When it comes to denying that ill-timed campaign checks influence public policy, Missouri Republicans are having a hard time keeping their stories straight.
n the day before his House committee voted to exempt e-cigarettes from most tobacco regulation (and taxes), state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, received a $2,500 campaign donation from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, the Tribune reported.
Gov. Jay Nixon has since vetoed the legislation.
What caught our attention was Mr. Jones’ explanation that the check had nothing to do with his vote.
The check was written on April 23, and that’s the date that shows up on his Missouri Ethics Commission report. But the date that matters, Mr. Jones told the Tribune, was when he deposited the check. During the legislative session, he says, he rarely checks the post office box of his campaign. So, Mr. Jones says, he didn’t even know the check was there until long after the vote. He deposited the check on May 23, a couple of weeks after the session ended.
What is most interesting about that explanation is that it’s the exact opposite one other Republicans gave us when we noted a different ill-timed check from lobbyist Steve Tilley to the House Republican Campaign Committee. That check, for $10,000, came the day after Mr. Tilley signed up Tesla Motors as a client. By a couple of days after the check was deposited, anti-Tesla legislation had died an auspicious death.
At the time, Mr. Tilley, House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and other Republicans in charge of the HRCC told us that what mattered wasn’t when the check was deposited, but when it was written. The check, they said, was written before Mr. Tilley was working for Tesla.
To recap: If the date the check is written makes you look bad, wait to deposit it and use that date. If the deposit date makes you look bad, blame it on the date the check was written.
Here’s what voters know: Missouri is the only state in the nation that has no limits on lobbyists’ gifts and no limits on campaign donations. The companies trying to get the Legislature to bend to their will know this and are willing to write whatever size checks they need to get their way.
Lawmakers always deny the poorly timed checks have anything to do with their votes, unless, of course, it’s somebody in the opposite party, in which case they’re dirty as hell.
It’s a silly game. Ethics legislation could take away the argument, or at least make it more difficult, by limiting the flow of money, or at least requiring more disclosure during the legislative session. The brief-lived 2010 ethics law required 48-hour notice of any donation over $500 during the session.
(Excerpted from St. Louis Today 7/21/14 ).