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MO Supreme Court hears campaign finance arguments

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on whether changes to the state's campaign finance laws are constitutional.

A law passed last year removed individual contribution limits and also barred lawmakers from raising money while the general assembly was in session.

In March a Cole County judge tossed out the ban on fundraising during session, but left in the provision allowing unlimited contributions from individuals.

Attorney Chuck Hatfield represents the plaintiff, James Trout, who wants that provision thrown out, too: "I think people are still realizing that Missouri is one of the few states in the union that allows unlimited campaign contributions."

"The Legislature repealed contribution limits in this state, and I don't think anyone knew that happened," Hatfield added. "They did it in a bill that was amended on the floor of the Senate, with a Senate substitute that said, hey, we're gonna do some stuff about ethics,' and I should say, I'm not sure that the general public, unfortunately, associates the word ethics' with politicians."

The Attorney General's office is appealing the judge's decision to toss out provisions that limit who can run for office. But the state is not challenging the removal of the ban on fundraising during session, saying it doubts it could mount a successful appeal of the legislative session fundraising ruling, because a similar law was struck down by a federal judge 11 years ago.

A ruling from the court is not expected for at least a few weeks.

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