House Republicans accuse Governor Nixon of crossing the line in lobbying for an expansion of Medicaid.
House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) took to the floor to criticize Nixon Administration lobbying on the social services budget. Pratt even made reference to the alleged federal investigation underway at the Capitol.
"Oh, how I wish the FBI was wondering the halls today," Pratt stated during a floor speech. "You know what they would find? The FBI would find, walking the halls today, comments from the governor’s office; ‘What do you need?’ ‘What can I do for you?’ ‘Can I give you a job is there something special I can give to you?’"
Pratt’s comments fanned the flames of an already emotional and tense House, which had lost decorum. Members quit listening quietly to each other speak, but applauded statements with which they agreed, shouted and booed those they didn’t and even let out a few catcalls. The contentious day ended with defeat of HB 11 , sending it back to conference with the Senate.
Less than a minute into his floor speech, Pratt was interrupted by Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) who raised a point of order.
"I would like to ask the Pro Tem to apologize to our elected governor, the person who represents our state for any type of wrongdoing," LeVota demanded. "That’s shameful!"
Pratt continued, expanding on his accusation against Governor Nixon and his administration.
"At the very best, the comments about this bill around the Capitol today, at the very, very best are sleazy and distasteful," Pratt said. "At the very worst, it’s a violation of the law."
More interruptions occurred. More Democrats raised points of order, objecting strongly to the accusation.
Pratt afterward expanded on his accusations in interviews with Capitol reporters, saying that Nixon Administration lobbyists made inappropriate comments to at least two freshmen Republican state representatives.
Freshman Republican Chris Molendorp (R-Raymore) said Governor Nixon Deputy Chief of Staff Dustin Allison seemed to offer a job for his vote.
"They were hopeful I could vote for this (HB 11) and if I was interested in a future career change, he was sure the governor would view that very favorably," Molendorp said.
Molendorp said he agonized over HB 11, stating he was torn by the bill. Molendorp speculated the governor’s office might have targeted him, because he is a former member of a local hospital board and is a health insurance agent.
Fellow Republican freshman Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles) told a similar story, saying she was approached by State Labor and Industrial Relations Department lobbyist Chris Moreno about HB 11.
"Then the young man said, ‘You know, the governor likes to reward people who share his views.’" Zerr said. She said she told Moreno she couldn’t support the bill. "And then, the young man said ‘I’m prepared to make a deal right now.’"
Zerr speculated that she was targeted, because of her moderate voting record.
Governor Nixon’s spokesman, Jack Cardetti, denied the charge, though he confirmed that Allison spoke with Molendorp about HB 11 .
"Dustin pulled the representative off (the House floor) and talked to him about how important this was to the governor, but at no time did he offer anything in exchange for that vote," Cardetti told the Missourinet.
Cardetti also acknowledged that Moreno spoke with Zerr, but he denied Moreno offered Zerr a deal in exchange for a vote.
"So certainly, people from the governor’s office from the administration lobbied both Republicans and Democrats, but at no time was anything ever promised or exchanged for that vote," Cardetti said. "We wanted them to vote on that based on what was best to move the state of Missouri forward."
Cardetti said the accusation made by Pratt was clearly meant to be a distraction from the issue, which he said was expanding Medicaid to 35,000 Missourians at no cost to the state. HB 11 contained a provision that would leverage a voluntary increase in the hospital tax to draw down federal funds.
Cardetti insisted the administration never offered any representative anything in exchange for a vote.