The Buzz

Gov. Jay Nixon throws in the towel on going to citizens on ethics reform

In his 2013 State of the State address, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon threw down the gauntlet on ethics reform.

“This year, if the Legislature does not send a campaign contribution limit bill to my desk, I will do everything in my power to get it on the ballot and make sure it passes,” he said then.

Voters, he predicted, would pass limits just as they did in the 1990s by overwhelming margins.

“Every day we don’t act, the public’s confidence in us continues to erode,” he once said.

Well, the General Assembly never did send him that bill. But Nixon never did go directly to the voters either.

And now he’s saying he probably never will.

In a meeting with The Star’s editorial board Wednesday, Nixon said he’s giving up on the idea even though he’s called the state’s ethics laws the weakest in the nation.

“As far taking the time and the money and the energy and the effort it takes raising these days a million dollars to put something on the ballot, as far as the priorities I have in front of me right now, I don’t think I’m going to have the time or the compunction to do that,” he said.

“But I do say that we’re going to raise the profile of these issues and continue to press the Legislature to act.”

Nixon, a Democrat who was re-elected in 2012, has 19 months left on his term.

In fairness, Nixon has pushed the idea of ethics reform each of his years in office. But lawmakers haven’t bit.

Voters do have one option, he said, which is their ballot in the 2016 race to succeed him. Chris Koster, the two-term attorney general who’s expected to be the Democratic nominee, is interested in reform, but he isn’t sure that donation limits is the way to go.

Many Republicans oppose removing the cap, meaning that donors can continue giving contributions of $100,000 or even $1 million as we’ve seen.