A three-year effort to limit the amount of money flowing into city elections took a small step forward at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.
The city's Legislation committee, on a 9-0 vote, approved Alderman Scott Ogilvie's, D-24th Ward, measure capping contributions at $10,000 to each candidate every four years. A similar bill Ogilvie introduced in 2013 never received a vote.
"I'm very excited," Ogilvie said. "Everybody else has limits on campaign contributions, and there's no reason why the city of St. Louis should not have limits as well. You can see the agenda becoming more and more the agenda of a few billionaires throughout the state, and I think that's a real perversion of how local democracy is supposed to work."
Ogilvie's bill, which is modeled on contribution limits in place in Kansas City, applies to both aldermanic and citywide offices. Enforcement is in the hands of an appointed ethics commission, which would also monitor compliance with other ethics laws.
The contribution limits aren't perfect, Ogilvie acknowledged. The proposed caps are nearly four times larger than those for federal candidates. And if Missouri voters approve campaign contribution limits in November, the city's lid will also be four times larger than the state's. The bill also does nothing to address independent spending by outside groups.
"Quite frankly, there is no one ordinance that is a magic wand that solves this problem of having too much money in elections, but we're just so far out of the norm in St. Louis that this brings us back into the fold," Ogilvie said.
Also on Tuesday, the committee approved legislation updating a law already on the books that requires aldermen to report any gifts of more than $250. Alderman Donna Baringer, D-16th Ward, wants to boost that to $375, which adjusts for inflation.
"I felt this was the perfect time for us to go in, re-address it, so that everyone could know that it’s on the books, it is a real ordinance, it’s a law, and we should be following it," Baringer said. She said Mayor Francis Slay is the only elected official who has filed the required report.
"So now we bring it to light. We let everyone know, we formally announce this is an actual law that you must comply with, and then of course anyone like the media, or anyone who is also in politics has the right to look at your report," Baringer said.
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