As an incumbent of (or candidate for) the Missouri legislature, I, ________________, respect the oath of office to which elected representatives swear or affirm.
I therefore pledge – if elected (or re-elected) to the General Assembly – not to accept gifts of any size from registered lobbyists, lobbying organizations, or others with a vested interest in the performance of my duties for the duration of my service as a legislator in the state of Missouri.
Missourians for Government Reform (MoReform.org) launched last December the “Missouri Gift-Ban Pledge.” Throughout the legislative session, we encouraged support for legislation limiting lobbyist gift-giving in Missouri.
Every sitting lawmaker was contacted and encouraged to sign the pledge. Only two did.
Though some lawmakers truly need to be commended, too many just didn’t care. Too many lacked the initiative to stand up to lobbyists. Too many lacked the courage to live up to their oath of office. Too many failed to see the need to change a corrupt system that benefits lawmakers without justification.
Our pledge was largely ignored. And legislation reforming the lobbyist/lawmaker relationship died.
Now Missouri citizens need to demand that legislators – and their challengers – confront this issue head on. We cannot allow any legislator to be elected in 2014 without confronting this issue.
Without trust in our lawmakers, we have nothing. If legislators are viewed as bought-and-paid-for, what hope does the average citizen have? There are lots of important issues out there – issues of pressing and dire need of attention.
But cleaning up the lobbyist/lawmaker relationship needs to be the FIRST issue. Without reform, trust is non-existent. Without trust, cynicism trumps hope; apathy squelches progress.
Every seat in the House and half of Senate is up for election this year. Challengers and incumbents must be pressed on this issue – and it needs to come from the people.
Here’s what incumbents and challengers must be asked:
1. Do you support legislation regulating lobbyist gift-giving? 35 states already do. Why shouldn’t Missouri? If not, why not?
2. Will you sign the Missouri Gift-Ban Pledge?
If Missouri voters make this an issue, lawmakers will be pressed to take a stand. They’ll be forced to either support massive reform of the lobbyist/lawmaker dynamic, or rationalize behavior that puts them in the pockets of lobbyists usually at the expense of the public.
Reform will win out. But it’ll require the people – and challengers to incumbency – to initiate the change.