Three House Republicans asked by Democrats to recuse themselves from campaign finance vote
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Three House Republicans asked by Democrats to recuse themselves from campaign finance vote

Date: April 28, 2008
By: Matt Tilden
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 1038

JEFFERSON CITY - Two of three Republicans who have been asked to abstain from an impending campaign finance vote in the state House say they have yet to decide whether they will in fact abstain from voting.

Reps. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, and Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, were named in a March 18 Missouri Ethics Commission release that stated they would have to return campaign contributions if the Missouri legislature did not overturn the caps on campaign limits.

Legislation that has already passed through the Senate would repeal individual campaign finance limits and mandate that donations over $5,000 would have to be disclosed within 48 hours of the gift.

Democrats have asked the three legislators to abstain from voting on the legislation, claiming they would each benefit financially from the vote.

Icet and Smith both said they have not decided yet whether they would abstain from voting. Richard could not be reached for comment.

House Democratic Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, sent out letters Monday asking some Republicans not to vote on the important measure. Other important House Democratic leadership member signed on to LeVota's news release.

LeVota said the issue is clear. "If you directly benefit from a vote, you should abstain from voting," he said.

But Icet said he has always opposed the cap on campaign limits and that a vote from him would reflect that consistent opposition. He also said he expected to be called out by Democrats when debate on the bill begins.

Neither Icet nor Richard faces opposition in his re-election campaign this fall, but LeVota said they would be able to use this money to assist other Republican candidates.

Icet and Smith both said they would not be breaking the rules because they would not personally benefit from the vote.

"The money went to my campaign; it did not go to Joe Smith directly," Smith said. "So I personally would not make a financial gain."

The legislation is expected to be brought up in the House later this week -- Wednesday at the earliest.

If the bill passes the House without changing, it would then head to the governor's office. If the bill is amended this week, then the House and Senate would have to hammer out the differences in the legislature's remaining two weeks.

Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the lifting of limits would improve transparency in campaign funding. Under the current system, he said, an individual is able to bypass the funding statutes by using political action committees or party committees.

Shields said his proposal would allow Missourians to see who is actually donating to political campaigns in the state, rather than allowing for contributions to be filtered through committees of PACs.

During the Senate vote in February, two proposals were shot down in the amendment process -- one that would allow voters to decide on the bill and one that would delay the implementation of the new rules until after this fall's election.