April 18, 2014

House Democrats to file ethics, campaign finance reform legislation (VIDEO)

House Democrats have announced they will file ethics and campaign finance reform legislation based on a bill that was unanimously approved by a bipartisan House committee in 2010.

Representative Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City, left) will sponsor ethics reform legislation he and Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis, behind podium) hope Republicans will sign on to.  (Photo credit:  Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

That bill, HB 2300, did not pass. It was replaced by what Democrats say was a weaker bill that was attached to another bill and passed. The latter language was thrown out earlier this year by the state Supreme Court because it was attached to an unrelated piece of legislation, which violates state law.

Some key provisions of HB 2300 include: granting the Missouri Ethics Commission greater authority, including the power to initiate investigations, capping campaign contributions for candidates for statewide office or the General Assembly at $5,000 per donor per election, restricting committee-to-committee transfers of campaign funds, prohibiting the solicitation of campaign contributions on public property, barring lawmakers, their spouses or dependent children from accepting more than $1,000 in lobbyist expenditures per calendar year, prohibiting lawmakers from working as paid political consultants while in office and imposing a waiting period on former lawmakers lobbying the General Assembly after leaving office. Representative Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City) will file a bill that would lengthen than waiting period from one calendar year after leaving office to two years from the end of the last General Assembly in which the legislator served.

His bill will also include some new provisions related to issues that have arisen in the last two years: requiring not-for-profit organizations that contribute money for political purposes to disclose their donors, clarifying existing state law to make the intentional obscuring of the source of a campaign contribution a crime and prohibiting campaign contributions from being invested in anything other than interest-bearing checking or savings accounts.

McManus says ethics and campaign finance reform has gotten little traction in recent legislative sessions. “We’ve had a lot of talk, we’ve had a lot of excuses and we’ve had some serious obstructionism from our majority party, but in terms of results we’ve had little to none to speak of. We urge the Republican House leadership to get this bipartisan proposal heard, considered early and get campaign ethics reform done this year so we can restore some transparency and accountability to our process.”

House minority leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) says he thinks the issue is bipartisan. “We are hopeful that the majority party will recognize this. I think the perception out there among the voters and among the populus is that politicians are beholden to big, corporate financial donations. I think this is a way to address it. I think that’s what (members of the public) demand.”

Hummel and McManus say if the issue isn’t addressed in the legislative session, the democrats will look to the initiative petition process to take it to a vote of the people.

Hummel says, “We will begin to partner with different groups, I think, that if this does not get done (in the legislature), to work to take it to the people because I can almost guarantee that if you put this on the ballot I’m betting it’s going to pass overwhelmingly.”

Bills can be filed beginning Monday for the session that begins January 9.

See McManus’ proposal (185 pages) here.

Watch a video of the House Democrats’ media conference below (courtesy, Jonathan Lorenz, Missouri House Communications).