MO Ethics Committee has 3 Republicans but only 1 Democrat
The Missouri Ethics Commission can finally start doing its job after going two months without a quorum. The commission now has the bare minimum of members required – four – to ensure compliance with campaign finance, lobbying and conflict of interest laws.
That’s the idea, anyway. It remains to be seen how well the commission will work in practice.
Gov. Mike Parson’s Wednesday nomination of two fellow Republicans to the commission stacks the campaign finance watchdog agency with right-wing members. GOP appointees outnumber Democrats 3 to 1 on the six-member commission.
For months, the MEC did not have the capacity to do its job. As Parson dragged his feet, elected officials could potentially violate state laws without consequence.
Parson’s slow approach to filling vacancies raises red flags. His failure to fully staff the agency is an abrogation of liability. Maybe the governor was trying to play the game in his favor. On Tuesday, we asked his office about the four vacancies at the MEC at the time.
The next day, we learned that Parson had held two seats with former GOP state Rep. Kathie Conway of Wentzville and William Villapiano, a pastor from Houston.
Where are the Democrats?
A follow-up question with Parson’s aides on the remaining two seats has so far gone unanswered.
Conway and Villapiano join Robert Cook, a Republican, and Democrat Helene Frischer on the commission. By law, the governor is responsible for choosing six members. No more than three may come from the same political party.
We urge the governor to appoint the remaining seats quickly and fairly.
Last year, the commission fined a Parson-linked political action committee thousands of dollars for violating campaign donations. Uniting Missouri, Parson’s fundraising arm, last year accepted $150,000 from a PAC associated with the indispensable Republican Attorney Generals Association, which was not registered with the MEC, regulators ruled.
No wonder Parson was slow to move. As a longtime lawmaker, second-term governor, and former Polk County sheriff, Parson knows the law. Why does he hesitate to follow him, then?
Parson repeatedly failed to call special elections to fill a number of vacant seats in the Missouri House. Meanwhile, two members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners have expired terms.
The integrity of the Ethics Commission is beyond doubt. Commissioners are expected to act in a non-partisan manner. Recent appointments meet minimum requirements. Maybe another announcement is coming.
Prior to this week, the commission had only two members due to the governor’s inaction. This meant he was unable to pursue various complaints, including one filed against members of the Hickman Mills school board over the school board’s purchasing policies. No action has been taken by the MEC against Hickman Board Chairman DaRon McGee or Board Member Byron Townsend.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the commission’s 3-to-1 party split. Parson must govern for all Missourians, not just those he agrees with politically. All elected officials must obey campaign finance laws — and the commission is there, by law, to make sure that happens.
The governor should make staffing the Missouri Ethics Commission a priority.