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Politics

Governor Institutes Ban on Lobbyist Gifts for Staff

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/governorin_1781.mp3

Republican Governor Matt Blunt announced today that he's banning employees in his office from taking gifts, meals and trips from lobbyists. The new policy is not an outright ban...It includes a list of exemptions. As KSMU's Missy Shelton reports, the governor's office unveiled the new policy amid press reports of a federal investigation into driver's license fee office contracts.

The new policy banning lobbyist gifts comes just days after the Associated Press reported on a federal investigation into the Blunt Administration's policy for awarding driver's license fee offices to political supporters.

The House Democratic Floor Leader Jeff Harris questions the timing of the policy's release.

Governor Matt Blunt refutes Jeff Harris' assertion that the policy is linked to reports of a federal investigation.

The policy prohibits employees in the governor's office from accepting gifts, meals, and trips funded by lobbyists.

But there are also exemptions that allow quote-bonefide organizations to pay for travel defined as a fact finding or educational trip.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson says the new policy won't change the governor's travel schedule since he uses private planes funded by his campaign committee.

Governor Matt Blunt says the exemptions are reasonable.

Blunt's brother Andy is a lobbyist in Jefferson City.

Blunt says the goal of the new policy is to reduce the influence lobbyists might have on his office.

Democratic House Leader Jeff Harris says there is a need for broader changes to ethics laws.

He says in particular, lawmakers need to restrict what elected officials can give to political supporters.

In addition to addressing how staff deals with lobbyist gifts, the employee policy for the governor's office also covers political activity, sexual harassment and internet use.