Issue 1 – “Lax” Campaign Finance Laws – How did the candidates do? Where does the state go from here?
To better understand the effects of Missouri’s “lax” campaign finance laws, the first part of this blog will explore how the political contributions affected this election cycle as well as describe where the state goes from here in this realm. In an attempt to affect the outcome of the election, large political donors targeted Missouri because the State has “no limits on [political] contributions and [is] the only state without limits on what lobbyists can donate.” Rex Sinquefield, a retired St. Louis businessman, has spent over $5 million this election cycle on Missouri state elections, which has caught the attention of major news outlets across the country. Sinquefield’s spending supported groups and candidates that he hopes will get rid of the State’s income tax. Sinquefield spent a total of $785,000 on the losing Republican candidates for secretary of state and lieutenant governor, but spent $285,000 on the winning Democrat candidate for the attorney general race.
Sinquefield’s loss in the secretary of state race could hamper his ability to get rid of the income tax as well as hamper his ability to give limitlessly to political groups and candidates. Rep. Jason Kander, who won the secretary of state race, is one of the biggest proponents of campaign finance reform and in his new role will play a large role in the state-wide referendum process. Despite these two loses, Sinquefield gave $1.4 million to A Safer Missouri, a group “advocating local control of St. Louis’ police force.” On Election Day this ballot measure passed and demonstrates the political dangers of Missouri’s faint oversight over campaign finance laws. However, Rep. Jason Kander’s victory in the secretary of state race will likely bring the issue of campaign finance and ethics back into the forefront in the state.
Following his victory, Kander spoke about his commitment to campaign ethics reform and said “that he is still prepared to push the issue, even though many Republicans are wary of limiting political donations.” Rep. Kander’s continued push to address campaign finance issues has been questioned since several Democrats in the state benefitted from the unrestricted donations, such as the Attorney General Chris Koster, who took nearly the same amount of money from Sinquefield as Kander’s challenger. Rep. Kander believes that his commitment to this issue was not affected by other Democrats accepting campaign funds and said, “I have never believed that the need for campaign reform or ethics reform was greater on one side of the aisle or the other. This is a bipartisan problem.”
Issue 2- Voter ID Issues
Voting ID issues, laws, and scandals have become a growing trend across the country leading up to the 2012 election. This section will address Missouri’s elections and voter ID fraud, what the state did and plans to do moving forward in response to the growing trend to address this issue. In 2010 Missouri held a primary for a state house seat between John Rizzo and Will Royster. Rizzo won the primary by one vote, however Royster’s campaign questioned the validity of the victory due to several election administration issues. Royster’s campaign alleged, among several issues, that non-English speaking voters were receiving improper assistance from poll workers. Although no wrongdoing was found, the issues in this primary have led many to suggest that stricter voter ID laws should be required to prevent future voting issues, especially impersonation. The Royster campaign called for stricter voter ID laws even though impersonation of voters, which is the only kind of fraud that a voter ID law prevents, was not an issue,.
The state has not passed any new laws as a result of the incident, but Democrats and Republicans have been debating the idea of requiring a government ID at the polls. Republicans in the state legislature have supported the idea while Democrats have opposed it. “Currently, Missourians can show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID, but state law also allows voters to provide documents that do not contain photographs, such as copies of utility bills or bank statements listing their names and addresses.” Rep. Kander, who as the secretary of state will serve as the state’s top election official, is opposed to the idea of requiring government IDs because he believes it risks disenfranchising voters. Rep. Kander and other opponents of voter ID laws can point to the public opposition to this type of law. On Election Day, Minnesota voters rejected a referendum to require government issued photo IDs for future elections. This was the first time a voter ID law was put to referendum and the voters shot it down. Following the election, Rep. Kander told the Beacon he doesn’t plan to press for the requirement. Despite the debate leading up to the election, the current secretary of state, Robin Carahan, announced that no voter fraud was detected during the Missouri elections on November 6. Little or no evidence of voter fraud in the state, and the incoming chief election officer indicating opposition to Voter ID, would seem to point to the conclusion that the state will not likely make any substantive changes to the voter identification laws currently in place.