Secretary of State Jason Kander is proposing what he calls “new, sweeping legislation to improve Missouri’s worst-in-the-nation ethics and campaign finance laws and make Missouri a national leader in good government.”
The measure is being sponsored by Rep. Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), and would reinstate campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts to elected officials and their staff, and close the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door, according to a press release. The bill would make it a crime to obstruct an investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission, empower the Ethics Commission to penalize candidates for circumventing contribution limits with fines or removal from the ballot, and create whistleblower protections for individuals reporting wrongdoing to the the commission.
“The legislature’s dance around this problem has gone on long enough, and Missourians are tired of watching too many of their elected officials pretend as though this situation is beyond their control,” Kander said. “Our proposal is not a compromise that has been watered down by both sides. This is a solution to a very serious problem, and there is plenty in here for politicians of all perspectives and affiliations to dislike. But I don’t work for politicians. I work for the citizens of our state, and the nation’s worst ethics and campaign finance laws cannot be repaired by minor fixes – they can only be repaired by real change.”
Kander says current Missouri law allows politicians to accept both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited lobbyist gifts. This proposal would not only prohibit politicians from collecting six figure donations and free sports tickets, it would also put an end to the secretive practices that political insiders use to avoid public scrutiny, he says.
“Currently, the lack of rules allows individuals to skirt disclosure requirements by funneling campaign contributions through chains of political action committees,” the Secretary of State’s office says. “Kander’s proposal, however, bans such money laundering and creates the presumption that a law has been broken when a campaign receives contributions from a political action committee funded primarily by one person that has already reached his or her contribution limit. It places the burden on the politician to prove otherwise.”
“Across the board, Missourians recognize that ethics and campaign finance reform is badly needed in Jefferson City,” McManus said. “I’m proud to partner with Secretary Kander to develop these solutions, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fulfill our responsibility to Missourians.”
Kander and McManus say the legislation also recognizes that in the heat of an election year candidates may be willing to break these strict campaign finance laws if the consequences would not apply until after the candidates have benefitted from an unfair advantage.
“Consequently, the bill empowers the Missouri Ethics Commission to take swift action against candidates who violate these new rules, ranging from substantial fines during the campaign to ordering the removal of a candidate’s name from the ballot. Because the surest way to escape punishment under current law is to lie to an ethics commission investigator, the new legislation creates the felony of obstructing an ethics investigation.”
“Crime shouldn’t pay, and cheaters shouldn’t be allowed to compete,” Kander said.
Kander and McManus’ legislation is HB 1340.