Lobbyist expenditures would fall significantly under new ethics measure

Bill would limit lobbyists to spending $25 a year on a single elected official

By Chris Mathews

JEFFERSON CITY — Lobbyists would only be able to spend a total of $25 a year on a single elected official under a measure presented to the House Government Oversight Committee last week.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, would also ban lobbyists from spending more than $5 on a single expenditure.

The measure would apply to any member of the General Assembly, the governor, lieutenant governor, state Supreme Court judges, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer.

“The thought process of the $5, not to exceed $25, is to eliminate things like out-of-state travel, sporting events and expensive meals,” Alferman said.

No limits currently exist on lobbyist expenditures in Missouri, meaning a lobbyist can spend any amount of money on an elected official.

“While I don’t believe that this is actually a huge problem, ethically it’s all about public perception,” Alferman said. “And I don’t think I have to tell any of you that the public perception on this issue is pretty terrible.”

Though not a single lobbyist testified in opposition of the bill during the hearing, one testimonial raised questions about group and caucus expenditures.

“We’ve talked about individuals, but what about group and caucus reporting,” said Mike Reid, a lobbyist for the Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants. “These are questions that need to be answered.”

He also spoke of the necessity for clarity of language in the measure.

“We just need to know what the rules are, who they apply to and how do we report what you want us to report,” Reid said.

Besides Alferman’s bill, both the House and Senate have advanced bills to limit the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists by inserting a “cooling-off” period after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist.

The Senate gave first-round approval to a two-year cooling off period. A one-year cooling-off period cleared the House Government Oversight Committee.

Also before the Legislature are several measures that would limit the amount an individual or organization could contribute to a candidate for office.