Initiative targeting government corruption likely to be on Missouri’s November ballot

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO - Missouri will likely see "A Clean Missouri" on the ballot in November 2018, a proposal to attempt to dilute the influence of lobbyists and big money in the state's elections and the legislative process.

Supporters submitted nearly 350,000 signatures through the initiative petition process to the Secretary of State's office on May 4.

One of the initiative's early supporters is Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph. Schaaf is termed out and is leaving Jefferson City this year after 16 years of service in the House and Senate.

While he will miss serving his constituents, he told FOX 2 he will not miss what he calls a culture of corruption in the Capitol.

"I think that the people of Missouri are sick and tired of seeing the legislature do the will of special interests instead of the will of the people and this is an effort to limit corruption," Schaaf said.

Missouri is still the only state without a lobbyist gift ban. Lawmakers accepted more than $1 million worth of ballgame tickets, meals and other perks last year.

Although Missouri voters closed a loophole in 2016 to cap individual campaign donations, millions of dollars are flowing so called "dark money" groups who do not have to disclose their donors.

Schaaf was once a target of one of these groups, A New Missouri. The non-profit is run by former Greitens’ Campaign Manager Austin Chambers and advocates for the governor's agenda.

Last year, the group bought ads featuring Schaaf's personal cell phone number.

"I think that the coercion and threats are effective and people who contribute large amounts of money and threaten to withhold that support are effective," Schaaf said.

A Clean Missouri would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts and would cap campaign contributions to House and Senate members. Clean Missouri supporters say the proposal closes the dark money loophole by capping donations to those candidates by individuals as well as groups or entities.

The proposal would require lawmakers to wait two years before they can turn around and lobby their colleagues, and allow the state to hire a non-partisan demographer to draw legislative districts.

A Clean Missouri's opponents like most of what's in the proposal, but claim it is a Democratic re-districting plan in disguise.

"Lobbyists and special interest groups will always put this cute little name on something that people can get behind," said state Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles. "Who is against cleaning up Missouri, nobody."

Schroer said the proposal gives too much power to the state auditor in selecting who will draw the maps. Right now, Auditor Nicole Galloway is the state's only Democratic statewide elected official.

"Once this takes place, you could have a district that stretches from district number one in northwest Missouri all the way down to Columbia, hundreds of miles," Schroer said. "[That's] just so they can get an even flow, force an even flow of Republicans and Democrats in these districts.

Schroer said the legislature can pass ethics reforms, but Schaaf said Missourians should not trust his colleagues.

Although Gov. Eric Greitens ran on an ethics platform and studied ethics at Duke University, he is currently dogged by two felony charges.

"The only way to get true ethics reform is to get the people to go around the legislature and do it for them," Schaaf said. "The legislative members, they benefit from the status quo. They use the system as it is to keep themselves in power, and keep winning."

The Secretary of State's office still has to certify all of the signatures collected by a Clean Missouri's supporters.

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