Dec 22

Say “Yes” to the Oath. Say “No” to Lobbyist Gifts.

If at first… or second… or third… you don’t succeed….

For the fourth year in a row, Missourians for Government Reform will be encouraging the enactment of a lobbyist gift-giving ban. Last year the General Assembly came close. Legislation essentially banning lobbyist gifts quickly passed in the House only to die a painful death in the Senate.

MoReform is hopeful that 2017 is finally the year.

Unlike past years, we will not be encouraging legislators to sign a “pledge.” Instead, we’ll be reminding them that such a ban is already found in the legislative oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and faithfully perform the duties of my office, and that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law.”  (emphasis added).    Art. III. Section 15 Missouri Constitution.

Since 1875 Missouri elected representatives have needed to swear to this oath upon entrance to the General Assembly. A common sense reading of the oath prohibits legislators from accepting gifts from anyone with an interest in gaining political influence. By definition, political influence is what lobbyists desire.

Receipt of “any money or other valuable thing” from lobbyists must therefore be prohibited.

But astonishingly, Missouri is still one of 15 states that allow unlimited lobbyist gift-giving.  Meals? Trips? World Series tickets? It’s all allowed. This is a corruption. And it must be eliminated.

MoReform takes seriously this and all other acts that corrode public confidence in the republic. Eliminating these acts of legalized bribery is a good first step to regaining the public trust. We at MoReform will be keeping a careful eye on the progress of this legislation.

Below are links to the current list of bills dealing with lobbyist gift-giving:

HB60

HB212

HB229 (Deals with gifts to LOCAL government officials)

SB2

SB59

SB202

-John P. Messmer

Nov 14

New Year’s Resolution for Missouri Democrats: Reform

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Missouri Democrats, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Reform.

Actually, there are other words that you need to hear. Disgraced. Embarrassed. Dysfunctional. These are all words – along with many others – that describe the state of your party in Missouri right now. The voters don’t like you. And you’re insane if you think business-as-usual will change your prospects. “Democrat” is a tarnished brand.

But there’s good news. There is something the party can do to return to respectability and it won’t take a major change in strategy or philosophy. It requires you to tap into your progressive roots. You need to invest in what many Missourians hunger for – significant changes in our political ways of life. If you want to turn your fortunes around, the Democratic party has to become the party of reform.

Campaigns are seen as grotesquely greedy wars over money. Legislators are viewed as bought-and-paid-for playthings of powerful lobbies. Elections in often gerrymandered monstrosities are viewed as frustrating farces with predetermined winners. Ethical government is seen as a contradiction in terms.

Who’s going to do anything about it? Certainly not the GOP. They’re in the driver’s seat. Why do they want to disrupt the status quo? But for Democrats in this state, the status quo is the enemy. If you want Missourians to think you’re relevant again, you’re going to need to tap into the voters frustration in our increasingly broken political system. They need to see you as the party that’s going to seriously do something about it.

Back in the 1990s Ross Perot tapped into the frustration that people had with our political status quo and the desire that people had for reform. He found some success. And if people hungered for reform in the 1990s, imagine how hungry they are right now!

Need more convincing? Studies show that political reform is particularly appealing to younger voters. They voice the most frustration in a system that seems increasingly closed to them and more open to those with money and powerful connections. They yearn for a political process that is fair – a system where one’s political worth is not tied to their net worth. They want a political environment with some ethical standards.

Become the party that all voters – both young and old – can embrace as the leading advocate for reform and suddenly the future of the Democratic party in this state isn’t so gloomy.

Just one word. Are you listening? Reform.

Jun 02

Missouri Gift-Ban Pledge

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.

Jun 13

Why We Should Care About the Mischief of Goodies

It’s almost become a rite of spring that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings forth an article soon after the close of the legislative session detailing the abundance of lobbyist gifts on Missouri legislators.  Such articles practically write themselves thanks to public disclosure rules via the Missouri Ethics Commission.  Comb through the database. Underscore some of the more outrageous gift giving.  Move on.

Oh, some readers might get upset, but not enough.  Most have grown accustomed to the idea that perks and goodies will end up in the hands of our representatives. It’s part of the process.  It’s always been there and it isn’t going away.  Most depressing, however, is the idea that so many of us have convinced ourselves that since it’s so engrained, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.

It is.  Here’s why:

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May 31

A Broken System: Two National Efforts Look for a Fix

Confidence in the political system is at all-time lows.  Disgust in Congress is at all-time highs and scandal grips the executive branch. Grim times for those that still care in America. But real efforts at fundamental reform exist! Yes, we’re talking national, organized, and well-funded efforts that go beyond the snake-oil being sold by the major political parties.

If you haven’t already, take a look at NoLabels.org and Rootstrikers.org.

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