JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lobbyists have spent more than $3,700 on food and drinks for House Republican leaders, but because of a new quirk in House rules, it's difficult for the public to know exactly which lawmakers benefited from the perks.
The Leadership for Missouri Issue Development Committee consists only of GOP House leaders and, unlike most committees, includes no minority party Democrats. It's one of a new category of "issue development" committees authorized by a change in House rules this year.
In February, the GOP leadership committee members enjoyed two dinners at CC's City Broiler in Columbia that cost more than $1,500 each, plus additional lobbyist-supplied food. The lobbyist expenditures are reported on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, but aren't itemized to list which lawmakers were present.
Because the House Republican leadership panel is a formal committee, lobbyists supplying meals to its members are only required to report the total amount spent on the committee — not the individual names of the dining lawmakers or how much specifically was spent on each lawmaker.
The House GOP leadership committee was the only "issue development" committee to receive lobbyist meals in February.
House Speaker Tim Jones defended the creation of the GOP leadership committee, of which he is a member. He said it could be used in the future to look at changing the state's Medicaid program or finding additional funding for transportation infrastructure.
"As the governing majority we are the ones that generally have to deal with issue development. We are the ones who have to have an agenda every year to move forward. That is our responsibility," Jones said.
But Democratic Rep. Kevin McManus, of Kansas City, questioned the need for the new GOP House leadership committee.
"We already have 40 something committees. I am not sure if we need anymore," McManus said. "If we are going to have more what are they there for and what are they doing?"
McManus has sponsored legislation that would cap annual lobbyist gifts at $1,000 for lawmakers but would not change how reports are logged for committees. His bill has not yet been referred to a committee and is unlikely to advance.