There is a proposed constitutional amendment that is slated to be on the November ballot in Missouri aimed at eliminating corruption, creating a more transparent legislative process, and ending partisan gerrymandering. However, there are two lawsuits challenging the initiative.
Amendment 1 -- brought by the group, CLEAN Missouri -- garnered more than 340,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. It was certified by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on August 2, but opponents have turned to the courts to have it removed -- claiming it violates constitutional requirements.
Here is what the amendment does:
- It requires legislative records to be open to the public.
- It requires state politicians to wait at least two years before becoming lobbyists.
- It would ban most lobbyist gifts in the state (anything more than $5).
- It would lower campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates.
- "Establish new campaign contribution limits for General Assembly candidates— $2,500 for state senate, and $2,000 for state house."
- "Limit the ability of individuals and organizations to circumvent caps by counting money from single-source committees towards totals for original, actual donors."
- "Stop legislative fundraising on state property."
- It would require a nonpartisan expert to draw legislative districts and then the maps would be reviewed by a citizens' commission.
Learn more here.
The first lawsuit against it -- filed by Eddie Greim of the Graves Garrett law firm on behalf of a Miller County resident -- argues that the proposal makes at least 21 different amendments to the constitution, which it claims is in clear violation of constitutional requirements.
The lawsuit also says, among other things, that banning legislative candidates from campaigning on property owned and/or controlled by the state violates the First Amendment.
CLEAN Missouri responded to the lawsuit, saying it was "a desperate attempt from a few political insiders to protect a corrupt system where legislators take millions in lobbyist gifts while ignoring voters back home.”
It is worth noting that the lawyer bringing the suit -- Eddie Greim -- defended Missouri's congressional maps in 2011. He has taken exception to the redistricting reform provisions in the amendment, claiming CLEAN Missouri is trying to sneak them through.
According to reports, similar accusations were raised by a group of Republican lawmakers called Missourians First.
Greim also represented former Gov. Eric Greitens when he was being investigated for personal and political misconduct, and his law firm is headed by Missouri Republican Party boss Todd Graves.
Also worth noting is the principal group supporting the challengers financially is Fair Lines America, which was also involved in the legal challenge against the citizens’ redistributing reform in Michigan — a challenge that failed.
As previously reported, Fair Lines America has ties to several super PACs that primarily support Republican interests.
The second lawsuit was brought by Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Mehan's lawsuit generally makes the same claims as the first lawsuit.
A Clear Outcome?
There is just a little over two months until the November election. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, August 31. CLEAN Missouri is extremely confident the lawsuits will be tossed, as the state’s attorney general agrees with them.
In his trial brief in the case, Attorney General Hawley wrote:
"The measure, if enacted by the voters, would promote transparency and accountability in the General Assembly. Plaintiffs seek to remove the measure from the ballot, claiming that it violates several form-based requirements of the Missouri Constitution and Chapter 116, RSMo. However, Plaintiffs’ claims fail on the merits, and the Secretary of State properly certified the measure so that voters may consider the measure."
The attorney general also wrote: "IP 2018-048’s provisions all relate to the same readily-identifiable and narrow central purpose and do not violate the single-subject rule. The measure does not include the flaw that ultimately doomed the measure to fail in Missourians to Protect the Initiative Process.”
Stay tuned for more updates on this story.