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Business group challenging Missouri campaign finance rules

Business group challenging Missouri campaign finance rules

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Missouri Capitol

The Missouri Capitol stands at dusk on the final day of the 97th Legislature at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Friday, May 16, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri’s new campaign finance rules are again being challenged, this time by the state’s largest business organization.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is seeking to overturn a ruling by state campaign finance regulators that bars companies from contributing cash to their own political action committees.

The chamber argues a recent advisory opinion issued by the Missouri Ethics Commission allows businesses to donate money to other PACs, but not their own.

“This new direction taken by the Missouri Ethics Commission creates a confusing, contradictory situation for businesses. It makes no sense for the State of Missouri to allow businesses to establish political action committees and then turn around and forbid them from placing funds in those committees,” said Daniel Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.

The lawsuit is the latest legal action since voters reinstated limits on campaign contributions when they went to the polls in November 2016. The referendum, known as Amendment 2, won with 70 percent of the vote.

In addition to imposing capping contributions at $2,600 per election, the new law put limits on what kinds of companies can donate money in Missouri.

In May, a state appeals court judge struck down a provision in the law banning certain kinds of transfers. Attorney General Josh Hawley is appealing the decision.

The chamber’s lawsuit was filed less than a week after the organization created its own PAC called “We Mean Business PAC.” The group said it wants to contribute to its own committee, but cannot because of the MEC ruling.

“Amendment 2 imposes major new restrictions on campaign contributions, which severely burden political speech and association in Missouri and directly impact the First Amendment rights of the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit notes.

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