Your Opinion: Chamber contribution for ballot issue questioned
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Politics and the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce Jefferson City Government and the Cole County Commission annually provide tax funds to the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce to promote our city and surrounding area.
It has come to my attention that the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce has given $10,000 to a political action committee called Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs, Inc. This entity supports passage of Amendment 7, the proposed transportation sales tax initiative on the Aug. 5 ballot.
Whether you are for the ballot issue or against it, you should be concerned that the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, which is supported by tax money from the city and county, feels it is appropriate to give money away for political purposes. If you are against the sales tax initiative for transportation, you should also be concerned the tax supported Chamber of Commerce is providing funding to a political action committee to pay for advertising to pass the transportation sales tax.
Regardless whether they are spending city or county money or funding comes from another source, the money still comes from someone receiving tax funding. The Chamber of Commerce seems to make a practice of using funds and resources to campaign in support of ballot issues, having previously spent funds on a local sales tax initiative called “Transformation.”
If they are using our tax dollars, this practice may be illegal and certainly feels unethical, at best. State statute 115.646 RSMo says public funds are not to be used for political purposes. The Missouri Ethics Commission publication 2014 Guide to Missouri Ethics Laws (Page 22) also addresses the issue.
If you oppose the ballot measure, this is like your own funds being used against you.
Passing funds from the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce to a political action committee seems to circumvent the purpose for which the city and county fund the Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of whether it is illegal for a tax supported entity to campaign on one side of a ballot issue, it certainly doesn’t seem to be how Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce should represent our city and county.
Maybe we are giving them too much funding if they have money to give away. Perhaps we need to find another entity to impartially represent the economic interests of the city and county and one that doesn’t give away funding for political purposes.