«RM75»«FC»COL30.MDH - Deep Pocket Donor Finances Ballot Measure to Limit Deep Pocket Donors
To grotesquely paraphrase George Orwell's Animal Farm, "All elections are crazy. Some are more crazy than others." This year's election cycle in Missouri may stand as the craziest of all.
We have a Republican nominee for governor who previously was a Democrat. We have a Democrat nominee for governor who previously was a Republican.
In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, we had a candidate named "Dubie" who challenged an incumbent named Blunt.
Supporters of a ballot proposal to legalize what some call "dubies" and "blunts"came under the medical marijuana turned in petitions containing more than 273,000 signatures. Local election authorities tossed out about 10,000 signatures, leaving it about 2,000 short of the number needed.
Supporters have indicated they'll go to court to try to get it on the ballot. The secretary of state doesn't actually use the words "medical marijuana" in the press release. It's called "Version 6, 2016-135," for those who want to read about it themselves.
The Missouri Farm Bureau has endorsed a Democrat for Governor.
In statewide races for the two major parties, four primary candidate winners have never held public office before. In the race for secretary of state -- the chief election authority for all elected public offices -- neither major party candidate has ever held public office.
We have a tobacco tax increase the secretary of state has certified for the November ballot that is financed by "Little Tobacco."
We have a bigger tobacco tax increase the secretary of state has certified for the November ballot that is financed by "Big Tobacco." It includes an additional tax on "Little Tobacco."
Part of this craziness results from Missouri being one of only five states with no limits on campaign contributions. The sky is the limit for campaign cash in Missouri, and a couple of contributors aimed especially high this year. Their contributions alone amounted to more than all other contributions combined.
Interestingly, one of those top mega-donors almost solely bankrolled the entire multi-million dollar campaigns of a number of statewide candidates. All but the unopposed candidate lost. This is comforting regarding elections not being for sale.
The staggering amounts of money being spent in Missouri politics by well-heeled, deep-pocket contributors is so serious it even has the well-heeled deep-pocket contributors worried about it.
Fred Sauer, a businessman from Clayton has single-handedly financed an initiative petition to let voters re-institute campaign spending limits in Missouri. Sauer, who ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2012, contributed more than $1 million to an organization called Returning Government to the People. They circulated petitions and turned in more than 310,000 signatures to put the measure before voters.
It's called "The Missouri Campaign Finance Reform Initiative." It would limit contributions to an individual candidate to $2,600 and limit contributions to a political party to $25,000. It would ban the current practice of laundering money through different committees to hide the source of the contributions. It prohibits contributions by foreign interests and companies not legally authorized to conduct business in Missouri.
In 1994, voters approved Prop. A, which set limits on contributions to candidates and political parties. In 2006, lawmakers passed a measure repealing the contribution limits voters had set, but that bill was struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. They tried again in 2008 and got the job done. Missouri hasn't had contribution limits since.
Unlike the statutory changes limiting campaign contributions -- which lawmakers could change themselves -- the Missouri Campaign Finance Reform Initiative amends Article VIII of the Constitution. Only the people can change that.
The secretary of state has certified the proposal to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot as Constitutional Amendment 2. On election day voters will get to decide campaign contribution limits in Missouri -- regardless of how much money they have in their pockets.
[After a career in journalism, Mark Hughes became a top, non-partisan policy analyst for Missouri government including the state Senate, state Treasurer's Office and the utility-regulating PSC. He has been an observer and analyst of state government since the administration of Gov. Kit Bond.]