Friday, April 18, 2008

Hulshof's Ethics Package

Republican candidate for Governor Kenny Hulshof unveiled a sweeping ethics reform package Friday in Springfield that surprised some Republicans and sparked criticism from Democrats.

The U.S Congressman said his six-point ethics package would be the first priority of a Hulshof administration.

In addition to calling for an elimination of party committee "pass-throughs," in campaign fundraising and an increase to the individual donation limit to $2500, Hulshof proposed a ban on all gifts to elected and appointed officials and the creation of a task force charged with revamping state laws in a host of areas.

Democrats quickly pounced on Hulshof's remarks and accused him of "doublespeak." "Less than two months after saying he would sign a bill repealing campaign contributions limits, Congressman Kenny Hulshof today flip-flopped his position and came out in favor of raising the limits," said Democratic spokesperson Jack Cardetti.

Friday, Hulshof explained that while a system with unlimited contributions was not ideal, it was still better than the status quo.

The Missouri Democratic Party also accused Hulshof of softening his position on license fee office reform. Hulshof has pledged to "end the patronage system that awards fee offices based upon political support." He said offices would be allocated based on efficiency, service and charitable considerations.

"Last month Hulshof said he would end the political patronage that surrounds the current fee office system, only to back track and promise that 'only operators ‘that don't meet certain benchmarks’ would lose the right to run those offices,'" Cardetti charged.

The other components of Hulshof's ethics plan include replacing the Attorney General with an independent attorney to counsel the Missouri Ethics Commission. He pledged to make the Ethics Commission "truly bipartisan," by selecting three commissioners from nominees submitted by each political party. He also wants to increase fines for Ethics Commission violations.

He also said that attorneys representing plaintiffs in Second Injury Fund cases should not be allowed to donate campaign funds to candidates for Attorney General, noting "that's not been the case," since the pledge was made in 1992 by our current Attorney General. He also would prohibit elected officials from serving on the Missouri Housing Commission.

Before the Hulshof press conference, Sarah Steelman's campaign challenged Hulshof to address the issue of earmarks.

“We hope that Congressman Hulshof will take the opportunity today at his press conference to explain to the taxpayers of Missouri why he voted to give a $200,000 earmark for the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine last year," said Steelman spokesperson Doug Gaston.

"The sponsor of the amendment, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) argued that with high gas prices and huge deficits, taxpayers should not be forced to spend $200,000 supporting the New England lobster industry which makes millions of dollars every year. We agree with Rep. Flake," Gaston added.

After several back and forth attempts by both parties, the KY3 Political Notebook was unable to reach Steelman for an interview.

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