Lawsuit over Twitter blocking sparks campaign finance controversy
COLUMBIA - State Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, is changing the way she is fundraising after an ethics complaint and a lawsuit.
Reisch is setting up a new account to raise money for legal expense as she fights a lawsuit filed by an attorney she blocked on Twitter. Mike Campbell said Reisch's action violated his first amendment rights.
Reisch intended to use campaign funds to cover legal expenses. She said people who run for elected office shouldn't have to take money out of their own pocket.
State law does not allow candidates to use campaign money for “personal expenses.” However, those dollars can be used for “ordinary expenses” related to campaigning. The law does not explicitly address legal expenses.
This week, Reisch's opponent for the 44th District seat, Maren Bell James, reached out the Missouri Ethics Commission to file a complaint what she calls a misappropriation of campaign funds.
Reisch said she does not respect the “frivolous lawsuits.”
“This is coming right out of the political, dirty playbook,” she said.
Reisch said she has been working with the Missouri Ethics Commission for the past week. She said they agreed creating the separate account for legal expenses, which no campaign dollars would fund, does not violate ethics commission standards.
Any money raised at the representative’s fundraiser in Hallsville on Thursday will be split evenly between Reisch’s reelection fund and the legal fund.
Reisch said donors are allowed to specify if they would like their money to go to one fund or the other.
She said she intends to file legislation later this year to make the restrictions on campaign funds for lawsuits “crystal clear.” She would like candidates and incumbents to be allowed to use campaign funds to fight lawsuits.
A representative for the Missouri Ethics Commission said she can not comment on complaints or confirm Reisch is complying with state law.
Jones could not be reached for comment.