- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 26

Editorial: Special interests are trying, again, to reverse voters’ will on campaign cash

About 70 percent of Missouri voters in November approved a constitutional amendment aimed at getting big money out of state politics. This vote became necessary because, eight years earlier, a Republican Legislature and governor had overturned limits on campaign contributions approved by 74 percent of voters in 1994.

Twice in 22 years, a supermajority said it doesn’t want big donors running Missouri’s government. A loud popular mandate doesn’t matter to wealthy donors and their minions in Jefferson City, who assume voters have short attention spans.

After the Legislature and Gov. Matt Blunt thumbed their noses at the 1994 law and ushered in no-limits rules in 2008, six- and seven-figure contributions became commonplace.

So Fred Sauer of Clayton, a very conservative Republican, took it upon himself to get Amendment 2 on November’s ballot. The intent was clear: “The people of the State of Missouri hereby find and declare … that the interests of the public are best served by limiting campaign contributions, providing for full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions, and strong enforcement of campaign finance requirements.”

The public be damned. Special interests are now trying to find a way around this one, too. It’s a constitutional amendment, so it’s a little trickier. The Legislature can’t merely override the measure like it did with the 1994 law.

Multiple court challenges have been filed. The Missouri Ethics Commission is working overtime interpreting the law’s basic provisions. It has ruled that Amendment 2 didn’t apply donation limits to candidates for local offices. But it further ruled that corporate contributions to races like that for St. Louis mayor are forbidden. As a result, four candidates in the March 7 Democratic mayoral primary have had to return $71,000 in donations.

But then there’s this: Jason Rosenbaum of St. Louis Public Radio reports that because contribution limits don’t apply to city- and county-level candidates, local politicians could turn themselves into super PACs or laundromats.

Say you’re a big donor who wants to give a million dollars to help a gubernatorial candidate. Amendment 2 says you can give no more than $2,600 per election directly to any candidate for state office. But you could give $1 million to a local officeholder - a county commissioner, for example - who could then set up an independent expenditure committee to help your gubernatorial candidate.

None of this is in the spirit of Amendment 2, nor is it what voters wanted. Nor did voters know that Eric Greitens would benefit to the tune of nearly $2 million in anonymous money through a loophole in federal campaign laws and then, having been elected governor, run around the state making speeches about ethics.

Instead of looking for loopholes, big donors and their pet politicians should abide by the voters’ will.

____

Feb. 26

The Kansas City Star, Feb. 26

Editorial: To be truly great, America must be kind

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the India-born engineer killed in an Olathe bar last week, was not only a top-of-his-class immigrant who helped boost our economy.

No, Mr. Kuchibhotla, who was allegedly shot by a slurring man tossing off racial slurs, was also the sort of man we must not just mourn but emulate at this overheated moment.

A relative described 32-year-old Kuchibhotla as “the kindest person you would meet…He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment.” With hatred on the upswing, gossip a thriving business and careless comments a recipe for social media success, this gentleness and generosity of spirit set him apart.

To honor his memory, could we try making America kind again?

An America that is not respectful of those who are different or tolerant of those who disagree can never be truly great. Or truly American, for that matter.

George H.W. Bush’s “kinder, gentler nation,” Bill Clinton’s “putting people first,” George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and Barack Obama’s “change we can believe in” all aspired to moral excellence. And even when we’ve fallen short, we’ve never forgotten how much that kind of greatness matters.

Another important example is that of 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who first stood up for Kuchibhotla and his friend Alok Madasani as the suspect maligned them at Austins Bar & Grill. Then, after the two men were at shot, Grillot pursued the man and his gun, hoping to prevent any more harm. In that he did not succeed. Grillot, too, was shot, though he and Madasani thankfully survived. “He’s always one to defuse stuff,” an Austins employee said of Grillot.

Are we?

Madasani’s distraught father, Madasani Jaganmohan Reddy, told the Hindustan Times in India that “I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the U.S. in the present circumstances.” And Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, wondered, “Do we belong?” and tearfully told reporters that her husband had often calmed her fears about gun violence here. He always thought the best of, and “wanted to … do so much for this country.” By the time she gets back from burying him, she said, she wants to know what we’re going to do about hate crimes. We owe her that.

