The House Special Standing Committee on Government Accountability & Ethics Reform has been presented with two bills designed to make state government more ethical. One bill aims to reinstate campaign contribution limits while the other focuses primarily on reforming the activities of lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) sponsors House Bill 1322 – legislation which echoes the call made by Governor Jay Nixon that the return of campaign limits is important.

“It is my belief that integrity in state government is paramount in moving Missouri forward,” said LeVota to the panel. “Citizens must have trust in their elected officials and ending any type of perception that our government is for sale in the State Capitol must be our top priority this session. I think the big issue that erodes trust in our government is the amount of money in the system.”

LeVota believes money has a tendency to move legislation.

“There have been examples in this Legislature of times where a very large campaign donation has come, coincidentally, the same time legislation was moved,” said LeVota. “I do not believe there is anyone who broke the law or anything like that. I believe that the fact that we don’t have limits raises too many questions.”

Representative Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) has put forward House Bill 1500 – legislation intended to restrict benefits that might come the way of lawmakers.

“We had recent incidents, last year, where staff from the Governor’s Office was making insinuations that if you voted a certain way there would be professional opportunities in the future,” Tilley told the committee. “At best that’s unethical and at worst it’s illegal. And my bill would prevent members from the General Assembly to being appointed to jobs until they’ve left the General Assembly for 180 days.”

Tilley says what we see happening in federal politics, with campaign limits, proves there will always be a way to get around campaign finance limits.

“There’s limits on the federal level but the cost of running a campaign on the federal level has skyrocketed,” said Tilley. “What you’ve seen is situations where you’ve got these groups and these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth groups. The money is still going to get in the process, it’s just not accountable to anybody and it’s not transparent and I think the system that we’ve got is not perfect but it’s certainly better than the old system.”

The committee could take pieces of both bills and combine them to produce a piece of legislation that can be sent to the House floor for debate.

Audio: House Hearing on ethics reform legislation (1:07:00 MP3)