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Politics

Campaigns and Fundraisers Intensify in Jefferson City

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/campaignsa_1571.mp3

Today, candidates begin filing for office...but campaign fundraising already is well underway in Jefferson City. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports from the capitol.

At the beginning of February, the committee that's raising funds for Senate Republicans cancelled plans to allow lobbyists to pay up to 5 thousand dollars to attend breakfast meetings with committee chairmen...Republican leaders in the Senate said it was becoming a distraction after media reports about the plan and after Democrats criticized the fundraiser as a pay to play event.

But three and a half weeks after Senate Republicans cancelled their fundraiser, the campaign committee for House Democrats held a Mardi Gras party and sold sponsorships for 5 thousand dollars each...an email promoting the event described it as a chance quote-to meet influential lobbyists.

The chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, Representative Clint Zweifel of St Louis County says the democrats' event was different than the proposed fundraiser for Senate Republicans.

Zweifel says the fundraiser wasn't exclusively for lobbyists who could pay the 5 thousand dollar sponsorship fee. He says citizens interested in the Democratic Party attended and gave much smaller donations.

But the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Mike Gibbons of St Louis County says there ISN'T a difference between what Senate Republicans had intended to do and what the House Democrats actually did.

The chief critic of the Republicans' plan is the Senate's democratic leader, Maida Coleman of St Louis.

She says the Republicans intended to use their position as the majority party to raise campaign funds, making their fundraising plan very different from the House Democrats' event.

No one has questioned the legality of what Senate Republicans intended to do and what House Democrats actually did.

Members of both parties say that public perception is important.

The Senate's top Republican, Mike Gibbons says the public should apply the same standards when looking at fundraising activities of both parties.

Money raised by campaign committees like the ones involved in these fundraisers can give only a limited amount directly to individual candidates...instead, these committees mail out campaign literature in legislative districts across the state on behalf of candidates but all this activity must be done independent of the candidate.

Springfield Republican Representative Bob Dixon says limits on contributions that individuals and companies can make to candidates have empowered these committees.

While no one's proposing limits on campaign committee fundraisers during the legislative session, there is legislation that would limit how much lobbyists can spend on gifts and out of state trips for lawmakers.

Democratic Representative Rachel Storch of St Louis is sponsoring the bills...She says the public wants change in light of the Washington scandal that resulted in former Majority Leader Tom Delay's indictment.

With candidates now filing for office, the fundraising is expected to intensify in the coming months.