An ethics bill has been filed in the House, but the road to passage in the House is far from completed.
Rep. Kevin Wilson, a Republican from Neosho, has filed the bill as chairman of the special House committee reviewing ethics legislation this session. Most members of his committee signed on to the legislation before leaving for the annual weeklong spring break. It still must receive the formal endorsement of the committee before it is sent to the full House for debate.
Wilson says one of the key provisions of the bill was the trickiest to word. That provision would ban committee-to-committee transfers of campaign donations. Both political parties have used a loop-hole in current law to skirt direct donations so that the public wouldn’t be aware of who was giving to which candidate. Wilson says the provision should end such campaign money laundering.
Other aspects of the HB 2300 would prevent legislators from serving as political consultants, force a former lawmaker to wait out at least one legislative session before becoming a lobbyist and limit the amount that can be contributed to a campaign to $5,000. Democrats, including Governor Nixon, have pushed for re-instating campaign contribution limits while Republicans have resisted the idea. House Republican leaders, though, have stated they would not stop ethics legislation if it contained campaign contribution limits.
The state legislature repealed campaign contribution limits in 2008. Prior to that, Missouri capped donations to a candidate for statewide office at $1,350, with caps of $625 for Senate candidates and $325 for House candidates. The House bill doesn’t distinguish between offices with a $5,000 limit across-the-board.
A Senate ethics bill, SB 577, passed unanimously and has been sent to the House. It doesn’t contain campaign contribution limits. Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), that bill’s sponsor, has opposed reinstating campaign contribution limits, contending that they don’t work, but rather that they provide an incentive to get around the limits through various means.
Ethics became a high priority item of the legislative session after a series of events cast an ethical cloud over the General Assembly. Three St. Louis Democrats resigned the legislature after pleading guilty to federal felonies. A federal grand jury, meeting in Kansas City, has been raising questions about how former House Speaker Rod Jetton, a Republican from Marble Hill, handled legislation during his time in power. Jetton also managed a political consulting business while serving in the legislature.