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Senate Votes to Remove Campaign Contribution Limits

The Missouri Senate voted Wednesday to repeal limits on campaign contributions for themselves and other politicians running for office. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports from Jefferson City.

To help put the senate's actions in context, a brief history lesson: In 1994, Missouri voters approved limits on campaign contributions to political candidates. Two years ago, state lawmakers repealed those limits but a court last year struck down the repeal, essentially re-instating the limits.

Now, lawmakers are taking another stab at repealing the limits and gave first round approval Wednesday evening to a measure to do just that. But Democratic Senator Wes Shoemyer says the voters ought to have a say since citizens put the issue on the ballot themselves in 1994 by collecting signatures for an initiative petition.

Shoemyer offered an amendment that would have put the issue before voters again. But the senate rejected it on a party line vote.

Advocates of repealing contribution limits say the current system is NOT transparent.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Charlie Shields is sponsoring the bill that would repeal the limits. He says the current system with the campaign limits encourages contributors to funnel money through committees, making it difficult to track who is giving how much to which candidates.

As for letting voters decide the issue, Shields says the measure voters approved in 1994 did not create an open and transparent system...instead, he says, it created a system that allows campaign contributors to play shell games with their money.

The stack Shields referenced is a pile of papers about 2 feet high outlining which committees donated to the campaigns of state senators. It's difficult to know what individual donors gave money to those committees.

Still, opponents of unlimited campaign contributions say there needs to be some caps in place. Democratic Senator Wes Shoemyer says the senate shouldn't give up trying to bring transparency to the current system of limited campaign contributions.

The senate could give final approval to the bill repealing campaign contribution limits as early as today.