Friday, January 6, 2012
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Selling of Government
An op-ed by Rep. Jason Kander
Lawmakers taking unlimited lobbyist gifts, six-figure campaign checks, and jobs as lobbyists the minute their public service ends.
If you think this is happening in Washington, you would be wrong. This behavior has even been prohibited in the ethical cesspool that is our nation’s capital. But sadly all of these transgressions are happening in Jefferson City as we speak. Worse yet, they are perfectly legal.Missouri now holds the distinction of being the only state in the country where lawmakers can both accept unlimited lobbyist gifts and unlimited campaign contributions.
Over the last few decades the Missouri legislature has transitioned from a part-time job where farmers, lawyers and small businesswomen would give up a little of their time each Spring to travel to Jefferson City, to a world of corporate jets and lobbyist funded junkets.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. I recently filed sweeping ethics reform legislation for lawmakers to consider as the annual legislative session begins this week. This bill would ban lobbyist gifts, reinstate campaign contribution limits, and prohibit lawmakers from lobbying for two years after they serve.
Strengthening these laws is far from a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike should be ashamed that Missouri operates in a political system that doesn’t even match the current ethical standards in our nation’s capital.
This economic downturn has been hard on Missouri families and businesses. I’ve talked with countless Missourians who are working hard each and every day but are forced to get by on less each month.
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Those people obviously never served in the Missouri legislature. As the annual legislative session begins, free steak dinners, sports and concert tickets, and out-of-state junkets will again be the norm.
And while lawmakers pay nothing for these perks, there is indeed a cost to society. When elected officials receive gifts from lobbyists, special interests gain influence and everyday citizens lose some. Now is the time to strengthen Missouri’s ethics laws.
Editor’s note: Please feel free to use the above op-ed in your paper. It was written by Jason Kander, a Democratic State Representative from Kansas City and a candidate for Missouri Secretary of State. He previously served in the Missouri National Guard. As a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, Kander volunteered in 2006 for deployment and served in Afghanistan, where his duties included combating corruption. In 2010, he was one of ten soldiers selected as national finalists for Army Reserve Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year. Rep. Kander currently serves on the Missouri Veterans Commission. He is a lawyer and lives with his wife Diana in Kansas City.