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Representatives Jason Kander (D) and Tim Flook (r) held a press conference on their ethics reform bill late Monday morning in the House Lounge at the capitol.

Representatives Jason Kander (D)(left) and Tim Flook (r)(right).

Our previous coverage:

Kander (D) and Flook (r): ethics reform legislation in Jefferson City

Kander (D) and Flook (r): ethics reform legislation in Jefferson City, part 2

The transcript of the first half of the media question and answer session:

Question: Last year, uh, Rex Sinquefield created a number of committees in, in the time that was legal, uh, and, and there were some who suggested that he made those committees so he could get around the existing campaign laws. Does this bill address that in any way?

Representative Tim Flook: Let me answer that. Uh, make sure it’s understood, this bill isn’t about Rex Sinquefield…

Question: No, I [crosstalk]…

Representative Flook: It’s not…

Question: That’s [inaudible]…

Representative Flook: But I, I will tell you, um, one thing that’s, one thing that, I would frame it this way, uh, Representative Kander point [inaudible]. He and I had this discussion for over a year. That the reality of it is, that, that when you have multiple committees then there’s a temptation from legislators to pick up support here, but not ever admit or talk about it over there. And there’s legal methodologies for doing it. It’s legal. Uh, what Rex Sinquefield, what his, his donations were perfectly legal. Um, but, you know, I believe, and Representative Kander believes with me, that, uh, you should take the donation directly from who you receive support from, the public should be aware of it, and they should be judging you by that.

I support stem cell research. I’ve taken in, in, support from stem cell community. The general public deserves to know that. And if they feel like I, I’m not appropriate elected representative for their area they, they can vote accordingly. Just like my votes are on record. That’s what this is really about.

And one of the, one of the hot topic issues between Democrats and Republicans are campaign finance laws. Um, for, for me, particularly, I voted to remove the limits. I voted to remove them, one, because I believe philosophically you should be able to make whatever donation you want. But at the same time I also felt I would be willing to step up and support legislation like this to eliminate the use of these committees so that whenever you’re taking a large amount of support it’s known, and it’s directly known, and the legislator admits it up front. And, and, you know, for me, If I receive support from a committee I need to be prepared to, to talk about that. And that’s what this is really about. And I think if we eliminate that at, it, it makes the process more straightforward, it makes it more disclosed, and, although there are legal methodologies for donating to committees that can donate to other people, we would like to narrow that down so that we get more direct donations and more disclosure to the public on who and what we’re getting sup, uh, support by.

Representative Jason Kander: And to add to that, to add to that, you know, in essence your question is somewhat about campaign finance limits. Uh, and Representative Flook references it, and I think that is, that really speaks to how bipartisan this bill is. I, I believe that campaign finance limits would be a vital part of ethics reform. Representative Flook and I don’t completely see eye to eye on that issue. And that didn’t stop us from sitting down and saying what can we do to sort of satisfy both sides that, that believe that ethics reform is necessary and get us to the point where maybe we can get, uh, maybe from my side that believes in campaign finance limits, maybe it’ll open more people up on the Republican side to discussing them when we address these issues as well. Uh, I saw in the Independence Examiner I think today Representative Dusenberg said that he’s, he would look favorably now possibly upon a bill, uh, for campaign finance limits. I’m a cosponsor, Representative LeVota’s bill to re-impose campaign finance limits. But I’m not going to allow my advocacy for campaign finance limits to keep representative Flook and myself from getting a lot done this year as well.

Question: Last year we stood here around the same time of year and there was another bipartisan ethics bill, uh, and there was a bipartisan news conference proposing this ethics bill, uh, with some of the same, uh, information. There’s quite a bit different in this bill. What, what’s different, uh, in terms of getting such a bill through the legislature. Last year the ethics bills went nowhere.

Representative Flook: Well, uh, I , are you talking about  Representative Yates and Zimmerman?

Question: Yeah, Yates and Zimmerman.

