There is one truism about the Missouri General Assembly, the members like the gifts they get from lobbyists. They like perks. They look forward to them.
Sure, there are a few who don’t like the gifts that are made to influence the passage or killing of bills, but efforts to control the gift-giving never go very far.
Since 2010 and before, there has been talk about cleaning up the lobbyist gift culture in Jefferson City. Like the other years, the 2018 session ended with nothing done about this issue.
The Clean Missouri Initiative’s objective is to clean up the lobbyist gift culture. It reported that since 2004 lobbyists have given an average of $885,020 worth of free meals, drinks, tickets and other gifts to members of the General Assembly, their staff members and family members. Last year lobbyists reported $1,070,653 in gifts to House and Senate members.
And 68 percent of the gifts reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission since 2004 have been listed as going to legislative groups, meaning Missourians have no idea who accepted $8,660,463 worth of gifts in the past 15 years.
Clean Missouri’s initiative would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly by banning any single gift worth more than $5. A Clean Missouri coalition has collected 346,956 signatures on petitions and submitted them to the Secretary of State’s office for the signatures to be verified. The goal is to put the initiative on the November 2018 ballot.
The only way reforms in lobbyist gifts are going to happen is if the voters of Missouri take the issue in their own hands and act in November. The General Assembly members are in love with gifts from lobbyists, and they oppose a divorce.
The reforms are needed to increase integrity, transparency and accountability in the General Assembly. Too many members of the General Assembly have never before been on an elevated level that high, and to be courted by lobbyists pumps up their egos. Too many cave in to the courtships offered by lobbyists. The courtships are enriched by gifts.
For some members, they seem too naive to realize they are being bought by lobbyists.
This is not a blanket indictment of all members of the General Assembly. We’ve known many over the years who work hard for the people they represent. We’ve known a few who have never been bought by lobbyists.