New rule causes influx of federal PACs to register with Missouri Ethics Commission

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Those wishing to know how much money out-of-state groups and federal political action committees are spending in the Show-Me State no longer have to look beyond the Missouri Ethics Commission.  

A new rule went into effect on August 8, 2018, mandating out-of-state committees — that meet specific requirements — register and file with the MEC.  This has caused an influx of federal committees to register within Missouri.

“We are getting a lot of activity. [September 7, 2018] is the deadline for committee formation before the November election and we are seeing a lot of activity. Now, they have 20 days after they form to file the Statement of Committee Organization with us, so we will probably continue to see more come in,” said MEC Director Liz Ziegler.

The committees being registered are existing out-of-state committees that, until now, only had to report financial information to the Federal Ethics Commission.

There are two possible thresholds that an out-of-state committee can meet to trigger the new rule: a certain intake of Missouri donations or a certain amount spent in Missouri.

If 20 percent of the committees aggregate contributions for the preceding 12 months comes from Missouri then that committee now must register with the MEC. An out-of-state committee spending more than $1,500 in a calendar year in Missouri — either on a race or donating to a candidate — will also meet the requirements for the new rule.

“We’ve had a lot of questions and conversations with people who represent these federal PACs,” said Ziegler. “We’ve really been having that ongoing conversation with them for a while. This is the tail end of it.”

The rule was implemented to clarify existing statute and make consistent the rules requiring committees domiciled outside the state of Missouri and out-of-state committees, including certain federal committees, to register and file campaign finance disclosure reports with the MEC.

Implementation of the requirements also serves to give voters more timely, easier to access information about which out-of-state groups are spending money in Missouri and increases transparency.

“The activity that these committees have in Missouri will be reported with the same information that any other committee reports,” said Ziegler. She noted that in some instances the MEC requires more information than the Federal Ethics Commission and that the filed dates are also different.

“There will be consistent reporting now,” she added.

This emergency rule was filed April 30, 2018, and became effective August 8, 2018. The commission requested the emergency rule so that it didn’t take effect in the middle of an election period. The rule is set to expire on February 4, 2019.

The MEC got no comments during the rulemaking period and has worked communicating the requirements for the new rule for several months.

“I wouldn’t say we have run into any problems. It’s been more of us providing the information and making sure they understand,” said Ziegler. “It’s been more questions and no problems.

“If anyone has any questions about the rule, they should call. We are happy to answer their questions. We are trying to be as transparent as we can and that’s what we have been doing.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.