As the 2013 Missouri legislative session draws near, several elected officials from both sides of the aisle are calling on lawmakers to reject gifts from lobbyists, either voluntarily or through new ethics reforms. State Senator-elect Ed Emery (R-Lamar, MO) does not appear interested in joining this movement.
Between 2002 and 2010, when he was a State Representative, Emery accepted over $5,800 worth of meals and gifts from lobbyists, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Missouri is the only state in the nation where legislators are allowed to accept unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited gifts from lobbyists. Each year lobbyists spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying alcohol, food, tickets, trips, and other gifts for our elected officials.
While current state law allows lobbyists to wine and dine state officials, several Republican and Democratic legislators are calling for banning the gifts outright and have promised to refuse all gifts and meals from lobbyists.
Senator-elect Scott Sifton (D-Affton) campaigned on the issue, pledging to refuse gifts from lobbyists and criticizing his opponent, incumbent State Senator Jim Lemke (R-Lemay), for accepting nearly $30,000 worth of lobbyist gifts over the last decade. Sifton won the race 50.9% to 49.1%.
During his time in the General Assembly, Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) sponsored an ethics bill that would have banned lobbyist gifts, and this fall Kander was narrowly elected as Secretary of State, despite his opponent’s flood of campaign cash from St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefeld.
Senators from both parties see a need for reform. John Lamping (R-St. Louis) is refusing all gifts from lobbyists and calling for an outright ban on the gifts.
Shortly after the election I asked Emery if he planned to join Lamping and Sifton in working to curb lobbyist gifts. Here is his response:
Danny Ferguson: Mr. Emery, will you join senator-elect Scott Sifton in calling for a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators?
Ed Emery: Danny, transparency and attentiveness are the most effective means to empower citizens. It is not more government. You and Scott must trust government a lot more than I do.
Ferguson: A government is only as trustworthy as the people serving in it. Banning gifts from lobbyists is a way to remove one potential source of corruption, which would make it easier for us to trust that you’re working for the best interests of all your constituents rather than the financial interests of a few people who have given you gifts. This could even be a voluntary ban, at least at first. Would you consider committing to rejecting all gifts from lobbyists as John Lamping (R) and Scott Sifton (D) have?
Emery: Danny, If you confine politicians to the Constitution that will give lobbyist little to lobby for. When government is no longer allowed to pick winners and losers the bidding for power will cease or be greatly diminished. I would prefer limiting government to expanding or empowering it.
Ferguson: So, in other words, you’re going to keep accepting meals and gifts from lobbyists. Is that correct?
Emery: [No response given.]