A Missouri legislator who describes his state's campaign financing system as "the worst" told Newsmax TV
on Friday that, nevertheless, politics and money are inseparable, and the way to limit corruption and suspicion is to let political donors give in larger amounts while requiring more disclosure of donations.
The question is not how to get money out of campaigns, Republican state Rep. Jay Barnes told "MidPoint" guest host Ric Blackwell, but "whether you can have a system that is transparent and lets the public see where the money is coming from that's spent in politics."
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"One way you can increase transparency is by increasing the limits that individual donors can give to people running for office and political parties," said Barnes.
"Now, some people might look at that as a bad thing," he said. "But the alternative to that is for that same money to be spent in secret ways by super-PACs that have no accountability but still have some connections to the people running for office."
Because the reporting rules for direct donations to elected officials are tighter than they are for indirect, issue-oriented PAC spending — the latter often criticized as "dark money" — raising the caps on what people can give to a campaign war chest would bring more political spending into the sunlight, said Barnes.
He added that voters must educate themselves either by accessing the disclosure reports that are mandatory under campaign finance law, or by keeping tabs on media reporting of those reports.
"The average voter, to the extent they connect the dots, that's on them to go look up where an individual candidate is receiving support from, who those individuals are, who the particular donors to that individual's campaign are," said Barnes.
He said his own state "in some ways has the worst of all systems."
"We're the only state in the country that has unlimited contributions, no transparency and unlimited gifts from lobbyists," he said.
"When the cap was lifted off [the spending limits], there was an effort made to ensure 100 percent transparency in how money is being spent in the state," said Barnes. "What you've seen, though, in the past five or six years are efforts to get around the transparency measure."
He predicted that in the Missouri legislature next year "we're going to see some attempts to ensure — put some teeth into — the transparency measures" and "to put some caps on the gifts that lobbyists can give to an elected official."
Barnes said that "to the extent that Congress and state governments can bring as much political spending into the disinfectant that is public disclosure, the better."
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