By Marshall Griffin, KWMU
Jefferson City, MO – State audits of the Missouri House and Senate examine lawmakers' solicitation of money from lobbyists.
State Auditor Susan Montee criticizes both chambers for not reporting money lobbyists used to pay for meals, gift cards, Christmas parties and retirement receptions.
She says the Senate solicited more than $76,000 from lobbyists between December 2003 and June 2008.
"When you have the Senate soliciting contributions from lobbyists, then you have more potential for a conflict of interest, and it may actually be one," Montee said.
State Senate Administrator Jim Howerton says, though, that the fund set up to hold lobbyist contributions is not illegal, and that it saves the state money on expenses generated by working long hours.
"The main purpose of the administrator's fund was to provide a way for us to feed our staff when we were in for late nights and filibusters, when our staff couldn't get a way to eat," Howerton said.
In a written response, State House officials said it would be inappropriate for them to tell lobbyists to report expenses. Instead, they asked them to directly pay vendors for meals and parties.