Missouri has run campaigns without donation limits since 2008 even though voters instituted strict caps back in the 1990s.
That’s resulted in contributions of $50,000, $100,000, even $1 million.
In general, Republicans have resisted removing the caps, making Missouri one of about a dozen states without them.
But is change afoot?
Ron Richard, the new Senate President Pro Tem in Missouri, told The Buzz this week that he’s open to a conversation about a return of donation limits. In fact, Richard said he could support a “reasonable” cap himself.
State Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican, said he’s hearing hall talk about caps as well.
The conversations are occurring just days before lawmakers return to the state Capitol for the 2016 session when ethics reform is expected to be a front-and-center issue.
In recent years, disputes over caps has been on reason that the parties have locked up on a compromise ethics package. That Richard is willing to engage in a conversation about them could signal a new day on that aspect of ethics reform.
Arguably, momentum behind a new batch of campaign laws hasn’t been this intense in years. That interest comes as critics continue to harp about a system that they view as simply too wide open and one that has severely tarnished the image of state government.
Richard didn’t specify what he meant by a “reasonable” limit. An argument over that could doom a provision on a new cap.
But Republicans are talking about it. With new leadership in the House and Senate, 2016 could be the time to strike.
For his part, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, this week said he planned to soon address what he thinks should be in an ethics package. And in an interview on KCUR Public Radio, he signaled that lawmakers should try to pass some kind of package, even if it’s not as comprehensive as some might like.
“As we approach the session, I'll get more specific,” he said. “We'll lay out the way we ought to go. I don't want to use the perfect for them to use an excuse to do nothing. At the beginning, I'd like them to aim high. We need to get something done. We haven't delivered much, and I have only 390 days to go (before his term ends).
“An election year is a good year to get this stuff done,” Nixon said. “If you can keep these issues in front of the public when people are running for office and folks are talking about it in their districts, it puts accelerant to getting it done. We're going to press real hard.”