Spence rolls out ethics plan, including provisions tossed by judge
Dave Spence, a Republican candidate for Missouri governor, unveiled Thursday a package of ethics proposals that seek “to open up, clean up and straighten up state government.”
In a statement, Spence said his plan “includes strengthening campaign finance, lobbying and Sunshine laws.”
“Missourians deserve a government free from corruption that is focused on doing the people’s business,” his statement said. “Lax laws have led to conflicts of interest, state contracts for sale, and a blatant disregard of citizens’ access to public records.”
Spence did not provide any specific examples. But his plan would need to be approved by the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly, which has yet to address a judge’s decision earlier this year to toss out some campaign-disclosure requirements and other ethics mandates in place since 2010 because of technical problems with the initial bill.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has called for legislators to restore the tossed-out requirements, but so far little action has been taken. House Speaker Steve Tilley said progress on that front is unlikely during the final weeks of this session.
Spence’s proposals are far stricter than even the requirements now in limbo. They include removing the governor and other statewide officials from the Missouri Housing and Development Commission and the Missouri Development Finance Board and replacing them with average people.
His other proposed changes, and his explanations, include:
- “Capping at $25 annually all gifts, meals, travel, lodging or other expenditures by lobbyists for elected officials, staff, or any Missouri state employee. There is simply no reason for lobbyists to have unlimited spending power on meals or gifts intended to gain influence on anyone working for Missouri taxpayers.
- “Ending the ‘revolving door’ by instituting a cooling-off period from the time someone serves as an elected official to the time they can become a lobbyist. … This ban would apply to all gubernatorial appointees in paid positions as well as statewide elected officials and lawmakers.
- “Disclosing all campaign contributions by any company (including its officers, directors and owners) bidding for or applying for any taxpayer funded project. These disclosures should be part of the bidding or application process and include contributions made in the last three years to Missouri elected officials, candidates, state-based committees or national committees that support Missouri candidates.
- “Establishing a blackout period on political contributions from any entity participating in a competitive bid process or applying for any tax credit during the bid or application process. We should also have a ban on contributions from companies who obtain taxpayer-funded projects for one year after the project is awarded.
- “Increasing transparency by instituting a ban on any committee-to-committee transfer or other form of contribution that conceals the identity of a donor.” (That requirement was among those affected by the judge’s ruling.)
- “Creating and enforcing significant penalties for people who violate our campaign finance laws. This requires giving meaningful authority for the Missouri Ethics Commission to investigate and penalize people who break the law.” (A similar provision also was affected by the judge’s ruling.)
- “Requiring disclosures for 501(c)(4) organizations that spend money in our state on state issues and races. With unlimited campaign contributions, disclosure is critically important.” Now, such groups do not have to identify where their money comes from.
- “Restricting the types of investments that committees can make with their contributions. Investing in a certificate of deposit is understandable, but speculative investments that allow a candidate or committee to derive any other benefit should be prohibited.”
- “Ensuring Missouri’s Sunshine Laws provide transparency and accountability” by imposing “stronger penalties for governmental actors who willfully violate the law. “
Spence’s campaign asserted that “too many elected officials and government bodies deny properly requested records by claiming exorbitant fees to produce requested records. We also need to shift the burden of responsibility to the government to prove that records are exempt from disclosure.”
Start of update: Spence's proposed "blackout period" is interesting, in light of the fact that his firm, Alpha Plastics, applied for state tax credits in 2004 -- and he did make campaign donations that year as well.
But the Missouri Democratic Party, pushing back against Spence's "corruption" assertion, is continuing to focus on other matters.
“Good ethics starts with having honest public officials and Dave Spence simply has a hard time telling the truth," said spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki. "First he got caught fabricating his academic credentials, then admitted he lied about his bank’s $40 million bailout. How do you trust a guy who voted not to repay his bank’s bailout to the taxpayers - and then lied about it? If Dave Spence wants to have a serious conversation about ethics, he should start by learning how to tell the truth.”