Missouri state senators in solidarity for ethics reform at capitol

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) – As floodwaters rush across Missouri, our state capitol is in a standstill. Not much is getting done in Jefferson City as state senators try to force a hearing on ethics reform.

A group of bi-partisan senators want true ethics reform discussed on the senate floor, but they claim State Senate Majority Leader Ron Richards is stalling.

“This week, we adjourned for two days without doing any business at leadership’s discretion,” said State Sen. Ryan Silvy. “We are ready to talk about ethics and help move the budget forward.”

But the budget is the only thing this group of Republican-led senators will pass through until the issue of "dark money" is cleaned up in the capitol. These are donations made by extremely wealthy donors to a politician’s 501c4, which allows the donors to remain anonymous. That money allows attacks against lawmakers.

“The House passed an ethics gift ban early in session, but the Senate refused to hear it in committee,” Silvy said.

Senate Majority Leader Richard, who can dictate if and when ethics is discussed, is under fire.

The Kansas City Star has called for him to step down from his position after a Washington D.C. watchdog group called for an FBI investigation for Richard allegedly accepting a $100,000 gift from a Joplin businessman. That gift came five days after Richard introduced a bill that could have helped the donor in a lawsuit.

Senator Richard has boldly denied any wrongdoing.

“I do think there gets to be a point that a statesman like that is going to have to look at allegations and investigations underway and for sake of institution step down,” said Rep. Peter Merideth (St. Louis).

Meredith believes it is high time to pass ethics reform in the capitol.

“Everyone who is in charge feels they can do what they want and are finding ways around laws and bring money in without transparency, and we are seeing it at every level,” Merideth said.

Fox 2 News reached out to Richard for comment, but our news crew at the capitol was told his weekly news conference would be Thursday or Friday and that he would provide a comment at a later time.

Richard’s spokeswoman said Wednesday that he has been extremely busy working on the state budget and that would be his first concern for the state until it is done.