Lobbyists Tried to Take an Anti-Corruption Act off the Ballot. Here's How We Stopped Them.
September 20, 2018
|By Jen Johnson
Digital Director, RepresentUs
An Appeals Court in Missouri just delivered the latest victory to the anti-corruption movement, ruling to keep the Anti-Corruption Act on the ballot and shut down the lobbyist lawsuit to stop the people from voting on it this November.
This is a huge victory - and it worked because the entire anti-corruption movement joined the Clean Missouri campaign and fought back against this attack.
Here's who was behind the lawsuit and what we did to keep the Anti-Corruption Act on the ballot:
The Missouri Lobbyists Who Tried to Stop a Vote on Anti-Corruption
The three main lobbyists behind this case are Daniel P. Mehan, the CEO of a dark money group, lobbyist Eddie Greim who charged the taxpayers $340 an hour to defend the disgraced former governor, and Lowell Pearson, a lobbyist who sent threatening letters to government workers in an ethics investigation.
But, why would lobbyists sue to take this off the ballot?
Because lobbyists in Missouri spend millions on gifts to politicians, and they don't want to lose that influence. There are currently no limits on how many gifts paid lobbyists can give to Missouri lawmakers as they seek to influence state policy. Last year, they spent more than $1 million in free meals, drinks, sports tickets, rounds of golf and travel. The Clean Missouri campaign dug through mountains of lobbyist gift data (our spreadsheet timed out just trying to open it) and found some of the best examples of gifts. Here's a small snapshot of the gifts given to politicians over the years:
- Receptions at the Jefferson City Country Club
- Steak dinners in Minneapolis, Dallas
- The "Senate Wine Dinner Fund”
- Tickets to the Indy 500
- Tickets to SeaWorld
- Chicago Cubs game (offensive with some voters for other reasons...)
- Tickets to Cirque De Soleil
- Concert tickets: Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Jay-Z and Kanye..
- Travel to San Diego, New York, Chicago, New Orleans and more
- "Playing cards printed with photos of legislators” (Seriously?!)
We Didn't Just Sit Back and Let Them Silence Us. Here's What We Did to Fight Back.
When politicians and special interests try to silence us, we have to fight back. RepresentUs members have worked together to stop attacks just like this one and won - but it takes our entire movement to defend our rights. Here's what we did in Missouri:
We joined the campaign to pack courtrooms, showing that the people will not back down and demanding the judges stop lobbyists from silencing voters.
We gathered nearly 5,000 petition signatures demanding lobbyists drop their lawsuit.
We spread news of the attack to more than 1 million people with a social media campaign raising the alarm about the attempt to stop the people from voting.
We crowdfunded billboards to publicly expose the jaw-dropping lobbyist gift problem in Missouri, calling out the outrageous gifts given by lobbyists to politicians.
We made 839 calls to voters to make sure they know about the concert tickets, $3,000 dinners, and free trips lobbyists give to politicians.
And it worked.
What's the Missouri Anti-Corruption Act all About?
Clean Missouri, a local, grassroots organization, submitted over 300,000 signatures from Missouri voters with help from Represent Missouri members in support of this people-led reform initiative, known as Amendment 1.
They went through all that effort because politicians weren't fixing the problem of corruption themselves. In fact, the state legislature has introduced 52 lobbyist gift reform bills since 2007, without passing a single one of them.
So the people decided to put a lobbyist gift ban directly on the ballot.
This grassroots anti-corruption campaign rises above the toxic partisan bickering we see in Washington, and brings local people together to fight corruption in Missouri. Amendment 1, also known as the Anti-Corruption Act, is designed to clean up Missouri politics. It’s a strong, bipartisan effort to make government more transparent, limit the power of big money in the Missouri legislature, and hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public interest.
This Lawsuit Isn't the First Attack on Voters
The lobbyist attempt to take the Anti-Corruption Act off the Missouri ballot is part of a bigger trend nationwide. Across the country, special interests are trying to silence voters before they have an opportunity to vote on political reform.
This is the exact same underhanded attack that special interests attempted in Michigan this summer. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce backed a lawsuit to remove an anti-gerrymandering measure from the ballot, but RepresentUs members fought back to protect the right to vote on it. We sent letters, published ads, organized rallies, and showed special interests that Americans won't allow them to take away our right to vote without a fight. We kept anti-gerrymandering on the ballot because hundreds of thousands of people heard about the attack on the voters and took direct action to stop it.
Michigan and Missouri aren’t the only states facing this fight. In Maine, politicians began to repeal a voter-approved ranked choice voting law, but the people passed a People’s Veto ballot measure in June to override the legislature. In South Dakota, the voters passed a strong statewide Anti-Corruption Act—but the legislature brazenly overturned it.
These corrupt tactics overrule the will of the people and delay common sense reforms. This pushback from the political establishment is alarming, but the anti-corruption movement isn’t slowing down.
This is a Historic Year in the Fight for Political Reform
There are more political reform campaigns this year than at any time since Watergate. Check out the anti-corruption movement map to see the cities and states where reform campaigns are underway right now.
In South Dakota, where the legislature brazenly repealed reform, every political candidate is running on an anti-corruption platform and the voters are pushing to pass an Anti-Corruption Amendment. After seeing what happened in South Dakota, RepresentUs members and leaders in North Dakota started a statewide campaign to pass an Anti-Corruption Act in North Dakota this November.
Lobbyists and special interests are rigging the system against everyday Americans—but we are fighting back. Every time we win, it weakens the political establishment and builds our movement's power. We already won this year in Michigan, Maine, Alaska, Ohio, and more. We can win in Missouri, too—but only if we speak out and show the political establishment that the voters are watching, and we demand our right to vote.