Gov. Nixon Calls For Strong Ethics Bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Jay Nixon said Friday he is urgently asking the legislature to pass a strong ethics bill that would replace a bill thrown out by the state supreme court. The court threw out that bill Tuesday because it said the way the general assembly passed the bill in 2010 was unconstitutional. Lawmakers tacked on the ethics law onto an unrelated bill, which violates the state's original subject law. According to Missouri's constitution a bill cannot be "so amended in its passage through either house as to change its original purpose."

Senate Bill 844 promoted transparency in campaign funding and aimed to prevent political corruption. Nixon said now, without the law on the books, there's no adequate criminal and civil penalties for crimes like obstruction of the ethics commission investigations and bribery of public officials. Nixon said the general assembly needs to reinstate another ethics bill to "bring greater openness, transparency and accountability to our government." He also hopes to add in strict contribution limits to campaigns and ban legislators from acting as paid "political consultants" for fellow lawmakers.

Nixon said without legislation like Senate Bill 844 there is a huge hole in Missouri's ethics law, especially during a busy election year. He argued the public deserves to know where political campaign money is coming from and going to, and urged the state legislators to pass the bill as quickly as possible. In response to the supreme court's decision, Nixon said he is glad that the judicial branch is keeping legislatures accountable and hopes everyone learns from this.

Associate Professor of Political Science Amy Gossett at Lincoln University in Jefferson City said this year's election season is certainly a very important time for politicians to be held accountable.

"The less restrictions on campaign contributions the more room for obviously corruption and undo influence of interest groups and corporations and unions on a campaign now comes," Gossett said.

Nixon argues his decision to push for the ethics bill has nothing to do with his running for re-election, but instead he's advocating for values he's had for decades. Gossett said while individual politicians may like not having the ethics law on the books, it looks better to the public for politicians to want the law in place.

"On an individual level, there'd be incentive for [Nixon] to not be pushing for this because it would be more conducive to individual politicians to be able to get money from wherever you can and to not have to disclose that, but it also isn't very politically savvy to do that," Gossett said. "It's probably on everyone's interest as a whole to at least publicly argue that it's a good idea."

The governor said he has sent letters to each senator and representative about his ethics legislation and the need to pass it quickly.