This week, I presented Senate Bill 629 to the Senate Committee on Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics. SB 629 is a comprehensive ethics reform bill covering multiple campaign and lobbying issues.
Let me be clear, while I think we could use a reset on some of our ethics and campaign laws, that doesn’t mean I think elected officials in the state are acting unethically. I think transparency is the best ethics reform, and Missouri already has excellent transparency for both contributions and gifts given to lawmakers. Constituents and journalists have easy access to information regarding campaign contributions and lobbyist’s gifts, and those are often reported when they seem out of line.
The truth is that more laws do not make people ethical. Unethical people will find a way around even the best ethics laws, and will ignore the laws completely if they can’t. When they do, they should be punished.
Unlike some individuals, I don’t believe that Missouri is somehow an unethical magnet because we have no caps on contributions or lobby gifts. I have worked with legislators and local officials, and all but a few who are in office want to do the right thing for their constituents. I am proud to work aside the vast majority of my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.
With that said, my constituents overwhelmingly support some caps, and I am here to support my district and the people who live there. At town hall meetings, in one-on-one meetings, and in our online surveys, the message is clear: cap contributions and cap or eliminate lobby gifts.
With multiple ethics reform measures filed in the General Assembly, I don’t know which bill will move, but I hope thoughts and ideas from SB 629 do make it into a final bill. I will work with the other sponsors and Senate leadership to be sure that happens.
SB 629 would:
Ban political fundraising in buildings owned by the state or political subdivisions;
Ban elected state officials from acting as a paid consultant in other campaigns;
Ban legislators from becoming lobbyists within two years of leaving office;
Cap lobby gifts for legislators, staff and family at $50;
Cap contribution limits for both individuals and committees;
Require political appointees to provide contribution records prior to their Senate hearing; and
Put school districts in the same statute as cities and counties which bans the use of public funds to support or oppose ballot measures or candidates.
The residents of the 8th District and Missouri deserve these protections and accountability. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass of ethics reform this session.
State Senator Will Kraus-R serves District Eight and is a resident of Lees Summit.