Only four months into the year, Missouri legislators had already accepted more than $500,000 in gifts from lobbyists.
The $558,813 worth of gifts presented to lawmakers by lobbyists from Jan. 1 through the end of April is about the same given in past years, according to data provided by the Missouri Ethics Commission and compiled by St. Louis Public Radio.
That's an average of $2,836.62 in gifts per lawmaker, although if you go to LobbyingMissouri.org and look for yourself, you will quickly find that many among the 197 legislators took far more. And, we should point out, there are those who took nothing.
From expensive meals to sports tickets, there is no limit as to what and how much a legislator can take from lobbyists.
Efforts in the 2014 legislative session to curb or even ban the amount of money legislators can take from special interests failed to gain traction. The Joplin Globe early on endorsed a proposal by Jason Kander, secretary of state, who in January called for an ethics bill that restored campaign contribution limits, banned all gifts from lobbyists to all state elected officials, and required a three-year waiting period before ex-lawmakers can work as lobbyists.
Missouri, by the way, is the only state that allows unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited gifts from lobbyists. By the end of the year, legislators will easily have taken more than $1 million from special interests.
Closer to home, our nine Southwest Missouri legislators together accounted for $4,500 of the $558,813 in gifts reported by lobbyists in the first quarter.
Only one — Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho — took absolutely nothing. We applaud him and think that should be the standard.
Our laws make it too easy for those who make the laws to take money and gifts — lots and lots of money and gifts.
Let's get serious about limiting the influence of special interests and demand reform in Missouri's ethics laws.
Copyright Joplin Globe. Distributed by the Associated Press.