An adviser to a prominent Republican donor at the center of pay-to-play allegations was fined $2,000 this week by the Missouri Ethics Commission for illegally lobbying in the state Capitol.
Paul Mouton, who lives in Webb City in southwest Missouri, has long been considered the eyes and ears in the statehouse for Joplin businessman and GOP mega donor David Humphreys. A complaint was filed with the ethics commission in June asking for an investigation into whether Mouton was lobbying lawmakers on Humphreys’ behalf without filing the proper paperwork and disclosing the relationship.
At the heart of the complaint were allegations swirling around Senate President Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, that he sponsored legislation that would benefit Humpheys’ company as payback for political contributions.
Both Richard and Humpheys vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
Mouton was routinely seen walking the Capitol corridors during the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions. At the same time, Richard’s office was regularly providing a parking space for Mouton in the Senate’s private garage — 19 times in April and early May last year, a period when the Senate was in session for 20 days; and 13 times in January and February this year, a span in which the Senate was in session 26 days.
Several of the dates when Mouton had a parking spot reserved for him correspond with action on legislation supported by Humphreys. That includes the day this year that a Senate committee approved the legislation at the heart of the pay-to-play allegations.
The bill would have limited plaintiffs’ ability to sue individually or in class-action lawsuits under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a law that prohibits deceptive and unfair business practices. Humphreys’ company is facing a class-action lawsuit under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act alleging it sold defective shingles, a charge the company denies.
The Missouri Ethics Commission determined that Mouton was retained and compensated by Humphreys as a political consultant. He was not designated as a lobbyist, but he did meet with lawmakers and their staff to discuss pending legislation that Humphreys was pressing the legislature to pass.
Mouton could not immediately be reached for comment. But he issued a statement to the St. Joseph News-Press saying that throughout his career, “I have been committed to following the letter and the spirit of the law. I look forward to continuing my work advocating for better policies and better government in the state of Missouri.”
He will have to pay only $200 of his $2,000 fine if he doesn’t violate lobbying laws for the next two years.
Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a Liberty Democrat who has been vocal in accusing Richard and Humphreys of pay-to-play politics, said he was glad his efforts helped “play a part in shedding light on the unethical and unacceptable behavior of Mr. Mouton and Mr. Humphreys.”
But $200, he said, isn’t enough to “make a multimillionaire like Humphreys bat an eye.”
Along with his family, Humphreys contributed more than $14 million last year to various candidates and campaigns.
“It’s a shame that the ethics commission doesn’t have prosecutorial powers, because it ought to be criminal for one wealthy individual like Humphreys to wield such immense influence simply because they can afford to purchase it,” Ellebracht said in a statement. “I’m glad we’ve put a stop to his doing it in secret, and will continue to fight unethical behavior in Jefferson City.”