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Missouri bill would limit lawmakers-turned-lobbyists' funds

March 5, 2016 at 5:45 a.m. | Updated January 1, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

The Missouri Senate this week unanimously passed a bill that aims to restrict donations from campaign funds of legislators who become lobbyists.

"It's more about what you can do - if you decide to become a lobbyist - what you can do with your campaign funds," Senate Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told reporters late Thursday afternoon. "As you hear me say all the time, when you talk about ethics bills, it's a lot about what passes and what doesn't pass the smell test.

"And, you know, the ability to go into lobbying and then have a campaign account that's active that you can use to dish out to people, is just not right."

The bill approved Thursday limits the ways in which money in a campaign committee can be invested and bans elected officials from holding on to their campaign money if they become lobbyists.

If the bill becomes law, elected officials would have to dissolve their campaign committee when they register as a lobbyist with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The Senate's vote Thursday was on a bill the House passed in January, which was sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

The Senate's changes sent the measure back to the House, which either can pass it with the Senate's changes or ask for a conference committee to negotiate a compromise between the two versions.

"My assumption is that bill would go to conference, but I can't guarantee that," Kehoe said. "That's what the process is about.

"We're going to work together to see what we can work through with both bodies and see what we can get to the governor's desk."

Barnes told the News Tribune on Friday afternoon: "As with every ethics bill, I remain optimistic that we will be able to pass meaningful ethics reform.

"The House has shown it is serious about the topic, and I know Sen. Kehoe is serious about it as well.

"It is a sign of great progress that we already have several of these bills in conference committees."

Under the Senate-passed version of the bill, any money the lawmakers-turned-lobbyists have when they become a lobbyist would have to be given to charity, returned to donors or donated to a political party organization.

Kehoe has talked a lot about making campaign donations more transparent.

He said this week that giving the money to a party committee keeps that transparency.

"The political party committee obviously discloses what it does with its funds," he explained, "so, it's still part of the transparency process."

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, passed an amendment requiring political nonprofits run by a candidate's staff or spouse to disclose their donors.

The bill was proposed after an incident in which then-Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, resigned from office in 2012 to become a lobbyist and political consultant.

At that time, he still had more than $1 million in campaign funds, most of which he invested in a band in his hometown.

Over the years, Tilley has donated funds to various Missouri legislators, some of whom have hired him as a campaign consultant.

The Associated Press reported the Kansas City Star couldn't reach Tilley for a comment.

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