Your Opinion: ‘Wild West model’ of influence

Dear Editor:

Several weeks ago, I pointed out how at least half the Missouri House members and almost all the senators received campaign contributions from Ameren and just how powerful Ameren is in shaping the legislation directly benefiting their increased profits.

Based on limited space, I was unable to add that any amount of research would clearly show Missouri is the only state with the Big Three: absolutely no campaign contribution limits; absolutely no limits on the value of gifts from lobbyists to office holders and; no limits or policy on the revolving door of politicians jumping straight from holding office to lobbying.

That is why Missouri politics is referred to as “The Wild West model” for the other states, a model where the sky is the limit on influence peddling.

That’s why you have Ameren doling out almost $300 for dinner for a single politician, or World Series tickets worth thousands of dollars. That’s also why Ameren and others can funnel millions of dollars in contributions to the Legislature through its employees, other private individuals and company subsidiaries.

Over two decades ago, we the voters approved campaign contribution limits, but the Legislature repealed our wishes in 2008.

Ameren is the poster boy for what is so wrong with politics in our state, not just in the sheer volume of gifts (they have given to the entire legislature) and contributions, but in the sway they have over the legislative process. If you truly believe that Rep. Riddle, Sen. Kehoe, and Speaker of the House Jones came up with the infrastructure scam out of the blue, you are beyond naïve.

If you believe that the most powerful man in the Senate, President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, co-sponsored the Ameren bill and then called off public hearings scheduled by the PSC without being told to by his biggest contributor, Ameren, you are even more naïve.

The average citizen cannot walk into a representative’s office, hand over money and demand they pass legislation solely to benefit that citizen. Yet Ameren can do the same thing on a much grander scale.

Therein lies the problem with the political process in our state. It’s the political infrastructure that needs fixing, not the utility infrastructure.

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