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Amendment 1 will clean up Missouri politics

Amendment 1 will clean up Missouri politics

November 4th, 2018 in Opinion

By former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, Sen. Rob Schaaf and former Sens. Bob Johnson, Sen. Marvin Singleton

When officials are not accountable to voters, they can be swayed by other forces. Partisanship, large donors and powerful lobbyists can hold greater influence than the families back home. This can leave taxpayers holding the bill for favors to special interests.

That violates our beliefs as Republicans, and it’s why we support Amendment 1 to clean up Missouri politics.

The Declaration of Independence proclaims that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. But under the current system in Missouri, district lines are drawn or influenced by party insiders to provide safe districts for politicians. The result? More than 90 percent of races with the current maps have not been competitive. General election results are foregone conclusions; there is little or no “consent of the governed.” The real contests occur in primary elections, which generally favor the candidate who can appear to be the most ideologically extreme and find favor with wealthy and partisan interests.

Since nearly all legislators are in safe seats, they win and attain leadership positions by keeping party leaders and major donors happy, while ignoring most of the voters of their districts. When they go to Jefferson City, they have no incentive to seek compromise—they thrive on conflict and gridlock, instead of solving problems for the people of Missouri. That’s not how our republic was designed to work.

The framers of our Constitution envisioned our representatives would be dependent on the people alone. How are we supposed to live up to that vision when district lines are drawn to prevent accountability? While political extremists and party insiders benefit from this system, honest Missourians and taxpayers pay the price.

This lack of accountability allows politicians to grow farther from the people they are supposed to represent, while getting closer with lobbyists and powerful donors. The influx of lobbyist gifts to the General Assembly further removes our legislators from the experience of families back home. On average, lobbyists give the General Assembly nearly $900,000 in gifts every year such as international travel, alcohol, expensive dinners and concert tickets. In 2017, we saw nearly $1,070,714 in lobbyist gifts, the highest year on record reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The agendas of lobbyists and special interests don’t always align with, and in many cases contradict, the needs of voters, consumers and taxpayers. When big money is given a seat at the table, the voices of Missourians back home are drowned out. Without an honest choice to remove unresponsive politicians, voters lose.

It’s not rocket science: Politicians shouldn’t be taking expensive lobbyist gifts while ignoring voters. This problem isn’t new, but now we have the tools to fix it with Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 offers voters a chance to clean up corruption in Jefferson City on their own, taking power from party insiders and special interests and giving it back to the people. Not only would it ensure Missourians have a real choice on Election Day, but it also weakens the lobbyist-dominated culture in Jefferson City, putting the needs of Missourians back at the top of the agenda.

Here are the facts on what Amendment 1 will do:

• Eliminate any lobbyist gift over $5.

• Require that legislative records be open to the public.

• Lower campaign contribution limits.

• Require legislators to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.

• Create an independent process with clear, transparent criteria to ensure no party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, ensuring everyone has a voice in our democracy, not just the ideologically extreme. Districts will be compact and contiguous.

Amendment 1 has broad, bipartisan support. Other Republican leaders have endorsed Amendment 1, including former U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair Paul DeGregorio, appointed by President George W. Bush; former FEC Chair Trevor Potter, appointed by President George H.W. Bush; and numerous Republican elected officials across Missouri. Supporters also include the AARP, the League of Women Voters, and Missouri Faith Voices.

We have a bipartisan problem, and Amendment 1 is a bipartisan solution. We’re proud to support Amendment 1 in November to rein in partisanship and restore Lincoln’s ideal of government of, by and for the people. Learn more at www.cleanmissouri.org, then join us on November 6 by voting Yes on Amendment 1.

Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), State Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), and former State Sens. Bob Johnson (R-Lee’s Summit) and Marvin Singleton (R-Joplin) are members of the Republicans for Amendment 1 coalition.