One Ethics Bill Clears Missouri Senate
February 4, 2015

(AP) – State senators on Wednesday gave initial approval to strengthening ethics laws in Missouri, the only state with the trio of unlimited campaign contributions, no limits on gifts from lobbyists and no restrictions against state lawmakers going into lobbying as soon as they leave public office.

The bill by Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, is the first ethics bill to gain approval in either chamber this session. It begins to deal with lobbyist gifts and the revolving door of employment after public service, but it does nothing to limit campaign contributions.

The legislation would increase public reporting on gifts to legislators, ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until at least two years after they leave office and ban out-of-state trips paid for by lobbyists.

The bill needs a second Senate vote to go to the House, which has been hearing public testimony on its own package of ethics proposals.

Bills to beef up ethics laws have been introduced with little success in previous sessions. But Republican and Democratic legislative leaders both have placed a higher priority on the proposals this year.

Missouri Lawmakers Split on Ethics Reform
February 26, 2014

(AP) – Missouri House panel members from both parties agreed Tuesday that the state needs to update its ethics laws, but were divided on how to do it and how far an overhaul should go.

The House General Laws Committee considered several proposals, including ones that would impose a cooling-off period between when lawmakers leave office and when they can become lobbyists, require limits on campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts, and call for legislators to disclose additional financial information on business partnerships and holdings.

But after the hearing, there was no clear consensus on which provisions the committee would adopt as part of an ethics package. Committee chairman Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, said he was looking at taking a more piecemeal approach to the issue.

“I’m afraid this is going to go before a judge and it will be struck down and the public will continue to lack trust,” Jones said.

He cited a 2010 ethics law that was struck down for violating a section of the Missouri Constitution prohibiting legislators from amending a bill to change its original purpose.

Missouri is the only state to allow the trio of unlimited contributions to candidates, unlimited gifts from lobbyists and no waiting period before an elected official can lobby.

The committee did not vote on any of the proposals, but Jones said it would likely take up the issue next week.

Democrats argued the state needed a comprehensive approach to overhaul campaign finance and ethics laws, particularly in the area of campaign contributions.

Republicans have generally been resistant to including campaign contribution caps in ethics proposals and argued that limits would reduce transparency. Democrats have said that limits must be part of the discussion.

There was also resistance to Kansas City Democrat Rep. Kevin McManus’ proposal that would increase the state’s financial disclosure requirements for elected officials and strengthen the enforcement power of the Missouri Ethics Commission.

“This moves the power back to the bureaucracy and undercuts the people’s representatives,” said Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia.

Spence Calls for Tougher Politcal Ethics Law
May 4, 2012

Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidiate Dave Spence set out his ethics reform plan this week.
Spence plan calls for tightening Missouri’s political conduct in some of the same ways as a 2010 bill that was thrown out by the State Supreme Court.
“Lax laws have led to conflicts of interest, state contracts for sale, and a blatant disregard of citizens’ access to public records,” said Spence in a statement.
Spence’s plan does not call for reestablishing campaign contribution limits in Missouri. There are none now. But his plan does call for an end to practice of permitting political committee-to-political committee transfers of campaign contributions. That’s a practice that’s legal. It’s an effective way of making it more difficult to track a contribution from the donor to a candidate or campaign.
That was a key element of the ethics reform bill struck down earlier this year by the state Supreme Court.
That bill, offered by Kansas City area St. Rep. Jason Kander and former Rep. Tim Flook,, was passed and signed. It was thrown out when other topic got molded into the final bill. Legislation can’t do that. The law says legislation can only deal with one topic at a time.
Other reforms Spence calls for include raising the penalties for campaign contributions. He also wants to give the Missouri Ethics commission more authority.
The Republican also wants to put a $25 limit on the money lobbyists spend directly on lawmakers.
The plan also includes another familiar reform. There would be a ‘cooling off period’. A period of time where lawmakers would be banned from leaving office and becoming lobbyists to try to influence their former colleagues.
“People shouldn’t be in government making policy decisions only to leave their job and immediately go to work as a lobbyist for a company they helped,” Spence said in the news release.

Kander Calls for Missouri Legislature to Act Fast, Restore Campaign Ethics
February 20, 2012

Kansas City state lawmaker, Rep. Jason Kander, a Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, says the Missouri Legislature should act quickly to restore the ethics law struck down last week by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Kander says the main thrust of the law is not the problem. He claims it was struck down on a procedural violation. Kander was the cosponsor of the 2012 bill the court threw out.
“The fall elections are coming up quickly and we as a state need to decide if we want those elections conducted in a transparent and ethical manner or if we want to become known as the ethical cesspool of American politics, Kander said in a news release.”
Kander wants a ban on political committee-to-political committee money transfers. That’s often used as a method of hiding the original contributors.
Another element is immediate reports of contributions of $500 or more to lawmakers during the session.
The new measure would restore campaign contribution limits; $500 for state House races; $1,000 for state Senate races and $2,000 for state-wide campaigns.
Kander’s new bill would make it a felony to obstruct an ethics investigation. His first bill made the act a misdemeanor.
Kander’s 2010 law also increases the power of the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Nixon Calls for Lawmakers to Restore Ethics Measures
February 18, 2012

Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday called for Missouri lawmakers to pass new ethics legislation after the state’s most recent law was thrown out this week by the state Supreme Court because of how it was approved.
Nixon, a Democrat, said Tuesday’s court decision has left a significant gap in the state’s ethics policies and that the Republican-controlled Legislature should move quickly to restore the provisions from the invalidated law. In addition, Nixon said he would like new limits placed on how much money can be donated to political candidates and a ban on legislators doubling as paid political consultants for colleagues.
“We started this week at one level of transparency and protection. We’re ending this week at a much worse level, and the Legislature needs to come back next week and put on the front burner getting back to at least where we were,” Nixon said. “Taking huge and dramatic steps backwards in ethics laws is going to have a very negative effect on the public’s view of what we do when we do the people’s business.”
The Supreme Court concluded that the ethics law, which was passed in 2010, violated a section of the state constitution that prohibits lawmakers from amending a bill to change its original purpose. The campaign finance and ethics provisions were added to legislation that allows elected officials to use the state Office of Administration to determine the best bids for their contracts.
The struck-down ethics legislation required candidates for the Legislature and statewide offices to publicly report contributions of more than $500 within 48 hours of receiving them while the Legislature is in session. However, campaigns still must report donations of more than $5,000 within 48 hours.
The law also banned certain types of committee-to-committee money transfers in an attempt to help the public track the source of campaign contributions. And it allowed the Missouri Ethics Commission to launch investigations with a unanimous vote instead of acting only after receiving a complaint about potential ethics or campaign finance violations.
Some lawmakers said this week they want to restore much of the struck-down law. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he was particularly interested in the Ethics Commission’s investigatory power and preventing committee-to-committee money transfers.
Kansas City Democratic Rep. Jason Kander, who’s running for secretary of state, has filed ethics legislation that also includes new provisions to ban lawmakers from accepting lobbyists’ gifts and to require retiring legislators to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.