Committee reviews plan to lower cap on party donations

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The ability of political parties to funnel so-called soft money contributions to candidates would be severely curtailed under a bill whose sponsor says would ease the public perception that Missouri's campaign finance system is corrupt.

A bill heard by the House Elections Committee on Tuesday would double the current amounts individual donors can give to candidates. State Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Lee's Summit, said he doesn't have a problem with such direct donations because they are reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission and easy to track.

Political parties, however, are allowed at present to give roughly 10 times the amount an individual donor may give. Johnson's bill would hold parties to the same cap as other donors.

"When money comes in from political parties, no one really knows where the money originated," Johnson said.

While parties have to report their contributions to the state, there is no way to track which candidates are the ultimate beneficiaries of a particular donation to a party.

Under the bill, donations to a statewide candidate, such as a gubernatorial hopeful, would be capped at $2,350. Those running for state senate could take $1,150 per donor and state representative candidates $600.

State Rep. Jim Seigfreid, D-Marshall, said the bill would overly restrict political parties from helping their candidates.

"I understand what you're trying to do, but I don't think it is right we take political parties completely out of the picture," Seigfreid said.

The bill is HB 237.

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