Politicians are often accused of being in bed with the special interests, but in Missouri, a lobbyist who literally hits the sheets with a lawmaker would have to report the liaison as a gift if a new bill makes it into law.
The legislation sponsored by Republican State Rep. Bart Korman would require lobbyists to report any sexual encounter with a member of the legislature as a gift with the state ethics commission. Korman said recent indiscretions in the Show Me State prompted his effort to clean up the system.
Last year, two sex scandals involving lawmakers and interns rocked Jefferson City. In May, Republican State House Speaker John Diehl stepped down after sexually charged texts with an intern were discovered. Two months later, Democratic State Sen. Paul LeVota resigned in response to allegations he sexually harassed two interns.
“I looked at the law, and there’s really no statute against that type of relationship,” Korman said. “After some of the allegations against some of the members of the General Assembly last year and a priority of ethics reform after having discussion this year, I put the two subjects together and put this bill forward.”
Korman doesn’t believe sexual relationships between politicians and lobbyists are rampant in Missouri, but he said there is enough chatter around the capitol to make his plan necessary.
“I don’t think there’s very much of that activity, but you always hear of a situation or two out there of rumors that you don’t know exist or not,” he said. “After last year’s situation, I figured maybe it’s time to put something like this forth.”
While the argument will likely emerge that the state has no right to know about the personal affairs of lawmakers, Korman said the people they serve certainly do.
“One, I think if a relationship like that occurs, the citizens of Missouri should know that it’s going on,” Korman said. “Two, hopefully with the reporting process, it would deter that type of activity altogether, which would probably be the best thing for everybody.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Bart Korman:
He explained what his bill would require in terms of transparency.
“Lobbyists are required to report any gift activity on a monthly basis,” Korman said. “I put it so it’s zero value, and I put it into the current ethics reporting system because I didn’t want to create a bigger bureaucracy here in Missouri.”
While Korman is intent on raising ethical standards in the Missouri government, he does not demonize lobbyists in general. He said they perform an important function.
“Lawmaking is probably different than any other process out there,” Korman said. “It’s one that is interactive and lobbyists are just as much a part of the process as citizens because a lot of citizens have an organization that hires lobbyists to watch what’s going on here on a daily basis.”
There is no precedent for the legislation anywhere in the U.S. Korman said the closest they came was some confusion over the law in North Carolina.
Korman introduced the bill Jan. 6. He said the response from his colleagues gives him tentative hope the bill has a chance to pass.
“A lot of members think it’s a good bill; however, I’ve got no co-sponsorships on it, so we’ll see how that changes in time,” he said. “There’s a few snickers here and there as well.”
Even though he has no formal allies yet for the bill, it’s already in the legislative pipeline.
“The more co-sponsors you get, the more the speaker and the chairman that has the bill would know that there’s support for it,” Korman explained. “The speaker did refer it to committee, so now it will be up to the committee chairman to see if he wants to have a hearing on the bill or not.”