Your observer has thought throughout this campaign of writing something about the demagoguery behind the phrase “corrupt career politicians” that has been thrown around by challengers who seem to lack the intelligence to say how they will solve the problems of the state and the nation and think name-calling is the highest intellectual standard they need to display.
Then we read Jason Hancock’s article in The Kansas City Star Tuesday. In a year when “corrupt career politicians” has been such a buzz phrase that relies on an intentionally uninformed public’s distrust of government, the Missouri Senate majority appears to have volunteered to become a poster child.
Jason’s article says Republican state senators are soliciting money from people who want to buy “face-to-face meetings with GOP leaders when they return to the state Capitol to begin legislating in January.”
A $5,000 donation will buy, among other things, a dinner with the Senate Republican leadership team during the first two weeks of the session.
Suppose you can’t afford 5K. No problem. Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin and Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City would love to have breakfast with you for just $2,500.
If you or your organization don’t have that much, well, you might have to go hungry in more ways than one in the 2017 session. We say “might” because, despite appearances to the contrary, we don’t want to actually accuse Richard and Kehoe of participating in “pay for play.”
Wonder how much a “hello” might cost as one of the majority senate leaders goes the few steps across the hall from his office into the chamber.
This news breaks less than six months after legislators were patting themselves on the back for working on ethics bills—and passing some, toothless though they were.
Missouri remains the only state in the nation without campaign contribution limits and no ban on gifts to legislators from lobbyists. Nor, it is obvious, is there any limit on how much the leaders can charge those wanting to get close to them for breakfast and dinner. But building confidence in government by the electorate has been one of the lowest priorities of the legislature for a long time. Now, you might ask, can it get any lower?
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 2-1. Of the seventeen seats up for election next week, four Republicans and Four Democrats have no significant challengers. So before the contested seats are decided, Republicans are guaranteed to hold their majority, 18-7. If the Democrats are to break the two-thirds GOP control of the Senate, they must win six of the nine contested elections next Tuesday.
If you’re supremely confident that you will be in total control of a situation, why worry about ethics and appearances of impropriety? Make it profitable.
Dinner (or breakfast) might be served. But public confidence sure isn’t.