Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aldermen Pass Legislation Limiting Campaign Contributions to $10,000 in St. Louis Elections

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aldermen Pass Legislation Limiting Campaign Contributions to $10,000 in St. Louis Elections

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The Board of Aldermen passed a pair of bills on Friday, one intended to keep mega donors from unduly influencing local elections and the other meant to keep elected officials honest about the perks they receive.

The first bill, sponsored by 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie, would limit campaign contributions in city elections to $10,000 per election cycle.

The bill also would establish a five-member appointed board called the Municipal Officials and Officers Ethics Commission to investigate campaign finance violations. Violators would be subject to up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $500 fine.

Ogilvie said the purpose of his bill was to keep megadonors from writing huge checks and drowning out the voices of regular voters.

As it stands now, there is nothing in state or city law to prevent an individual donor or organization from pouring unlimited amounts of campaign cash into a local election.

And, although the bill passed Friday without a single "no" vote, aldermen have been grumbling about it since it was debated at a committee meeting last month.

The main gripe about the legislation is that it's too broad to keep determined donors from skirting the $10,000 limit and donating as much they'd like.

Twenty-seventh Ward Alderman Chris Carter has argued that a donor intent on pumping $100,000 into a local election could set up 10 political action committees and funnel $10,000 through each of them, easily bypassing the law's intent.

Tom Villa, 11th Ward alderman, called the legislation a "feel- good bill" that wouldn't accomplish what it intends to do.

Alderman Antonio French, a candidate for mayor who represents the 21st Ward, argued that the bill would encourage donors to become more stealthy in how they donate most likely through the use of PACs making it harder for watchdogs to track where campaign donations are coming from.

Missouri's Legislature eliminated campaign contribution limits in 2008. Since then, the state has seen individual donors pour millions of dollars into races supporting specific candidates or causes, with impunity. …

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