In the November, 2018 election, Missouri voters adopted Amendment 1 to the Missouri Constitution (also known as “Clean Missouri”). In addition to changing campaign finance limits and the legislative redistricting process, Amendment 1 made a significant change to Missouri law with respect to lobbying. In pertinent part, Amendment 1 provides as follows:
“No person serving as a member of or employed by the general assembly shall accept directly or indirectly a gift of any tangible or intangible item, service, or thing of value from any paid lobbyist or lobbyist principal in excess of five dollars per occurrence.”
On May 31, 2019, the Missouri Ethics Commission issued two advisory opinions relating to the application of this provision of Amendment 1. The Commission was presented with various scenarios in which members of the General Assembly are offered items or services in excess of $5.00 in value, and was asked to opine as to whether such gifts violate Amendment 1. The Commission’s opinions can be found on the Commission’s Website.
After reviewing the various hypothetical scenarios, the Commission noted that Amendment 1 does not prohibit the following:
- Merely attending meetings or events sponsored by lobbyists if no gifts are provided;
- Attending a meeting or event that is sponsored by a registered lobbyist, if the legislator attends in his/her capacity as a member of the sponsoring organization and not as a legislator;
- Attending a meeting or event for a specific official purpose, such as providing a legislative update or throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game, and participating in any meal or paid entertainment that occurs as a part of such event; and
- Receiving gifts from individuals who are not registered lobbyists, but who are members of organizations that are registered lobbyists, if the registered lobbyist is not paying for the gift.
Because Amendment 1 raises many questions regarding the acceptance of gifts from lobbyists, the Commission advised legislators to use “common sense and reasonableness” in determining whether receipt of a gift violates Amendment 1. Further, the Commission noted that nothing prohibits legislators from declining gifts or paying for gifts themselves.
While the full scope and effect of Amendment 1 may not be clear, these advisory opinions go a long way towards cleaning up the murky questions surrounding Clean Missouri.