Friday, September 14, 2012

ALEC getting its money's worth out of Speaker of the House Tim Jones

New Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, did not have any lobbyists' gifts during the American Legislative Exchange Council national conference in Utah in July, but his latest campaign finance report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission certainly raises some questions.

Apparently alone among the Missourians attending ALEC, Jones received a $1,251.58 campaign contribution, dated August 31.

The contribution is the third this year from ALEC for Jones, who has been ALEC's top water carrier in the Missouri Legislature, helping push model legislation written by special interests. Earlier this year, ALEC gave Jones $350 on June 21 and $1,071.39 on January 17.

The January 17 and August 31 contributions are unusual amounts for normal campaign contributions and appear far more likely to be reimbursement for expenses, possibly including costs of lodging and travel, though the contributions are not listed as in-kind.

ALEC would appear to be getting its money worth out of Jones since his first news conference as speaker included an echo chamber endorsement of ALEC's anti-teacher, anti-public school sentiment, and a promise to lead an attack on teacher tenure.

The shadowy ALEC, which over the years has provided lazy legislators with cookie-cutter laws ranging from the Voter ID legislation pushed by secretary of state candidate and ALEC member Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, to the various anti-public education, anti-federal health care and unnecessary gun legislation sponsored by ALEC member Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, has been under attack in recent months, primarily because of Voter ID laws and the controversial Stand Your Ground gun legislation, which jumped into the spotlight after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

As I noted in recent Turner Reports posts, Missouri lobbyists, likely at the request of legislators have been burying the wining and dining of legislators by special interests by crediting it to the entire General Assembly or to the House or Senate caucuses, rather than to individual legislators, despite the fact that only a handful of state legislators, all Republican during the past few years, have attended the annual meetings, which are generally a vacation for the legislators and their spouses.

The following is taken from the September 2 Turner Report;

Not one Democrat and only a handful of Missouri Republicans attended the national American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July, but Missouri Ethics Commission documents that went online Saturday indicate that state lobbyists are crediting most of their expenses to the entire General Assembly.
By doing so, the expenses are not credited to any particular legislator, though those attending the convention may have received as much as hundreds of dollars worth of gifts from lobbyists representing special interests that are trying to curry the favor of the legislators.
Among those who credited their expenses to the General Assembly:
-CenturyLink lobbyist Doug Galloway reported $1,000 in meals and drinks
-AT&T's John R. Sondag, $550 in meals for "dinner" and $800 for the Missouri Night reception
-Bryan Cave LLC's Guy William Black, $800 for meals
-Ford Motor Company's Tony Reinholdt, $600 for meals
-Catalyst Group's Daniel Pfeifer, $800 for meals
-Cerner's Carrie Sherer, $800 for meals
-Missouri Chamber of Commerce's Tracy King, $800 for meals.
The total is $6,100 in lobbyists' gifts credited to the Missouri General Assembly, while only a few legislators, and no Democrats, attended the annual conference.
Showing a little more accuracy, but not much, lobbyist Trey Davis, representing Missouri Energy Development Association, credited $1,371.84 to the House Majority Caucus.
Judging from the lobhyists' reports, it appears that those attending the conference included Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem; Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis; Rep. Shelley Keeney, R-Marble Hill.
A few other legislators appear to have gone, but are not listed as receiving lobbyists' gifts specifically credited to the ALEC conference.
It is time that Missouri's mainstream media start a full-scale investigation of ALEC's influence on the legislature, especially on our new Speaker of the House. Just what are these contributions, with their unusual numbers, that Tim Jones is receiving from ALEC? Do they include the golf outings that were credited to lobbyists a few years back, but have vanished from reports of the last two ALEC conferences.

And what are the special interests that ALEC represents getting from Tim Jones? Judging from recent years, it does not appear to be anything that would improve the lives of Missourians.

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