Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A reminder to legislators: How can you talk about ethics at meetings in which everything is paid for by special interests?

My post last week about the Senate Retreat in St. Louis seems to have slipped under the radar (likely because no one considers it a big deal when lobbyists and special interests foot the bill for legislative meetings), but it bears repeating:

What kind of chance is there for meaningful ethics legislation when our state senators are discussing the possibility of curbing the influence of lobbyists at a meeting paid for by those same lobbyists?

Following is a reprint of that post from last week:

When Senate Republicans met at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis Dec. 3 to discuss ethics reform and other issues that face them in the 2010 legislative session, their meals were paid for by lobbyists for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the payday loan industry, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

None of the meals will show up on the senators' forms when those are posted Feb. 1 on the Ethics Commission website because the meals, drinks, and travel were purchased for the Senate Majority Caucus.

And it wasn't just the senators who enjoyed the generosity of the Chamber, according to the documents. Meals and entertainment were provided for the wives of President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, Budget Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington; Caucus Secretary Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, Majority Caucus Whip Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters; and Sen. Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City.

The only senators listed as receiving gifts from Chamber lobbyist Trey Davis were Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville; and Jane Cunningham, Chesterfield.

The Ethics Commission documents show Davis spent $2,146.84, including $94.50 for entertainment for Mrs. Ridgeway and $73.50 for entertainment for Mrs. Cunningham. Meals and entertainment totals for the wives included $152.30 for Brenda Shields; $63.65 for Chris Engler; $117.23 for Donna Scott; $116.13 for Molly Dempsey and $139.23 for Nancy Mayer.

A total of $1,100 for travel was footed by the Chamber lobbyist.

Payday loan giant Advance America Cash Advance Center lobbyist Julie Townsend paid $1,040.22 for meals, food, and beverage for the caucus, according to the Ethics Commission documents, as well as $60.13 for meeting expenses, and $489.18 for travel for a total of $1,589.53.

Lobbyist Jewel Patek, representing HTH Companies, Union, also paid $1,589.53 for meals, food, beverage, and lodging, according to the Ethics Commission documents. Before becoming a lobbyist, Patek was a member of the House of Representatives, one of those who jumped immediately from making legislation to attempting to influence it, another of the targets of some of the proposed ethics bills.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Fix preview of the majority caucus indicates a welcome was given by a representative of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and that the agenda included speeches from Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, GOP consultants David Barklage and Randy Gutermeth from the polling firm American Viewpoint, and Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Mayer discussing the budget


Anonymous said...

Really? Really...

Anonymous said...

Excellent points Randy!