Former State Representative Doug Harpool, who lost to incumbent State Senator Norma Champion, R-Springfield, last year, has some pointed words for the Republican-controlled state legislature in a letter to the editor to the Springfield News-Leader.
Harpool, who sponsored the legislation that created the Missouri Ethics Commission, said:
The recent session of the General Assembly once again failed to address lobbying reform, campaign finance and ethics reform. The Republican-controlled legislature in Jefferson City failed to even debate the subject. As a result special interest lobbyists remain free to make unlimited contributions to Missouri politicians. Elected officials, their spouses and staffs continue to personally profit for acting as employees and political consultants for special interests. License offices can still be awarded to campaign contributors without competitive bid. Elected officials still receive thousands of dollars in gifts, meals and free vacations from lobbyists.
Harpool makes some of the same points I have made in The Turner Report since this blog was created in 2003. He concludes his letter by writing:
Voters will not get the performance they deserve from their elected officials until tough new ethics laws are passed. The present system rewards political candidates controlled by those special interests willing and able to contribute large sums to politicians. The interests of the majority of voters become only secondary concern.
Large contributors don't care about crime labs for the Ozarks or restoring health care for the working poor. The future of financing public schools or our state higher education aren't foremost on their minds. The system makes those crucial issues secondary to the issues of special interests.
We need ethics reform. We need a change in leadership in Jefferson City.
I would add to what Harpool says. It is not just the way poltiical business is done that needs changing. As long as our local, regional, state, and even national media pay more attention to how much money candidates raise rather than the sources of that money there will continue to be no real pressure to reform.
Whether that is a conscious decision by editors and publishers not to emphasize the effect money plays on the choices made by our elected officials, or a by-product of downsizing at newspapers across the country I do not know, but as long as this aspect of politics is ignored, there will be little push for reform.
Jack Abramoff-type stories can be found in every state of the union. The only problem is someone has to be looking for them.