Missouri legislators wine and dine, lobbyists pass the envelopes

Nicole Lunger/Missouri Business Alert
Nicole Lunger/Missouri Business Alert

Last week, on the night before Wednesday’s one-day veto session of the Missouri Legislature, and for a few hours on the morning of the session, about 60 Missouri legislators hosted or co-hosted 18 separate fundraising events in a Jefferson City bar district to draw in campaign contributions.

Political lobbyists representing industries and special interests whose fates the lawmakers would decide with their floor votes were in attendance. Many handed over plain white envelopes to the host legislators as they entered. The envelopes contained the fuel that propels Missouri politics: contribution checks.

For legislators to engage in political fundraising while they’re in session looks bad enough that more than two dozen states have banned it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Missouri is not included in that list.

Missouri’s state political system operates under the loosest ethics restrictions in America. Among recent controversies that system has spawned is the much-debated practice of lobbyists providing extravagant meals and gifts to lawmakers, which critics say smacks of legalized bribery.

The fundraisers are the reverse side of that, say legislators.

Records of last week’s haul aren’t yet available. However, according to an analysis of Missouri contribution data from the National Institute for Money in State Politics, state legislators received $796,000 in donations during the week of last year’s veto session, making it one of the highest fundraising weeks of the year.

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