Representative Flook: Okay, yeah. Well Representative Yates will not be here. He’s taken a job so, uh, which give me opportunity to become involved. Well I’ll tell you what’s, what’s different. Last year we had a lot of priorities we needed to move on. I, what, what has become different is, is that, you know, we’ve had incidents around the state, we have more people asking questions, and we’ve had a year of, frankly, debating these ideas on our own. Um, what, what I would impress upon you as members of the media is to recognize is that just because a bill doesn’t get out to the House floor doesn’t mean we’re not talking about it. Uh, you know, Representative Kander and I have these kind of discussions amongst ourselves and others. We sit around here at night drinking coffee during the, during the, the, the less, uh, sexy pieces of legislation, we sit back in the House lounge and talk to each other. And we talk about common ground. And one of our concerns was is that so much of the time ethics legislation is always turned into campaign politics. And you cannot get anything legitimate off the ground because it’s always being seen as trying to poke the other guy in the eye. You know, my, my philosophical belief and, uh, Representative Kander’s philosophical belief about owning up to who you’re receiving support from has nothing to do with, with anything else going on in the state. It’s a philosophical belief. But, by virtue of, of more questions being asked we see an opportunity to put it back out there and rejuvenate it. We didn’t want the efforts on the part of, of, uh, Representative Yates, Representative Zimmerman that we certainly agreed on, we don’t want to see those die on the vine. And we wanted to make this effort. I mean, we’re in communication with our leadership on both sides of the aisle on this bill. Um, we think it’s a good stepping off point to show that we’re really gonna try to resolve some things. We’ve had incidents in St. Louis, we’ve had incidents in Kansas City, um, you know, we want to make sure that the public understands that there are people down here working together and that, for the most part, we really are trying to do the right thing. The best way to show that is this joining together working on a bill that, uh, that changes the, changes some of the, the laws and close loopholes and help create a little more security and trust in, in our government.

Question: What, what I don’t see here, talk about pay to play, prohibition on the exchange of campaign contributions for legislative action, what I don’t see is specific language that says, uh, no contributions during the session. Uh, you didn’t go there, why not?

Representative Kander: Well, I mean, actually, it’s not a
conversation we’ve had to a great degree but I would speculate in front of everybody, uh, that a lot of it has to do with just, there was a court case that, that had issue with that. And I think what we didn’t want to do was get pretty far down the road and then be faced with a [inaudible] court challenge.

Representative Flook: Yeah, and, and to that point, that, that goes after other things that turns into campaign fodder. And we know we risk that as it is trying to do a legitimate bill. So we, we’re not interested in, in challenging things in the court. We’re not interested in making that kind of noise. What we’d like to do is establish the new laws and get it passed. We want a bill that can build consensus and make it to the House and Senate floor and be passed.

Representative Kander: And to add to that, you mentioned that’s been proposed  in the past, obviously, since there was a court case about it. What we really are focused on in this bill are new ideas. There are people, you know, Tony, you mentioned, uh, Representative Yates, Representative Zimmerman’s bill, Representative Zimmerman is, is more than capable of, of pushing that bill and I’m sure that he will. There’s no need for me to come in and, and retread that. That’s not necessary. There are really capable people with really capable, uh, really great ideas out there. We were not focused on sort of gathering any of those up and pushing them forward.

Question: Representative Flook, what have you heard from Republican leadership about [inaudible] ethics bill or ethics in general?

Representative Flook: Well, you know, I’ll tell you, I, I’m, I believe in my Republican caucus here in the State of Missouri. I think we’ve got a good caucus. And I think we’ve done a good job. And when I, when I approached, uh, uh, our Speaker and members of the caucus and said, you know, I want to work with Representative Kander on, on this bill, you know, they, they obviously had questions about what the bill contained and is this a real serious effort. Um, and, and the answer was yes. You know, so, my, my Republican members are interested in this legislation. There’ll be things they want to tweak or add, uh, just like I’m sure the Democratic caucus, caucus will want to tweak and add things. But, uh, the bottom line is, is that if we have, if we have something we want to improve upon they way to improve upon it is to get people to agree on what a good change is. You don’t start out an effort at teamwork by accusing your team member of being a bad person and telling them that you want them thrown out of office. That doesn’t accomplish anything, in fact, that just guarantees gridlock. Where, as Representative Kander and I realize that we know, we talk to each other all the time in the hallways and in our offices and in the lounge, we know there’s a lot we can agree on. And we know that when a bill I seen as a genuine effort to work together that, that House or Senate members will rally around that bill. And in this particular case this, this bill is gonna make people in my caucus happy, I believe, because it’s gonna answer some of the very things that we’ve talked about amongst ourselves and with the Democrats for years, things we’d like to change.

Question: So, so this legislation would ban a candidate [inaudible] say [inaudible] a candidate committee from receiving money from like a district committee or a political action committee or what, what, what would that part be?

