Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Could Koster-Schweich Race Lead to Ethics Reform in Missouri?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Could Koster-Schweich Race Lead to Ethics Reform in Missouri?

Article excerpt

Call us cockeyed optimists, but 2016 might finally be the year the Missouri political establishment decides to seriously tackle its rampant corruption problems tied to loose ethics rules.

Why?

Two likely candidates for governor that year, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, are shining the spotlight on the urgent need for ethics reform.

This week, Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, announced changes to the ethical boundaries that will guide his own campaign finance decisions. Following damning allegations of a too-cozy relationship with lobbyists representing corporations Mr. Koster's office was suing (or thinking about suing) in a New York Times story, Mr. Koster said he will no longer accept campaign donations from the corporations or representatives of them that are involved in litigation with his office. Further, he said he would no longer accept gifts from lobbyists.

These are potentially excellent, though overdue, decisions made by a politician whose record on this subject has been a bit of an anchor on his career. We add the modifier "potentially" because one of the elements of the Times story that was most troubling was how attorneys general throughout the country depend on large contributions from national political action committees. If corporations move to merely funnel all of their donations there, Mr. Koster's changes could end up being mostly window dressing.

But it's a start.

Then there is state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican considering a run for governor in 2016, who on election night unleashed a screed targeting the culture of corruption in Jefferson City. Because Republicans dominate the Legislature, they benefit heavily from this culture.

"We have people in this state who brag about having political armies of lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and PACs, groups who manipulate politicians like pawns on a chess board," Mr. Schweich said. "If you do as they say, you are rewarded by an endless spigot of cash. But if you don't, they find primary opponents for you, they file lawsuits against you, they threaten you and they try to intimidate you."

Like Mr. Koster, Mr. Schweich has had at least some issues related to campaign finance that make it difficult to firmly place the white hat atop his head. He accepted thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Republican uber-donor Rex Sinquefield.

Mr. Sinquefield has since found a new gubernatorial favorite, former GOP House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Mr. Schweich has charged that she has been "bought and paid for by one donor."

Two years before the election, Mr. Sinquefield already has given her campaign, directly or indirectly, about $1 million. That's 70 percent of what she's raised. For the past month, he's been writing her $10,000 checks every week, as if she's on the payroll. …

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