National group files report on Missouri's ethics panel

Thursday, December 13, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Ethics Commission is one of 12 state ethics agencies that has not issued a finding against a legislator for violating conduct laws in the past five years, a study says.

But the Center of Public Integrity of Washington, D.C. said in a report released Wednesday on its Internet site, that the reason for the problem may be because of a lack of funding for the Missouri agency between 1997 and 2000.

During that time, the report found that Missouri was one of 10 states that did not approve a budget for its ethics agency exceeding the rate of inflation, or 7 percent.

In fact, the report said Missouri's budget for the state ethics commission was one of only two that actually decreased during that time.

"I think that can have a lot to do with the results because everyone is just trying to keep up with disclosure filing and it's difficult to start their own investigation," said Leah Rush, director of state projects for the center.

The report was based on interviews with ethics agency officials, reviews of agency Web sites and state statutes.

The center bills itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supported by public contributions. Its mission is to provide the public with the findings of its investigations and analyses of government ethics-related issues.

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