"Anti-Corruption Tour" Tackles Money in Missouri Politics
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Groups concerned about the role of money in politics have launched what they're calling an "Anti-Corruption Tour" of Missouri.
Members of Take Back Our Republic, Represent.Us, Clean Missouri, Patriotic Millionaires and MAYDAY America are traveling the state through Saturday to meet with supporters and host forums to start conversations about campaign finance reform.
John Pudner, executive director of Take Back Our Republic, says big money has a big hold on the Show Me State.
The 2016 Missouri state elections broke records for political fundraising, with more than $128 million, or about $77 per voter - much of it coming from big donors.
"If government contracts and other spending is being influenced by who's giving political contributions, you just don't get the best deal,” Pudner states. “I mean that's common sense. Anything from building a school building, to roads, to how you fund programs, to getting tax cuts."
Pudner says the Anti-Corruption Tour will focus on proposals from Gov. Eric Greitens that would ban gifts from lobbyists and apply term limits to every statewide elected official.
There are also a number of reform bills pending in the state legislature, including one that would give Missourians a $100 tax credit for political contributions.
Pudner says voters have placed campaign reform high on their list of priorities.
"I think it explains the national phenomenon, not only of Donald Trump but of Bernie Sanders,” he states. “Both of those talked about just this 'wealthy kind of taking over government,' turning it into an oligarchy, and people realizing, 'I can't ignore that message anymore, laugh it off – that's going to cost me my election.'"
Pudner says a similar effort in South Dakota last year was successful when voters adopted a package of ethics and campaign finance reforms in November. He says change in Missouri and across the nation has to be demanded by voters.
"No one's going to win as long as it's just big donors who are winning – that can be rich people, that can be corporations, that can be special interest groups, fill in your own bad guy,” he states. “The point is, we want these decisions made by the voters."
The Missouri tour includes stops in Jefferson City, Kansas City and St. Louis.