Since The Kansas City Star published articles regarding ethics in the Missouri House, numerous Democrats - including Gov. Jay Nixon - have called for the restoration of campaign finance limits.
It's not a terribly surprising development. The first-term chief executive has been strongly supportive about limiting campaign contributions for years. He often cites a U.S. Supreme Court case that he handled that allowed limited contributions in the Show Me State. Other Democratic lawmakers - such as House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, and Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City - have also called for the restoration of limits.
I discussed the pros and cons of the current campaign finance system in last week's KBIA commentary. So I won't rehash those arguments here. But it's worth reiterating that the change LeVota, Kander and Nixon want have a very slim chance of passing through the legislature.
- A hypothetical vote could be close in the Missouri House, where several Republicans broke ranks and voted against repealing limits in 2008. The bill only passed 84-71 in 2008, a time when Republicans had a bigger majority than today. Whether that bill is ever allowed to see the light of the day is an open question, but it's not impossible.
- Any bill to reinstate limits would almost certainly falter in the Senate. For starters, the sponsor of the 2008 repeal - Sen. Charlie Shields - is now the Senate President Pro Tem. That gives him power to direct bills to committees. It's not out of the question that Shields would drop the bill into a legislative abyss. The Star's follow up story pretty much showcased this likelihood.
- But let's say a senator tries to attach campaign finance limits onto a bill. Only one Republican senator - Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles - voted against the measure in 2008.
- Three Democrats who are still senators - Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, Sen. Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake, and Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County - voted for repealing the limits in 2008. The two other Democrats who affirmed the current system were replaced with Republicans who would likely vote against repealing limits. One of the Democratic "no" votes - Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia - was replaced last election cycle with a Republican.
The point is that legislative enactment of campaign finance limits this session is unlikely. And even if the Democrats take back the Missouri House, the likely Republican hold of the Missouri Senate makes a reenactment difficult to imagine.
If proponents of a limited system want to achieve their goal, it will most likely be through the initiative petition process.