When the opening arises and/or when it is obvious, I am willing to admit making a mistake in judgment, prediction, or insight. It is with that preface that I will admit that I was probably a bit too snarky towards former State Rep. Brian Yates after his sudden resignation. I say this after reading his remarks in Prime Buzz about the Republican General Assembly (which you can also find quoted just down the page). Sure, Yates’ own ties don’t make him out to be perfect. But the intraparty clashes of the Republicans entertain me, until I realize that these guys run a huge chunk of the state government.
But don’t worry about ethics, Republican Leader Steve “Air” Tilley is proposing an ethics package. Which would be a great joke, if it’s not going to be taken seriously by Republicans and newspaper writers as being reform.
At least Five questions worth asking about a Tilley ethics bill in order to figure out if it’s going to be reform or synthetic reform.
1) Will lobbyists and special interests write the Tilley bill or just provide an outline of acceptable limitations?
2) How far will gift bans really go? and how blatant will the loopholes be? Will Lobbyists be able to co-own valuable items with legislators to stretch a gift ban?
3) How long will former legislators be barred from lobbying? a year? two years? longer?
4) Will a bar on political consulting while in office really mean much other than the person doing the consulting not directly earning money for his efforts? (In other words, will it be a symbolic ban where the majority pats themselves on their backs at the end)
5) How much of this bill will ultimately get scrapped or fused onto the Shields bill?
But any ethics bill that fails to address the Texas-style campaign contribution laws we have on the books is not complete. Any bill that thinks you can clean up politics in the Missouri General Assembly while allowing prominent legislators to keep receiving six-digit long checks from power brokers and special interests is a bill built on a surplus of optimism, hope, and delusion.
Campaign finance limits are more likely come about as a result of proposition circulated by voters. If there’s one thing that Missouri voters consistently approve of in amendments and propositions, it’s limiting politicians. The 1994 proposition limiting contributions passed 1,186,113 to 418,630. A percentage margin of 74%-26%. A similar proposition would pass in 2010, 2012, or any other year. Just waiting for someone else to get arrested or convicted to actually inspire campaign finance limits is not quite enough.
5 checks of $100,000 or more for candidates or House/Senate campaign committees have been reported in 2009. Two went to Steven Tilley (from the Missouri Leadership Committee and Rex Sinquefield). Two went from Steven Tilley to the House Republican Campaign Committee. One went from David Humphreys to the HRCC. Six other six-figure checks were written, Three went to “Vote Yes to Stop Double Taxation” from Realtor groups. The others went to the Life Sciences Fund, Healthpac, and the Civic Progress Action Committee.
The reality is that the only ways that giant checks would get any newspaper/television media coverage is if someone involved got in trouble. Much like how legislators repealing a state law supported by such a wide percentage of voters didn’t backfire on those legislators, because it wasn’t big news to the newspaper/television media and wasn’t shocking news to the masses of disconnected voters who rightly don’t trust elected officials.
Fortunately someone will touch upon this topic. Blogs exist because reading information for free from your lap is easier than reading a newspaper for a fee in your chair and because founding your own newspaper is expensive.