Kander proposes his own lobbyist restriction plan

By Phill Brooks

JEFFERSON CITY — Secretary of State Jason Kander last week proposed the strictest set of restrictions on special-interest money yet filed in Missouri’s Legislature.

Under Kander’s plan, a lobbyist would be prohibited from providing a gift or meal of any value to a legislator, public official or staffer. His bill also would make it a crime to lie to the state Ethics Commission and, like the governor’s call, would impose limits on how much any one person could contribute to a political campaign.

“It’s time we really get serious about this,” Kander said at a news conference, noting similar restrictions have been proposed in the Legislature but stalled for years. “All over the state, Missourians are wondering whether or not their Legislature is going to address this issue.”

In December before the legislative session, Gov. Jay Nixon had joined with a Republican and Democratic legislators endorsing a similar package, but one that would allow a lobbyist to make an expenditure of up to $50 for a legislator.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, said he could support a total ban on lobbyist gifts, but that it stood little chance in the Legislature. Kraus also said there was practical consideration.

“To think someone is going to be bought off by a lunch is something else you have to look at,” Kraus said in reference to the regular Capitol lunches and breakfasts during legislative sessions that lobbyists provide that are available to anyone, including legislators, staff, fellow lobbyists and statehouse visitors.

On the House side, House Majority Leader John Diehl, who co-sponsored a similar $50 exemption, said he was willing to discuss tougher limits.

Kander rejected the $50 exemption idea, saying, “Any piece of legislation, for instance, that says that it’s ethics reform if you get a $50 breakfast, a $50 lunch and $50 dinner from a lobbyist, I don’t think that’s campaign and ethics reform.”

Ironically, less than an hour after Kander’s news conference, the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association hosted a buffet luncheon of which legislators and staffers partook just outside the House and Senate chambers.