JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – It hasn’t yet been a year since Missouri voters passed Amendment 2, a campaign contribution reform measure seeking to place restrictions on how money can be donated or maneuvered in the realm of Missouri elections, but it’s already led to a number of legal challenges in the Show-Me State.
Now, one more can be added to the list, as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday filed a lawsuit arguing that businesses should be able to put money into their own political action committees (PACs).
The current law, which took effect following the November 2016 election, allows businesses to set up PACs. It also allows them to send money to other PACs set up by other companies. But, according to a recent decision from the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC), it does not allow a business to invest in their own PAC. In fact, that business would be subject to fines and penalties from the MEC, ranging from at least double and up to five times the amount of any contribution.
In both March and July, the MEC affirmed the conclusion that “a corporation or labor organization may not contribute its own funds to its connected PAC, but that it may contribute direct corporate or union funds to an “unconnected” PAC.”
The Chamber contends the language in Amendment 2 did not forbid businesses from funding their own PACs and says the MEC decision is an error and must now be fixed by the courts.
“This new direction taken by the Missouri Ethics Commission creates a confusing, contradictory situation for businesses. It makes no sense for the State of Missouri to allow businesses to establish political action committees and then turn around and forbid them from placing funds in those committees,” Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO, said. “We need clear, commonsense ethics standards in Missouri and this new opinion fails that test.”
It’s not the first time restrictions would be thrown out, as the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri permanently enjoined a number of those restrictions in the case of Free and Fair Election Fund v. Missouri Ethics Commission.
As such, the Chamber, and their lawyers from Husch Blackwell filed suit, asking the court to grant relief and enable the Chamber and other corporations to contribute to their PACs.
You can read the case filing below:
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.