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Gov. Candidate Spence Backs Limits on Lobbyist Gifts

David Lieb
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Dave Spence

Dave Spence

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence outlined an ethics proposal Thursday that would limit lobbyist gifts to public officials and require greater financial disclosure by nonprofit groups running ads in Missouri and companies seeking state contracts.

Spence’s proposal also would require elected officials to wait after leaving office before become lobbyists, although it does not say for how long.

Spence, a St. Louis businessman making his first political run, is one of several Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in this year’s election.

Nixon has outlined his own ethics package that would reinstate campaign contribution limits — which were repealed in 2008 — and prohibit legislators from acting as paid political consultants for colleagues, among other things. Spence’s plan does not seek to reinstate contribution limits nor make any mention of prohibiting lawmakers from doubling as political consultants.

Spence said he would support a limit of $25 annually on lobbyist gifts, meals, travel or lodging to each elected official and state employee. Campaign manager Jared Craighead said the intent is to apply the limit to each client a lobbyist may represent. Spence said he also would back a waiting period before elected officials or paid gubernatorial appointees can become lobbyists after leaving office.

Other parts of Spence’s plan would require certain nonprofit groups that spend money in Missouri politics to file financial disclosure reports and mandate that companies seeking state contracts disclose — as part of the bidding process — the political contributions they have made in the past three years. His plan also would create a blackout period for campaign contributions by entities bidding for state contracts or applying for tax breaks that would extend for up to a year after the project is awarded.

Democrats said it appears Spence would have violated the contribution blackout period were it in place in 2004. Missouri economic development documents show that Spence’s business, Alpha Packaging, applied and was approved for a tax credit program in February 2004. Spence personally contributed a total of $1,500 later that year to Republicans running for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

“Dave Spence thinks there should be one set of rules for himself and another set of rules for everyone else. It’s simply hard for Missourians to trust anything the guy says at this point,” said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki.

Craighead said Spence decided not to accept the tax credits, and thus the subsequent contributions would have been covered by his proposed blackout period.

“The Democrats are making allegations that are false, and they’re trying to distract from a very good public policy proposal,” Craighead said.

Without getting into too many specifics, Spence said he supported stronger penalties for those who violate campaign finance laws or the state open-records-and-meetings law.

“Missourians deserve a government free from corruption that is focused on doing the people’s business. Lax laws have led to conflicts of interest, state contracts for sale, and a blatant disregard of citizens’ access to public records,” Spence said in a news release announcing his ethics proposals.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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