Thursday, May 11, 2006

Show Me The Money - Missouri Senate Guts Campaign Limits

As Josh Flory reports for the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Missouri Senate passed an ethics "reform" yesterday which would repeal the state's limits on how much money wealthy interests can give to candidates for public office.

Current Missouri law limits contributions to $1,275 to a candidate for statewide office, $650 to a candidate for the state Senate and $325 to a candidate for the state House. The law passed by the Senate yesterday would abolish those limits.

The purpose of such contribution limits is to check the influence of wealthy interests in determining who gets elected to office, in order to make Missouri government more representative of the people and viewpoints of all Missourians, not just the rich Missourians.

The Senate vote can be seen as a vote to make government less representative and to increase the voice of wealthy interests at the expense of the average, middle- and working-class Missourians.

The Senate did make a feeble effort to dissociate money from political decisions by placing a "blackout" on campaign contributions during the legislative session and to end contributions to candidates from political parties.

These "reforms" are so naive as to be laughable: money is money to a politician looking to get re-elected. Both the pol and most wealthy donors are sophisticated enough to understand that a $10,000 contribution given 2 days after the end of the legislative session means the same thing as a $10,000 contribution given 2 days before the end of the session.

And the ban on party contributions means nothing without a limit on contributions to the candidates for office. If anything, the action of the Senate strengthens the tie between the donor and the politician, increasing the chances of corruption, not to mention depriving regular folks of their rightful say in the process.

Less than 10 years ago, Missouri was at the forefront of campaign finance reform in America, when its citizens fought for and won fairly low contribution limits. Now, the legislature is repealing that hard-fought progress, and using cynical rationales and skulduggery in the process.

Hopefully, the upcoming election will serve as a reminder to the legislature that they serve the will of the people, not at the whim of the financially powerful.

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Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher Indicted

As Joe Biesk reports for the Associated Press, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher was indicted today (Thursday, May 11) on misdemeanor charges of politically discriminatory hiring practices, official misconduct, and conspiracy in furtherance of the first two charges.

Kentucky law prohibits the consideration of political affiliation in state hiring. The grand jury indicted Fletcher for doing just that - looking at political affiliation and campaign contribution history of potential hirees as a way to positively screen for those who would be political supporters.

Last year, Fletcher pardoned nine people in relation to the scheme, and issued a blanket pardon covering all others involved ... except himself. It's good to see Mr. Fletcher taking the high road.

Fletcher, of course, calls the charges politically motivated. This is somewhat ironic given that the indictments level the same charge at Fletcher's hiring practices. It's unclear which side has truth on their side. We'll keep an eye on things to see how they pan out.

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