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Lobbyist Money Help  

Boone County legislators sound off on possible investigation

April 13, 2006
By: Ferdous Al-Faruque
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Boone County legislators said they didn't know of any FBI investigation into lobbyist practices in the Missouri legislature.

But some say they had heard rumors.

"I have picked up some nervousness around here (this week) about lobbying," said Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, "People are a little bit skiddish about what the rules are and how to follow them and keep your nose clean."

"I haven't heard anything about it." said Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, when asked about the potential investigation.

When asked about whether he knew of any lobbyists who may have been replaced through political motivation, Hobbs said that he didn't know of any such incidents in the four years he's served in the Missouri House, but didn't think it was appropriate practice.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia and the House Democratic leader, said that he read the article in the Kansas City Star Thursday, that broke the story of the possible FBI investigation, but said he had no first-hand knowledge on the issue.

"I've heard rumors, I've heard talk that such a meeting took place," he said. "But I haven't talked to anyone who attended any such meeting, so I can't confirm it."

"It seems like nearly every week you hear about some group being pressured to hire certain lobbyists," Harris added."You hear those rumors pritty frequently."

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, who also read the Star article said that there wasn't a great deal of information in it.

" No one knew anything about it and no one was talking," he said.

"Is that an unconfirmed rumor from a reliable source or is that just a rumor," asked Robb. "Talk about sketchy."

When it comes to large corporations changing their long-time lobbyists based on political affiliation, Robb says the issue is philosophical.

"If you're going to send somebody over to talk to the Republican leadership, you need to have someone who perhaps is of similar mind-set on many issues." he said. "It makes it much easier, not only to get contact with those individuals but also to make your points and have the possibility of really being effective. But that shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody."

"I think this issue (of influence of lobbyist on legislation) being blown a little out of proportion."

"I've read the article in the Star" said Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, "Rumors are running rampant, but at this point I don't have any details on (any potential investigation)."

He said that it was hard to comment on something that was at the moment in the rumor stage.

"We'll just have to wait and see what comes out," Graham said.

Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, said that he too had learned of the possible investigation from the Star article.

"I don't think lobbying's illegal," he said "I would presume there probably talking about some unethical lobbying practices that happened in this Capitol."

Baker said that lobbyists were very important to the legislative process.

"The question is about influence," she said. "It comes down to whether or not any kind of improprieties are occuring that would indicate there's some hole or influence that's undue."

"If something bad is going on in the capitol, let's find it and let's take care of it." Harris said. " Certainly if there is an investigation going on of some sort it underscores the need for real reform of the way that business is done in Jefferson City."

Baker, who only read the headline on Thursday's story in the Star, said that she'll be looking more closely into the story once she's done with the legislative businesses of the day.

"I think all the legislaturs need to know what parameters they are working in and how all of our roles are interpreted and if they are interepreted to the benefit of Missourians," she said.

Harris called on the legislature to pass stronger laws on campaign finance disclosure.

Jason Rosenbaum contributed to this story.