The noble Steve Tilley and Missouri's ignoble revolving door
The Kansas City Star
The siren song of the campaign trail is just too sweet for Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley. He announced Monday he is giving up his legislative seat so he can work as a political consultant for other candidates.
And why not? With no lid on contributions to political campaigns in Missouri, Tilley is assured of making big bucks between now and November.
“I choose to leave early because I did not want to be a paid consultant while serving as the speaker of the House,” the Republican from Perryville, Mo., said in a letter to colleagues.
How noble of him.
At least one previous House speaker, Republican Rod Jetton, had no such scruples. He managed political campaigns for House members while simultaneously determining the fate of legislation.
With just four months remaining in his final term, Tilley is avoiding that disreputable path. But the fact that it is open to him is outrageous. And as the most powerful person in the House the last two years, Tilley has done nothing to remove the opportunity for such a blatant conflict of interest, or to promote other badly needed ethics reforms.
As this story points out, Democrat Mike Talboy of Kansas City, the House minority leader, is serving the final months of his term despite having taken a job as director of governmental affairs for the Kansas City engineering firm Burns & McDonnell.
In other words, Talboy is a paid lobbyist and a legislator at the same time. He took the lobbying job after the legislature completed this year’s session, but the dual role still highlights the lack of ethical boundaries in Missouri government. Most states wouldn’t permit a sitting legislator to take a job as a lobbyist. Many have set a window during which ex-lawmakers must wait before taking work as a lobbyist.
Missouri definitely needs such a moratorium. With term limits in play, legislators are often lining up their future lobbying careers while working on legislation influenced by lobbyists. It looks bad because it is bad.
But the only people who can change this sorry situation are the legislators. And they’re too busy angling for lobbying jobs to consider a moratorium on lawmakers taking lobbying jobs.