Senator Doug Libla

Those listening to Missouri Senate debate on Friday could hear a pin drop in the chamber when state Sen. Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) tried to fight back tears and keep his composure. This legislative session, which has had its tumultuous and divisive ups and downs in recent weeks, showed a united front on Friday. Libla was discussing with Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) his support for law enforcement during debate about ethics legislation.

Libla, who is viewed as one who firmly holds his ground, could not fathom the idea that he does not support law enforcement. Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) showed her compassion by dropping a box of tissues on Libla’s desk. As he stood there wiping his eyes, he could barely utter another word.

As his voice cracked, Dixon managed to hold it together and continue.

He addressed a recent story by the Springfield News-Leader that said new attack ads linked to Republican Governor Eric Greitens’ PAC were preparing to launch against Senators Libla, Dixon, Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) and Gary Romine (R-Farmington). The ads reportedly imply the Senators are blocking passage of Blue Alert legislation, which would notify the public if a law enforcement officer has been attacked. None of the Senators have expressed opposition to pro-law enforcement legislation.

Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I want to say, with every fiber in my being, every single fiber, I am honored to be found on a list with those mention. Every single one,” said Dixon. “Why? Because they are Senators! Honor. Honor. Men and women of honor. What every single person is in this body. Men and women of honor. Honor.”

Ironically, Libla is sponsoring a Blue Alert bill this session and it could reach the Senate floor today. Libla is also carrying a House bill this year that aims to strengthen penalties against those who are convicted of attacking first responders, like law enforcement. The measure includes those found guilty of certain degrees of homicide, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and assault. It has passed out of a Senate committee.

Friday’s Senate debate involved lobbyist gift restrictions for state elected officials, but the focus turned largely to 501(c)4 organizations. Currently, campaign contributions can be funneled through such nonprofits and other groups without disclosing the details of the gifts given. Greitens’ political action committee – A New Missouri – falls within that category. The PAC was created to support Greitens’ agenda.

Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) offered different amendments that are meant to publicly release information about those types of donations. He has taken aim this session at Greitens for refusing to release information about some campaign donations or so-called dark money.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens during his inaugural address January 9th, 2017

The governor’s PAC has fired back by releasing negative ads claiming that Schaaf is preventing certain legislation, like Blue Alert and changes to ethics laws, from passing this session. Schaaf has not voiced opposition to such legislation. However, the ads imply that he does. In fact, Schaaf has been a strong advocate for reigning in on campaign donations and lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.

The PAC is likely firing back at Schaaf for stalling recent floor debate on other measures he opposes by talking about different issues, including the governor’s dark money.

During Friday’s debate, some Senators said the PAC’s negative ads against Schaaf crossed the line. Dixon thanked Schaaf for relentlessly trying to shed some light on dark money.

“Iron sharpens iron and that’s not fun,” said Dixon.

He mentioned a biblical painting found in Schaaf’s office of Daniel in the lion’s den.

Dixon cited President Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. Dixon said the tactics used by A New Missouri disgust him.

Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph)

In a recent Missourinet interview, Greitens said he does not have anything to do with the PAC’s day-to-day operations. A leading advisor to the governor, Austin Chambers, runs the PAC.

Chambers told the Springfield News-Leader:

“As it relates to Blue Alert, A New Missouri is advocating for and promoting the passage of Blue Alert,” Chambers said. “… A New Missouri will continue advertising to promote critical conservative agenda items.”

The legislature’s regular session ends Friday.