Ethics Again

KC Star’s Jason Hancock reported last week on the lack of transparency in money flows in the Capitol.   See it here.  This has been a theme for the last couple of years.  Hancock’s article focuses on the so-called “issue development” committee, a new invention. 


Republican leadership explains it as “formalizing caucuses, allowing groups to function like committees except they study issues to develop policy, not necessarily to pass specific legislation, then they can pass their work to legislative committees. More freedom and flexibility.”


But Democratic critics, and some lobbyists think it’s a way to obfuscate who’s receiving lobbyist-paid meals. 


Jim Lembke, who lost his state senate re-election bid last year to Sen. Scott Sifton, was pounded ceaselessly for the meals and gifts he received from lobbyists.  Legislators with an eye on their next election are instinctually wary of getting tagged; some reimburse lobbyists for their expenditures.  However the practice of using campaign funds to do so draws ethical challenges as well.



There seem to be two general camps in these discussions.  The first, of which I am a part, believes in the corruptibility of humans – any human.  This is from my own experience.  I have done the wrong thing too many times.  Therefore we design our public institutions as much as possible to remove individuals from temptations, and we keep everything as above the board as possible.


The second, which is becoming more and more prevalent, is the “good guy” camp.  I’m a good guy, this stuff could never influence me.  I came here with convictions; I still have them. (Bring on the steak.)


I find this a dangerous conceit. 



But if nothing else the quote below should illuminate to lawmakers the importance of transparency – both in lobbyists gifts, but also in political fundraising which has been infected by faux non-profits and hidden donors.  The continued lack of transparency undermines the public’s confidence in the legislature’s integrity.


Pull Quote: “I didn’t believe it until I got down here, but these things have no impact whatsoever on how people vote,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot, a Lee’s Summit Republican.



Most regular people don’t believe it.


Originally in April 9 MOScout.