It’s an interesting thing having the privilege to observe Missouri politics. You could point to hypocrisy in all walks of life, but it seems especially acute in the political profession and I observed a bit the last few weeks from the popcorn gallery.
The first was a hit piece ran by some in the more mainstream media attacking Abigail Blunt, the wife of Senator Roy Blunt for joining a country club near where she works. I admittedly think highly of the Senator, and would never consider joining any country club that would consider having me as a member, but his wife is a professional and at the top of her field. In that field, joining country clubs and networking with clients is just part of her work. Just as sometimes executives of newspaper chains whose editorial pages fight for the underprivileged join highfalutin country clubs.
It smells oddly like another attack on a powerful and successful woman, and one that wouldn’t likely be levied against a man. All too often some of the sanctimonious class rail against wage gaps and other very real gaps of equality while attacking those same women who against the odds have become powerful and successful out of the other side of their mouth.
While we’re on the subject of the media: It struck me the other day that the way that some in the media speak about lobbyists is a lot like the way President Trump speaks about the media. Are lobbyists worthy of scrutiny and criticism? Of course. Just as there are journalists worthy of the same, but as we are seeing that criticism can get out of hand.
If you listen closely the constant attacks and derisive rhetoric directed from President Trump to the media, and the same from the media to the profession of lobbying they are much more alike than you might imagine.
There is nothing wrong with lobbying or hiring professionals to present your case to elected officials. Regulate them, mistrust them, even criticize them, but maybe do it responsibly. Especially when you consider that newspapers employ lobbyists themselves.
OK, surely everyone sees the humor in the Missouri Alliance for Freedom suing Sen. Rob Schaaf a few months after awarding him as the defender of freedom or some such. Good Lord. The real debate on ethics is how you separate the elected officials for whom the state has set up a way for them to transparently raise money from these 501s who work in secret and are as the recent lawsuit shows often times a joke.
In this hillbilly’s opinion, groups who attempt to work within the spirit of the law like AFP and United for Missouri would benefit from clearing the air of some of these other groups that are overtly dark money groups formed to hide contributions for elected officials.
Speaking of ethics debates is there anything more hilarious, or out of touch, than some making a big deal about Lt. Gov. Mike Parson accepting lobbyist gifts? I hate to break it to those who don’t pay attention, but do you think elected officials aren’t having that same dinner or attending that same ballgame just because it isn’t on a lobbyist report?
I respect those with good intentions mean well here, but what is already happening and will happen even more if they are successful is that instead of a documented gift from a lobbyist with the who what when and where transparent the lobbyist simply gives a larger contribution to the elected official and the elected official pays for the “gift” out of their campaign account. The result is that there is much less transparency around the event than before the “ethics reform”
I’m not sure I have a better idea on how to eliminate lobbyist gifts, but as Garth Brooks once sang, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Those of us transparency lovers may long for the days when a lobbyist gift could be tracked instead of the new day of sanctimonious ethics that ends up ushering in a day when they can’t be tracked.
Now imagine that candidate just creates a dark money 501 for the lobbyist to contribute to picks up the tab….
OK, enough of the snark before I get into how no one in St. Louis has brought up the racist changing of St. Louis street names during World War I to punish German-Americans.
Quietly and professionally Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft deserves real credit for how he has handled the initiative petition certification process. He was on This Week in Missouri Politics and criticized Jason Kander for politicizing that process, and promised that he would not.
Yeah, I thought he was lying too.
However, all sides involved in the petition process have credited him with being a fair arbiter. Now in point of fact, he has installed tougher standards for certifying signatures, but he has stuck to those guidelines for all involved. There is no doubt he supports right-to-work remaining the law of the land in Missouri, but being fair to those with whom you disagree with is the real standard of integrity, and Ashcroft is more than meeting that standard.
- Kudos to the Governor Greitens’ team for appointing Senator Will Kraus to the tax commission. No one deserves the appointment more than someone who has dedicated his life to public service both in the military and the General Assembly. It’s also possible that those appealing the skyrocketing St. Louis County property tax rates have a new friend in the process.
- If you have time, watch this week’s episode of TWMP featuring former Senator Jim Talent. We also had a couple of opinion maker panel debuts in Rep. Tom Hannegan and Democratic strategist Garrett Webb.
- Lastly, boy, I really enjoyed the podcast with Jonathan Ratliff last week. He knows these legislative districts as well as anyone in the state. I think it’s worth a listen on the way of the fair.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.