JEFFERSON CITY – Democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives are proposing ethics reform bills that appear to be in response to actions by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, including banning the use of software that quickly deletes text messages and requiring more transparency from donors to candidates and inaugural events.
While unveiling their ethics reform agenda this week, Democratic leaders said Greitens has not followed through on promises he made during his 2016 campaign to improve ethics in state government, The Columbia Missourian reported.
One bill, proposed by Rep. Gina Mitten of St. Louis, would ban the use of apps such as Confide, which automatically delete text messages after they've been read. Greitens and some members of his staff reportedly use the app, which critics contend destroys communications that should be retained as government documents. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley plans to investigate whether the use of the app violates the state's Sunshine Laws.
House Minority Whip Kip Kendrick of Columbia said a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Sunshine Project, which asks a judge to bar Greitens and his staff from using the Confide app, could help determine whether the open records laws apply to personal phones.
"Technology continues to advance much faster than statutes," Kendrick said. "We need to close some of these loopholes and have a broader conversation about how we protect the people's right to know what's happening."
Another bill, filed by Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr. of St. Louis, would require committees that plan inauguration events to disclose who donated money – something Greitens has refused to do since his inauguration.
A bill filed by Kendrick would require "dark money" groups that do not legally have to disclose their donors to report the money they spend to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure. He cited the group A New Missouri, which supported Greitens' campaign for governor and continues to support his efforts in office.
Rep. Joe Adams of St. Louis County filed a bill that would extend the waiting period before an elected official could become a lobbyist from six months to two years after leaving office.
"I'm not really sure that if one day you're a legislator and the next day you're a lobbyist, are you really protecting the people's interests?" Adams said.