Lobbyists spend nearly $1 million each year on gifts for Missouri lawmakers. The types of gifts vary greatly -- from expensive meals and drinks to tickets for sporting events to small things like stamps and books.
Each month, lobbyists have to disclose those gifts. And, in partnership with NPR, St. Louis Public Radio has a website (LobbyingMissouri.org) that keeps track of it all.
The Missouri House could debate a bill this week that would enact some changes to how lobbying is conducted and disclosed in Jefferson City.
Currently, there are no limits on how much a lawmaker can receive in gifts from lobbyists. The gifts from lobbyists can include anything from food and drinks to expensive travel to sports tickets. Altogether, lobbyists spend about $1 million each year on the gifts.
A bill by state Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, would make some changes to lobbying practices, but it wouldn't be the sweeping ethics reform that many have called for.
Almost 300 bills were prefiled in the Missouri Senate and Missouri House before the legislative session even opened. Now that the legislative session is underway, some of those bills will fade away, others will move through the legislative process and even more new ones will be introduced.
No wonder it's hard to keep up with what's going on in the legislature.
This week the Politically Speaking crew welcomes Secretary of State Jason Kander to the podcast. Kander, a Democrat from Kansas City, narrowly captured the statewide office in 2012 after a hard-fought contest with Republican Shane Schoeller.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is once again pressing for ethics reform in state government, and for the resurrection of campaign donation limits. But this time, Nixon may be hoping for stronger interest in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, where some GOP legislators now share some of his views.
Companies and other organizations with an interest in Missouri state government hire lobbyists to influence policy in Jefferson City. State law requires lobbyists to disclose how much they spend in the process, listing which officials received benefits, such as free meals, professional sports tickets, trips and other gifts.
Lobbying Missouri, a new reporting partnership of St. Louis Public Radio and NPR, provides an interactive way to follow the money.
Ah, the summer recess. A time for legislators to unwind, have a few cold ones, and get taken to baseball games by lobbyists.
Even though Missouri lawmakers won't return to Jefferson City until next week's veto session, lobbyists have continued to shower legislators with gifts through the dog days of summer. Lobbyists have spent about $100,000 on gifts since mid-May.
That brings the grand total for 2013 to $819,127.47.
April was a good month for legislators hoping to receive freebies from lobbyists, showing a sharp uptick from the previous month in gifts, according to the most recent lobbyist disclosures.
The grand total for gifts so far is $619,157. Once again, the vast majority (75%) of the gifts for this month were to groups and committees instead of individual legislators. As we've detailed before, it's a practice that hides the true recipient of the gift.