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Nixon calls for campaign donation caps

Republican leaders said Monday that they were cool to Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposal to reinstate Missouri’s limits on campaign donations, calling it a step backward.

Nixon, during his State of the State speech to the Legislature last week, said a single donor right now can significantly influence an election by writing a large check, which he said is “corrosive.”

“We need to set strict limits on campaign contributions that are undermining the sovereignty of the people and subverting the fundamental principle of free and fair elections,” Nixon said.

Republicans contend that not having campaign finance caps promotes transparency by eliminating the incentive for donors to obscure the origins of money flowing into campaigns. House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said restricting people’s freedom to donate to campaigns is the corrosive idea.

House Speaker Steven Tilley said it is hypocritical for Nixon to call for donation caps while simultaneously accepting campaign contributions that would exceed those limits.

“It’s kind of ironic. It’s the pot calling the kettle black, so to speak,” said Tilley, R-Perryville.

Missouri law currently does not restrict donations, but it does require political campaigns to report all contributions exceeding $5,000 within 48 hours. State campaign finance data show that since 2008, Nixon reported receiving more than $7 million in donations of at least $5,000. That is about 7 percent of the $105 million in large donations reported statewide during that period.

Tilley, since 2008, reported receiving about $1 million in donations of at least $5,000. Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is expected to run against Nixon for governor in 2012, has received nearly $3 million in large contributions.

Together, Nixon, Tilley and Kinder account for more than 10 percent of the total donations exceeding $5,000 reported to Missouri Ethics Commission since 2008.

Nixon said that he consistently has defended campaign finance limits and still thinks they are a good idea.

“These huge checks that come in, especially in some of the smaller races, tip the scales, and I think reasonable campaign contribution limits are supported by Missourians and are important to have,” Nixon said.

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