Ethics complaint filed against lobbyists who provided steak dinners to lawmakers

Lobbyists provided food, beverages at conference in Dallas

By Steven Anthony

JEFFERSON CITY — The liberal watchdog group Progress Missouri has filed an ethics complaint alleging lobbyists broke the law when providing more than $3,000 worth of food and beverages to lawmakers at an August conference in Dallas.

At issue is a loophole in Missouri ethics laws that allow lobbyists to not disclose the specific names of lawmakers getting gifts from lobbyists if the gifts, food or drinks are offered to a legislative committee, caucus or the entire General Assembly — regardless how many members actually received the benefits.

The alleged violation occurred in Dallas at an American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, meeting in August.

The complaint also alleges not all members of the General Assembly were invited, which Progress Missouri Executive Director Sean Nicholson said is required by law.

He also said there is no way all lawmakers could’ve gotten to Dallas that night for dinner.

“When lobbyists file reports and say the entire General Assembly was at a Dallas steakhouse in August, we know and basic common sense tells us that’s not true,” Nicholson said.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said he didn’t know much about the complaint, but he did caution the public not to read much into it.

“I don’t think that anybody should presume that buying somebody a dinner buys preference in any way,” Jones said.