Monday, May 22, 2006
Harpool calls for sweeping ethics reform
Five-term state representative Doug Harpool, a Democrat, is launching his State Senate campaign in Springfield at the moment this was published with a call for "sweeping ethics reform in Missouri government."
Harpool,49, was the legislator who was primarily responsible for the creation of the Missouri Ethics Commission, is challenging incumbent Norma Champion, R-Springfield.
"Lobbyist control of campaign contributions – together with gifts and other expenditures on politicians are destroying public service," Harpool said in a news release. "Too many politicians are now using public service for self service. Our senators should look out for the best interest of all citizens, not just those who pour cash into campaign coffers, or fill political pockets with perks."
Harpool also released his ethics reform plan, which features the following components:
1. END FEE AGENT POLITICAL PATRONAGE FOREVER.
Only non-profit entities should be eligible to serve as fee agents with the Department of Revenue. Priority in the award of fee agent contracts should be given to not-for-profit groups willing to designate school districts, public colleges and universities, and public health clinics as exclusive beneficiaries of all net proceeds of the office. Money earned in operating fee agent offices should be returned to taxpayers in the form of services, and not used to line the pockets of the governor’s political supporters or relatives of the powerful elected officials.
2. DEMAND ABSOLUTE FINANCIAL SEPARATION BETWEEN LOBBYISTS, CAMPAIGN
CONSULTANTS, AND ELECTED OFFICIALS.
No public servant should be employed as a lobbyist or campaign consultant. Lobbyists should not serve as campaign consultants, or employees of elected officials. Campaign consultants should not be on the payroll of elected officials. The financial separation among the three occupations (lobbyist, campaign consultant and elected official) should be absolute. Prohibitions imposed upon public servants should also extend to the employees of public servants and their immediate families.
3. SLOW THE LEGISLATOR-TO-LOBBYIST MERRY-GO-ROUND.
Elected officials and their staff should not be able to leave office and immediately start lobbying. A four-year interval between the two should be required by law.
4. STOP THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY PLAN.
Elected officials should be required to annually disclose the identities of any relatives of lobbyists on their office or campaign payroll. They should also have to disclose the names of any of their relatives who are employed by lobbyists or are registered as lobbyists.
5. OUTLAW SPECIAL INTEREST PROVIDED TRAVEL, MEALS AND GIFTS.
Public servants should be prohibited from accepting travel, meals and gifts from lobbyists and the special interests which employ them. This prohibition should extend to public servants, their employees, and their immediate families. The prohibition should also prohibit any political action committee (candidate, party, or otherwise) from paying personal expenses of an elected official. Special interests should not be able to provide personal perks to politicians through campaign contributions.
6. KEEP CONTRIBUTION LIMITS ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS.
Legislation repealing limits on the amounts of campaign contributions recently passed by the Missouri General Assembly should never be signed into law by the Governor. If the Governor signs the legislation, the first order of business in next year’s session of the General Assembly should be reinstating the limits.
7. PROHIBIT POLITICAL COMMITTEE-TO-COMMITTEE MONEY LAUNDERING.
No political action committee (PAC) should be allowed to launder money to any other political action committee. The prohibition should apply to all committees whether designated as party, candidate, or continuing committees. Limits on contributions by PACs should be the same as those for individuals.
8. REDUCE THE COST OF POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS.
No candidate should be allowed to maintain funds in a campaign committee for more than ninety (90) days after an election date. Funds remaining should be contributed to charity, returned to donors, or contributed to the political party of the candidate’s choice. No candidate should be permitted to receive a campaign contribution more than one year before or within one month of an
election. No campaign committee should be allowed to borrow money, not even from the candidate. No committee should be allowed to incur obligations in excess of money on hand.
9. HOLD LEGISLATORS ACCOUNTABLE FOR EXPENDITURES OF FUNDS APPROPRIATED
FOR THEIR USE.
Presently there is no consequence to a legislator who overspends the amount budgeted for the operation of their office. Legislators are allowed to carry over excess money from one budget year to another budget year when other departments of government are prohibited from doing so. Legislators are frequently reimbursed for expenses that are primarily of a personal nature or are more related to furthering political interest rather than serving the public. Unfortunately, legislators
are free to police themselves concerning the propriety of these expenditures. The power to regulate the office expenditures by legislators should be transferred to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission should be empowered to impose fines on legislators who over spend their office budgets. The Ethics Commission should determine when the in-district expenditures of the legislator on matters such as office staff, telephone, fax, internet, mileage, etc. are properly reimbursable as
public service related expenses rather than personal or political expenses.
10. STRENGTHEN ENFORCEMENT POWERS OF THE ETHICS COMMISSION.
The Ethics Commission should be given broad authority to investigate ethics concerns even where no formal complaint is filed. The investigative staff of the Commission should be expanded. Penalties for ethics and campaign finance violations should be enhanced. Vacancies on the Ethics Commission should be filled by vote of the Missouri Supreme Court if not immediately filled by the Governor.