorial run. Instead, she said, it’s aimed squarely at stopping Sinquefield from writing five- and six-figure checks to state legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

“‘I don’t think (Missourians) realize the extent to which he is putting huge numbers of elected officials ‘on his payroll,” McCaskill told the News-Leader. ‘The amount of money that’s being passed around from him, through a variety of sources, is stunning and unprecedented.'”

MO Gov Race May Feature Candidate from Opposing Party Calling for Reform

St. Louis Today: “Two likely candidates for governor that year, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, are shining the spotlight on the urgent need for ethics reform.

“This week, Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, announced changes to the ethical boundaries that will guide his own campaign finance decisions. Following damning allegations of a too-cozy relationship with lobbyists representing corporations Mr. Koster’s office was suing (or thinking about suing) in a New York Times story, Mr. Koster said he will no longer accept campaign donations from the corporations — or representatives of them — that are involved in litigation with his office. Further, he said he would no longer accept gifts from lobbyists.”

“Then there is state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican considering a run for governor in 2016, who on election night unleashed a screed targeting the culture of corruption in Jefferson City. Because Republicans dominate the Legislature, they benefit heavily from this culture.

“’We have people in this state who brag about having political armies of lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and PACs, groups who manipulate politicians like pawns on a chess board,’ Mr. Schweich said. ‘If you do as they say, you are rewarded by an endless spigot of cash. But if you don’t, they find primary opponents for you, they file lawsuits against you, they threaten you and they try to intimidate you.'”