ST. LOUIS • It must have been difficult for Missouri Republicans attending the annual American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in New Orleans this summer.
So much free booze and grub — and just three days in the Big Easy to consume it all.
Reports by the state Ethics Commission show that several local corporate lobbyists footed the bill for food and drink in the French Quarter, where conservative lawmakers from Missouri and across the country attended the Exchange Council's conference Aug. 3-6.
The council, known as ALEC, espouses "Jeffersonian principles of free markets," though it has been criticized for offering "model" legislation friendly to corporate interests.
Ethics Commission reports don't cover legislation, but they do show that corporate benefactors made sure Missouri lawmakers attending the conference were well fed and hydrated.
On the second day of the conference, State Farm Insurance paid for a "walking wine tour" of New Orleans for Republican state House members.
The same night, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry paid for a "cocktail tour," which may or may not have been the same event as the wine excursion.
In addition to other refreshments purchased at the ALEC conference, visiting Missouri lawmakers were treated to: a reception at Antoine's Restaurant ("an unmatched dining experience," says the website), dinner at The Court of Two Sisters (where the menu includes "Escargot Au Champignons") and seafood at GW Fins, where the $1,440 bill was picked up by AT&T.
Missouri lawmakers did not need to travel to the bayou for lobbyist giveaways — there were plenty available back home, too.
State Sens. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, and Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis, shared a suite at a Rams preseason game, courtesy of Laclede Gas. Democratic state Reps. Tishaura Jones and Clem Smith, both of St. Louis, also received tickets, according to the monthly Ethics report.
Republican state Sen. Chuck Purgason, the bolo-tie-wearing tax credit foe from southern Missouri, accepted $352 in baseball tickets from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.
Later in the month, state Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, accepted four Cardinals tickets from a group called Citizens for Policy Reform LLC.
The National Rifle Association treated a number of lawmakers and relatives to a modest meal after the successful push to lower the required age to possess a concealed carry permit from 23 to 21.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received a fitting gift from the University of Missouri: A "One Mizzou" T-shirt, part of the school's tornado relief effort.