Remember the good old days, when Missouri politicians couldn’t accept Publishers Clearinghouse-sized checks from contributors?

HB 633 sponsored by House Democratic Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence) and co-sponsored by 25 House Democrats seeks to bring back actual limits for contributions.

Those limits would be: $1,275 for statewide offices, $650 for state senators, $500 for state representatives, $350 for local offices in places with under 100K people, $650 for local offices in places with over 100K people, $1,275 for local offices in places with over 250K people.

Considering that the people running the House were the ones who removed the voter-approved limits, HB633 is not likely to be passed.

But the idea isn’t just good because 73.9% of voters approved it in 1994. It’s also good because the amount of spending for state house and state senate races was out of control in 2008, by both candidates and PACs. The idea of a House members yearly salary being lower than the amount of money they spent to win that office is absurd.

While the surplus of problems on our table diminishes the urgency for contribution limits, they’re a good idea, popular, and a good policy. The campaign finance system has it’s own screwy flaws that should be addressed (PAC spending) and the current system is a “paper bag with a dollar sign on it” approach.

The two most likely ways to get limits reinstated are either with Democrats winning back both chambers (which could occur in two years in the House, but the Senate is a different story) or with the passage of an proposition sometime in the future.

Initiative drives are daunting for obvious reasons, but more realistic than expecting the Republican General Assembly to do the right thing on campaign finance limits. Plus, it would be a good test to see how much money wealthy conservative donors would spend to defend a system that allows them to buy elections.

A few extra tidbits

#1 – I counted nine Republican votes against the repeal of limits in 2008. The catch is that at least two of those nine weren’t running for re-election. The other catch is that even if 74 Democrats and 7 Republicans would come together, there’s still 82 Republicans, including the “gatekeepers” of the House who are going to bury this bill pretty quickly.

#2 – We’d probably not have 74 votes, seeing as three current members voted to repeal the limits in 2008 (Ted Hoskins, Nasheed, and Schoemehl). But two of those three aren’t coming back in 2011 due to term limits.