Missouri Senator-elect moves to ban lobbyist gifts

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by Craig Cheatham / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 5 at 9:31 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Lobbyists have had a busy fall, giving Missouri lawmakers gifts like tickets to Cardinals games and Missouri Tiger football games.

A search of  Missouri Ethics Commission database revealed seven state lawmakers who were given tickets to the Missouri Alabama football game. 

Cardinals tickets were the most popular ticket freebie; some legislators even scored free playoff tickets worth $120 apiece. Many others got tickets to other Mizzou games, the Fox Theatre, even an unidentified performance at the Scott Trade Center. 

For the first eight months of 2012 alone, Missouri Senator-elect Scott Sifton says Missouri lawmakers pocketed $125,000 in gifts from lobbyists. Sifton says the practice reflects poorly on legislators, and has called for it to end. 

“That’s certainly something that doesn’t benefit the image of the legislature in Missouri and so I think we need to address it,” he said.  

Sifton, a Democrat, believes the gifts may create the impression that politicians will do favors for lobbyists who give them gifts, even if it’s not true. So, he’s pushing a bill that would stop the practice.

“I don’t want my constituents to wonder what’s going into my decision,” he said. “I want my constituents to know that when I cast a vote on the floor of first the Missouri House, and now the Missouri Senate, that I’m voting for what I think is in the best interests of the people I represent and the people of Missouri. I don’t want them to be wondering if it had something to do with a gift that I received from a lobbyist.” 

Lobbyist gifts was a huge issue in Sifton's run to defeat Senator Jim Lembke, who was the top recipient of gifts during the last decade, receiving wine, cigars and golf outings at lobbyist expense.

In all, Lembke received 560 meals and gifts over the past decade, according to an analysis of the Ethics Commission data. Lembke, who lost to Sifton, declined to respond to News 4's request for comment today.

Sifton insists dozens of legislators are supporting his bill, and the effort to ban those gifts could prove to be one of the most spirited debates of the upcoming legislative session.  

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