For many years now our General Assembly has failed to deal with one of the greatest threats to good governance in Missouri—the state's unnecessarily lax ethics rules. These days it's not unusual for legislators to leave public service mid-term, only to begin lobbying their former colleagues on behalf of special interests immediately after leaving office. And that practice accentuates a host of other questionable campaign and gift conventions that have taken root in Jefferson City. There should be no question about who has the allegiance of our legislators at the Capitol. Missouri's political culture is overdue for a pivot toward good governance and away from self-serving cronyism.
Fortunately, it appears the legislature is on track to make real progress in the realm of ethics this year. The menu of reforms is diverse, too. Limits to gifts from lobbyists to legislators appear to be squarely on the table. The chambers also appear on track to put a door stop in the revolving door of legislators turned lobbyists so that our elected officials aren't trading on their public service—both while they serve and immediately after they've left. Other campaign finance changes and transparency measures promise to ensure that the line between public service and private gain is bright and unambiguous. Indeed, for taxpayers to have trust in their government, it is important that they have confidence in their own elected officials; clearly circumscribing what the appropriate behavior is while they're in office serves both the trust interests of the public and the long-term professional interests of those elected to serve in public office.
Kudos to the legislators from both sides of the aisle who are involved in this effort. I look forward to the debates.
About the author
Director of Government Accountability