Let’s start our 36-part series by pointing out that Congress is more ethical than the Missouri legislature when it comes to regulating gifts from lobbyists. Yes, THAT Congress!
Oh, they have their problems, but even the U.S. Congress sees the ethical disaster in letting lobbyists shower representatives with unlimited freebies. Rules enforced since 2007 limit gift-giving to the following:
- No gift from a single lobbyist of more than $50 in value.
- No gift total in a year exceeding $100 from a single lobbyist.
This Congressional regulation applies to employees of Congress (including staff members) and direct relatives of representatives.
“Gifts” are defined as “anything of monetary value, and specifically includes “transportation, local travel, lodgings and meals, whether provided in-kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.”
Exceptions include gifts “motivated solely by a family relationship or personal friendship” and “modest refreshments.”
Hmmmm. Say what you will about Congress (and there’s a lot you can say) at least they understand the problem. They can understand how it looks when we allow special interests to influence the legislative process with freebies. Members of Congress get a salary. They don’t need fringe benefits from those looking to solidify a relationship and to buy access.
Even Congress admits that unlimited gift-giving doesn’t pass the smell test. 35 state legislatures do, too. Why doesn’t Missouri?
Encourage your representative to sign the Gift-Ban Pledge and to support legislation to limit unlimited gift-giving from lobbyists.