A candidate for Attorney General says she will press her legal challenge of the Missouri Ethics Commission whether or not she wins a first round in court.

At issue is whether the Missouri Ethics Commission should hold closed hearings to determine whether candidates in violation of reinstated campaign contribution limits are posed a hardship in complying with the law. The State Supreme Court reinstated the limits and said candidates must comply with the law unless they can prove that to do so would create a hardship. The court instructed the Ethics Commission to enforce the ruling.

The Ethics Commission proposes holding private sessions with candidates who claim a hardship. Rep. Margaret Donnelly (D-St. Louis) has filed a lawsuit against the commission in an attempt to force it to hold public hearings. Donnelly is a candidate for Attorney General.

Donnelly’s request for a temporary restraining order has been heard in a Cole County Court in Jefferson City. An attorney for the commission, John Pletz, has told the court that there is no need for the restraining order, because the commission is following state law. Pletz argues that the law doesn’t just give the commission the option of holding closed meetings, it requires closed meetings. Pletz says state law pertaining to the Ethics Commission is a classic example of a statutory exception to the general rule that state agency meetings be open to the public. He argues that the legislature fully intended to put requirements for confidentiality into the law.

The commission’s argument doesn’t convince Donnelly. She says the commission is following the rules that apply to normal procedures. She argues that enforcing the ruling of the State Supreme Court is anything but normal. Donnelly says confidentiality is important when investigating the possible violation of state. She says the investigation was essentially over when the Supreme Court issued its ruling with the only thing left to be decided is whether the candidate faces a hardship in complying.

Even if the court doesn’t grant her request for a temporary restraining order, Donnelly says she still has options. She says she will then ask for an expedited trial to make her case for open meetings before the court.


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