A bipartisan movement aimed at making political races for state offices more competitive, kicked off its official campaign in Washington on Wednesday.
After volunteers, including several in Franklin County, collected 346,000 signatures statewide, the Clean Missouri initiative, or Amendment 1, has been placed on the November general election ballot.
According to the group, a vote for Amendment 1 will:
• Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates ($2,500 for state Senate and $2,000 for House).
• Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly by banning any gift over $5.
• Require that legislative records be open to the public.
• Require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.
Another major focus of the movement will be redistricting Missouri House and Senate districts after the next census.
Former chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Paul DeGregario says Amendment 1 is something the voters of Franklin County and the people of the state can get behind.
“There is always money at the root of corruption,” DeGregario said. “And there is big money at the big root of it.”
He added the redistricting is necessary so that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn,
The group is advocating the state auditor to appoint a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps using existing regional borders and common sense.
“The more competition, the better,” he said. “Amendment 1 takes a big step in that direction.”
Adding criteria for fairness and competitiveness of the overall map, which will be reviewed by a citizen commission, would keep compact and contiguous districts, he added.
DeGregario contends the 70 percent Republican super majority in the Missouri Legislature is not truly representative of the political makeup of the state’s voters.
He feels the redistricting would not affect Republican or Democratic Party strongholds in specific areas, but instead would promote more competitive races in the gray areas like in the St. Louis County suburbs
The group stated the initiative is being funded by more than 25,000 donations of about $100 each.
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission July quarterly report, Clean Missouri has spent more than $1.6 million thus far in this election cycle drumming up support for the proposed ethics reform.
The same report shows it has a bit more than $184,000 on hand as of mid-July.
Angie Dunlap, with the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, said the key to the movement’s success will be awareness and recognition.
“Many times people never know what initiative will be on the ballot until the day before the election,” Dunlap explained. “If voters are educated on this ballot initiative I’m certain they will want to vote yes.”
According to the group here Wednesday, Washington was selected as the first step on the trail since Franklin County voters have supported both ethics and campaign reform issues in the past.