A lawmaker in Missouri has put forward a new bill to improve legislative ethics and transparency, especially in the bedrooms of lobbyists.
In the spirit of the Missouri’s nickname, The Show Me State, lobbyists would be required to declare all sexual relations with state legislators and their aides in their disclosure forms according to the Kansas City Star. There are a few loopholes and technicalities to work out, but as the congressman explained, disclosing those activities as “gifts” might deter some illicit activity.
Representative Bart Korman, a Republican from High Hill, introduced Missouri House Bill 2059, which contains the unusual requirement, on Wednesday. Since then he’s been reportedly flooded with questions from reporters and constituents. According to CNBC, he said, “I guess this has gone viral or something.”
Korman explained to CNN that the purpose was to deter sexual deal making, not make legal disclosure forms more interesting.
“We’ve already got a lobbyist gift reporting requirement and so that’s how I worked it in there, by treating it as a definition of gift. I hope it deters any of that activity, but if that activity does occur, it’s at least transparent.”
All the lobbyists’ disclosures would go through the Missouri’s ethics commission, which had a lot of work last year when the state was rocked by two political sex scandals.
In July, Democrat State Senator Paul LeVota resigned over accusations that he sexually harassed two interns. LeVota denied any wrongdoing, saying, “I will not put my family, myself, or the Senate through the process of dealing with the veracity of false allegations and character assassination against me.”
According to an official investigation, one of the intern’s accounts withstood scrutiny better than LeVota’s story, and investigators determined that she was likely the victim of sexual harassment in violation of Title IX.
Two months before that incident, Republican House Speaker John Diehl resigned after racy texts between him and a 19-year-old intern surfaced in the media. Diehl took more responsibility for his sex scandal.
He wrote in an official statement, “I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages. It was wrong and I am truly sorry.”
Diehl was replaced by Todd Richardson, who promised to make ethics reform a top priority this year. Representative Bart Korman’s idea to force lobbyists to disclose sex acts might be a step in the right direction, although it does not directly relate to the Missouri’s recent scandals involving staff members.
So, why declare sex as a “gift?”
CNN reports that there were several other options on lobbyists’ disclosure forms including printing and publication expenses; travel; media and other advertising expenses; meals; the time, venue, and nature of any entertainment; honoraria; and food and beverages.
Korman said, “I just put it as the gift section because it’s the closest thing I could come up with.”
Still, the law is accommodating for some people. Lobbyists who are married to lawmakers, or were dating before their jobs, will not be required to report their sexual activities. Rep. Korman explained he “didn’t want to create a larger bureaucracy or a lot of additional extra laws.”
Likewise, lobbyists will not be required to give a dollar valuation on their sex acts with lawmakers, unlike their other disclosures.
Will the idea improve transparency in government? And will HB 2059 have any chance of passing into law?
Not if Missouri’s lobbyists are good at their job. Nevertheless, Korman certainly managed to draw attention to one of the legislature’s priorities this year.
[Image via liz west/Flickr]