Representative Kander: No, what we do, because going back to the court challenge issue there’s a certain element of the question, whether or not. So, what we do is we simply say that, that district or that individual political action committee, they can’t send money back and forth to one another. If you choose to, uh, you know, an organization, for instance, my wife is on the board of the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, they have a political action committee. They obviously have a mutual interest, a reason that they would want to have a political action committee. If they are going to make a contribution to a candidate, obviously they’re making it in the, in the furtherance of their cause. Well, what the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus does not have is seventeen committees so they can move money back and forth twenty times so that a candidate can come to them and say, hey, I’d really like to take money from this person so that I can do this favor for them and never be caught, so would you just wash the money around until nobody’s really sure where it came from. What we do is we say, if a donor makes a contribution to a committee then that committee turns around and makes a contribution to a candidate then at least, at a minimum in the court of public opinion, when that candidate runs for reelection or runs for election for the first time somebody can make the argument you took money from a, from a committee that, that is funded by this. Instead of, who knows where that, where that committee [inaudible], you know these obscure names, Americans for America and Politicians Who Love Fuzzy Animals, I mean, these kind of joke political action committee names that go back and forth. What we’re trying to do is streamline that process. And furthermore, make it a felony, if you do use the process that exists after our law, to actually obscure the source of [crosstalk]…

Question: How do you approach that, though, if there’s no documentation that says that?

Representative Kander: Same way the Federal government [inaudible]…

Representative Flook: Same way, yeah. It’s the same fight every, every law enforcement officer has, in, in, in mul, different types of cases. Those cases can happen, you, you saw, uh, we saw cases recently in Missouri. You’ll see other types of areas. You know, I think it important to point out, you know, uh, both parties have people out there, um, with committees and those committees handle a lot of money from multiple directions. And to say, to say that it’s one party over another is just simply wrong, it’s simply. You know, you know, Re, Mr. Sinquefield was, was mentioned. Well he’s just one you all wrote about. As far as I’m concerned, I mean, he’s really not a, not a story. The real story is that it goes on all the time everywhere. And for us we just believe one, uh, very simple philosophical principle, and that is, say what you believe in, accept support from those that, that, uh, that support you, accept it openly. All right? You know, I , I support Rex Sinquefields efforts on education reform in the urban core. Absolutely. Check my voting record. I’m probably one of the most consistent ones with him.  [crosstalk] But, you know, I should [crosstalk], I should, like any other issue, if I’m gonna accept support from him and, and work on a [inaudible] he believes in, that’s not illegal. That’s not illegal. But, I should disclose it. It should be known. And if, if you have a lot of support from unions, fine, the public gets to know. If you have a lot of support from lawyers, that’s absolutely fine, but the public deserves to know who’s supporting you. And that keeps you accountable.

Question: But if I’ve got a lot of money, and I’m a reporter so it’s a bad question, but if I’ve got a lot of money [crosstalk]…

Representative Kander: We’ll suspend disbelief.

Question: …and I want to support [inaudible] do you want me to have to give your campaign committee the money directly or will it still be possible for me to give the money also to the Republican State Committee and the Kansas City Area Committee for Do Good Republicans with the, and that money eventually could wind up with you, but the rest of the people in this room may not be able to follow that [inaudible].

Representative Flook: Well I, I think what’ll happen is that this legislation, is that because the intentional hiding of money, you’re involved in intentionally hiding money. And, and an, that’s, I’ll preface it, our law kinda circles around that right now. You already can’t intentionally
launder. We’re just trying to close that circle and make sure that we can close that loophole. And one way to do it is to help eliminate the creation of these other committees. That really closes the circle on it. We’re already almost there. We’re just trying to close it. And, to answer your question, if, if someone wants to make a large donation to the Democrat House Committee, the Republican House Committee they’re still free to do that, all right, they’re still free to do that. And for First Amendment purposes it’d be very difficult to completely eliminate committees. I mean, it just for the, between the court cases and court challenges we couldn’t really do that. Um, and you know honestly, it’s okay to have base donations to the party committees, it’s all fully disclosed. You all can pick that up very quickly. But if we eliminate the number of side committees that are floating around, if we can reduce that number in any kind of significant measure we really start moving down the path further to, to directly, direct line disclosure of where your support comes from. And, honestly, we have to change the conversation to get there, that’s what this joint effort is, we have to begin the dialog and, and create a shift in, in, in the public eye of, of how campaign finance is looked at. And the way you do that is you don’t make it partisan. You don’t make it partisan. I am not here to try and grind a boot heel on some incidents involving Democrats any more than, and Jason Kander is not here to grind a boot heel in on anything or accusations [inaudible] Republicans. This is really about trying to make a cultural shift so that the public says, you know what, these guys are right, we’re gonna support ’em, say what you believe in,  tell us who supports you and be straight up about it.

Question: [inaudible] If I give money to the Kansas City Area Committee Supporting Do Good Republicans the donation should be seen as going to that committee and whatever candidates our causes it chooses to support, not an effort by me to give you more money directly.

Representative Kander: That’s right. And if there’s evidence to the contrary, if there’s evidence that the legislator in question said to you, you know you’re kind of controversial and I don’t want to take your money on record and then you do that and it goes to them, well, then state investigators are going to be interested in that and the prosecutor’s gonna be interested in prosecuting that as a class D felony…

The final portion of the press conference transcript will follow in a subsequent post.