The sums that have been raised for Kuchibhotla’s family, Madasani and Grillot suggest that we do not share the suspect’s views about immigrants - we need you, and we were you. We don’t want you to “get out of my country,” as witnesses say the suspect shouted. There is little doubt that this was a hate crime; the suspect later told a bartender he’d killed two Middle Eastern men and needed a place to hide out. However the FBI classifies the killing, we cannot let hate pull up a barstool, or give it a place to hide out.

Yet the most important contribution we could make in the face of this unacceptable loss might be to soften our hearts and tone to those who are different. Of course that means seeing beyond any ethnic or other outward differences. But it also means questioning whether seeing all Trump voters as haters, or all liberals as the enemy, can ever get us where we all want to go. Not so deep down, we know it can’t.

____

The St. Joseph News-Press, Feb. 25

Trade: Help, but don’t hurt

Blake Hurst wants it understood he and most of his farmer neighbors around Tarkio, in far northwest Missouri, voted for Donald Trump. They aren’t necessarily regretting this, but they are nervous.

Their central concern is with trade policies, as Hurst explained in a recent guest column in The Wall Street Journal. They want help on trade issues, but also ask they not get hurt in the process.

This uncertainty is part of the deal with the new president, as most everyone has come to understand. But Hurst, the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, makes points that should be appreciated by everyone from here to Washington:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement from which the United States already has withdrawn, was predicted to increase net farm income by $4.4 billion.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump wants to renegotiate, has contributed to a marked rise in U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico. The figure was $4.2 billion in 1994 and $18 billion in 2015.

China and Mexico, both “targets” of Trump’s trade policies, were the top buyers of American soybeans in 2015.

In short, dramatic changes to trade policies could be especially harmful to many of the people who lined up at rural voting places to support Trump.

More than grain merchants, these are folks who have elevated commodities like soybeans into staples of developing economies around the world. At the same time, the product of their labors supports farms and workers across rural America.

Hurst, a soybean farmer, understands China is flagrantly violating World Trade Organization agreements by subsidizing local rice, wheat and corn growers, denying sales to U.S. farmers. He also knows China has inflicted real economic harm on U.S. beef producers by denying them access to its growing market.

Still, he speaks for farmers — in fact, for anxious boosters of communities throughout our region — in hoping Trump will be effective in tamping down abusive trade practices while maintaining support for robust agricultural trade.

To do one without the other is a recipe for a self-inflicted farm disaster.

____

The Joplin Globe, Feb. 24

Our View: Governor needs to fly Transparent Airlines

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens needs to fly Transparent Airlines. Michael Roche, the governor’s chief of staff, recently told members of the House Budget Committee that Greitens is “committed to spending as little as possible of the taxpayers’ dollars on travel.”

Well and good, given that one of the first things Greitens did as governor was cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the current and the upcoming budgets. We commend his frugality at a time when cuts are going to be felt around the state in everything from library services to health care to higher education.

All we ask is that Greitens disclose whoever or whatever — donor, lobbyist, corporation — is paying for any private or commercial flights he takes

The cost of some flights the governor plans — including today to Las Vegas to speak at a leadership meeting and on Saturday to attend the Missouri Republicans’ annual Lincoln Days event — will be split between several private and political entities, and, according to The Associated Press, it may not always be clear who is underwriting the flight.

The AP noted that when Greitens flew to Washington in late January to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, he took a commercial flight paid for with campaign funds. In that case, the cost should show up on Greitens‘ campaign finance report due out next month.

But Greitens also used a private plane when he flew to Springfield and Poplar Bluff earlier this month to sign a right-to-work measure. Those costs might not have to be publicly reported according to the AP, “because it wasn’t a lobbyist gift, and Missouri’s personal financial disclosure forms require the listing only of out-of-state travel paid for by third parties.”

However the governor gets where he’s going, we just expect him to be upfront about it.

Keeping the public in the dark is a sure way to lose altitude quickly.

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