Claiming that he has a conflict of interest, House Democrats have asked Speaker-in-waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to abstain from voting on Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to repeal campaign contribution limits.
The conflict, the Democrats say, comes from a Missouri Ethics Commission decision which will enable Richard to keep all of the money he received from excess campaign contributions in 2007 if the limits are repealed during this legislative session:
Reps. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, and Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, were all named in a March 18 Missouri Ethics Commission release that stated they would have to return campaign contributions if the Missouri legislature did not overturn the caps on campaign limits.
The legislation that has already passed in the Senate would repeal individual campaign finance limits and mandate that donations over $5,000 would have to be disclosed within 48 hours of the gift.
Democrats have asked the three legislators to abstain from voting on the legislation, claiming they would each benefit financially from the vote.
Icet and Smith both said they have not decided yet whether they would abstain from voting. Richard could not be reached for comment.
House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, sent out letters Monday asking some Republicans not to vote on the important measure. Other important House Democratic leadership signed on to LeVota’s news release.
LeVota said the issue is clear. “If you directly benefit from a vote, you should abstain from voting,” he said.
On March 31, Richard told an Associated Press reporter he might abstain from the vote:
Richard, R-Joplin, said he supports repealing the limits again. But when asked whether he had an extra incentive to back the legislation this year, Richard replied that he might abstain from the vote.
"I don't want to have any innuendo that I'm doing it for monetary reasons," Richard said.