Commentary: Missouri lawmakers taking too much from lobbyists

When it comes to collecting largess from lobbyists, the brazenness of Missouri legislators knows no bounds.

Over the years, they have invented any number of caucuses and special committees so that elected officials could be wined and dined without their names showing up on disclosure reports.

Now a report by Missouri Auditor Susan Montee suggests that lawmakers have shrugged off any collective sense of shame whatsoever. If legislative leaders think a party or retirement ceremony is in order, they simply have a staffer contact a lobbyist and order it up.

The state Senate administrator's office has a bank account that receives donations from lobbyists "to pay for food and beverage costs of senators and Senate staff when working late … and to pay the costs of the annual staff Christmas parties," Montee reported in a recent audit of the General Assembly.

The Missouri Ethics Commission approved the fund with the understanding that lobbyists would report the donations on their monthly expenditure forms, as required by law.

But it appears that's not being done in many cases, Montee said.

The House handles things a bit differently. Rather than bothering with a bank account, lawmakers and staffers contact lobbyists and ask them to write a check directly to a restaurant for food and beverage service.

The House keeps no records of the gifts, and many lobbyists don't report the donations to the ethics commission.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.