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Campaign Disclosure Law in Limbo

State Capital Bureau

March 07, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Candidates in April's elections throughout Missouri are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to comply with two conflicting state laws on campaign financing _ one of which has been thrown into limbo by the courts.

Proposition A, passed by the voters last November, imposes a limit on the total amount any one contributor can give to a campaign _ ranging from $100 to $300 depending on the office.

But the federal appeals court in Springfield has issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Proposition A.

The injunction was filed in response to a suit by a Springfield lawyer, Thomas D. Carver, who argues that Proposition A violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment which guarantees free speech.

While the issue is caught up in court, candidates for all state offices are in the midst of campaigns for April elections.

Just how much money they can accept from individual contributors is in question. Even local prosecutors are not sure what they will enforce.

Platte County Prosecutor, Todd Graves, summed up how they are handling Proposition A. "We'll address it when we get to it," he said. "Whether (Proposition A) is retroactive depends on the court opinion."

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes said she also is waiting for the courts to make a decision. But she said she will not prosecute candidates who have taken contributions that exceed the Proposition A maximum as long as they have complied with more lenient legislation passed by the state legislature last year.~

Columbia mayoral candidate Margie Meyer is not taking any chances. "My committee and I decided in February that we would go with the stricter rules. We would take no contributions over $100," she said.

"I returned several contributions over $100 because I told people I want to run a campaign that I can be proud of. Voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition A which means they want restrictions so I we decided that I cannot lend or contribute more than $100," she said.

Ronda Carlson, another candidate for Columbia mayor, is conducting the same kind of campaign. She said her campaign committee has gotten no response from the state Ethics Commission. "Proposition A has not made campaigning difficult other than the degrees of interpretation," Carlson said. "New stuff comes to light every time you turn around."

Kansas City incumbent Mayor Emanuel Cleaver is conducting his campaign in a similar manner despite difficulties. His campaign manager, Luther Washington, said they have returned all contributions over $200 that were received since the passage of Proposition A.

Washington said the problem with Proposition A is that it puts more power into the hands of continuing committees because they are exempt from the limits set forth in Prop. A. "The idea behind Prop A was to insure that all had a fair shake to run (for office)," he said. "But then old, established groups could be used as vehicles for funding."

Jefferson City mayoral candidate Dwayne Schreimann is following last year's law passed in the legislature rather than Proposition A. "We have received about five contributions over the $100 set in Proposition A," Schreimann said. "We have the names and addresses of the contributors so that if Proposition A is declared constitutional we will return them." But Schreimann is no longer accepting contributions of more than $100.

"The Ethics Commission has told us that $250 is the maximum contribution and if the (injunction) is lifted, it will be prospective only," Schreimann said. "Either way, these laws have made a campaign more difficult. I'm a novice and I'm having trouble raising money for advertising and yard signs."

Schreimann's opponent in the Jefferson City mayoral race, Jerry Green, complied with the Proposition A restrictions during his primary and said he had hoped he could do the same for the general election.

"The other candidate did not stick with it," Green said, referring to Schreimann. "I would be at a grave disadvantage if I did not take contributions of up to $250. I have gotten three or four contributions over $100 recently. I quizzed the Ethics Commission and as far as they are concerned, Proposition A does not exist right now."

Green expressed the frustration many candidates feel when he said, "It's a guessing game because no one will come forward and say this is what will happen."