In the News

Missouri taxpayers stuck with big legal bill in campaign finance case

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dave and Lois Sauer of Wamego, Kansas climb a staircase to the second floor of the Missouri capitol rotunda on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, beneath a mural by Anglo-Welsh artist, Sir Frank Brangwyn outside the Governor’s office in Jefferson City. The Sauers were visiting the building as one of many stops on their personal tour of American state capitols. Photo by Christian Gooden, [email protected]

 

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri taxpayers shelled out more than $158,000 in October to a Texas law firm that successfully fought a state campaign finance law designed to shine light on election spending.

According to the latest report outlining state legal expenses, the settlement was paid to the Gober Group following the success of its lawsuit to strike down a requirement that certain campaign committees be formed no later than 30 days before an election.

The Missouri Ethics Commission had sought to enforce the law during the 2014 election, arguing that the committee known as Missourians for Fiscal Accountability registered with less than two weeks before voters went to the polls to vote on a ballot initiative designed to strip then-Gov. Jay Nixon of power.

The 30-day deadline, the ethics commission argued, makes it easier for voters to track who is spending money in support and opposition to ballot initiatives.

A federal district court and a federal appeals court found that the state’s “blackout period” is an unconstitutional prior restraint on political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

For now, the statute is not in effect.

“There is an injunction so the 30 day requirement is not being enforced,” said MEC Executive Director Liz Ziegler.

The decision marks the second blow to supporters of campaign finance transparency by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals this year.

At issue for Missourians for Fiscal Accountability was a ballot initiative known as Constitutional Amendment 10, which limits gubernatorial power over the state’s budget. 

The proposal, which won with nearly 57 percent of the vote, gives the Legislature the ability to override a governor’s decision to withhold funding from any budget items.

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