FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Contact: Kevin Flannery, (573) 526-0949
Kander Proposes Sweeping Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform
Legislation Would Make Missouri a National Leader in Good Government
Secretary of State Jason Kander today proposed 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 comprehensive solution, sponsored by Rep. Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), would reinstate campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts to elected officials and their staff, and close the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door. It also would make it a crime to obstruct an investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC), empower the MEC to penalize candidates for circumventing contribution limits with fines or removal from the ballot, and create whistleblower protections for individuals reporting wrongdoing to the MEC.
"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."
Current Missouri law allows politicians to accept both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited lobbyist gifts. Kander’s 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. Currently, the lack of rules allows individuals to skirt disclosure requirements by funneling campaign contributions through chains of political action committees. 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."
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.
Even before his election as secretary of state, Kander was a leader on ethics and campaign finance reform. In 2010, he worked with Republican Rep. Tim Flook to pass the most significant ethics legislation in the General Assembly in a generation. Although the Supreme Court later invalidated the law on unrelated, technical grounds, Kander’s efforts paved the way for more serious and sustained discussion about the problems with Missouri’s weak ethics laws.
Kander and McManus’ legislation is HB 1340.
Visit www.sos.mo.gov to learn more about the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State.
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