Eyes Wide Shut; Our View; New Speaker Says He Doesn't See Culture of Corruption. Really?

Article excerpt

Tim Jones says Missourians will see his kinder, gentler side now that he's taken over as the speaker of the Missouri House.

The Eureka Republican, fiery and combative in his three terms in the House, told the Post-Dispatch's Virginia Young last week that as speaker, he won't be quite the political demolition expert that he was last year as majority floor leader.

OK, we'll bite.

Admittedly, Mr. Jones hasn't been a favorite here, due mostly to his anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-voter, anti-reason policy positions and his full embrace of the culture of corruption in Jefferson City. If a lobbyist is offering tickets to sporting events or picking up greens fees, the man we dubbed "Timmy Tickets" is first in line.

But it could serve the St. Louis region well to have a speaker of the House from our community. There hasn't been one since Republican Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods in 2003-2004. If Mr. Jones finds a way to work with the rest of the St. Louis delegation, Republicans and Democrats, to promote policies that benefit the region, then we wish him well. His success could be good for St. Louis.

As he starts his new job, however, we offer this advice: Shoot straight.

Before he was elected speaker during Tuesday's veto session, Mr. Jones told Ms. Young: "I don't see this culture of corruption in Jefferson City. There's too many eyes, ears and camera phones to do anything wrong anymore."

There are really only two ways to look at that statement, and neither of them is good.

Either Mr. Jones really doesn't see the corruption around him (in which case we're here to help), or he's changed his mind on what is and isn't corrupt since 2010.

That was the year the Missouri Legislature passed Senate Bill 844, an ethics bill meant to address the "culture of corruption" in the capital city that Mr. Jones now says doesn't exist, apparently because of the sudden presence of so many iPhones.

Mr. Jones handled that ethics bill in the House, which would suggest that he supported its goals. That bill did a bunch of good things to address corruption. It created the state crimes of bribing a public official and interfering with an ethics investigation. It required gubernatorial appointees to publicly disclose their campaign contributions. It limited the ability of big donors to shift money between various campaign committees, thus hiding its true source. It created a new crime for lobbyists who file false expenditure reports. It gave the Missouri Ethics Commission expanded powers to conduct investigations.

That law passed, with Mr. Jones' support. It's no longer on the books, however, because the Missouri Supreme Court found one provision unconstitutional. …