From Missouri: Good Ethics Theory, Dumb Bill

Rep. Bart Korman, deep thinker...

Rep. Bart Korman, deep thinker...

A proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Bart Korman, a Montgomery County Republican in the Missouri legislature, would require lobbyists who have sex with a Missouri lawmaker or a member of a lawmaker’s staff  to disclose it to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The bill defines sex between lobbyists and legislators as a gift, so  sexual relations would have to be included on monthly lobbyist gift disclosure forms.

In theory, the bill is ethically admirable. Lobbyists having sex with legislators is unethical, and vice-versa. It creates a conflict of interest for the legislator, creates an appearance of impropriety, suggests a quid pro quo arrangement, and either is or looks like the equivalent of a bribe. It is grossly unprofessional for both sex partners. It is unethical in every way.

The proposed law, however, is stupid and incompetent beyond belief or justification. It doesn’t even send an important message: everyone already knows that for lobbyists and elected officials to have sex is unethical. Lobbyists and legislators are already professionally obligated to report professional misconduct, by themselves and others. This is the ethical duty of disclosure and transparency. Why would any lobbyist so unethical as to have sex with a legislator he or she was supposed to lobby suddenly decide to abide by a law and disclose it, thus embarrassing his or her paramour? It makes as much sense to pass a law requiring burglars to report their break-ins and thefts, or to require tax cheats to list the money they hid on their last tax returns as income on the next one.

It’s  sillier the more you think about it. How would authorities value this “gift”? The going rate for prostitution? Would the value be based on how hot the lobbyist is, how repulsive the legislator—or some equation based on both? What would be considered “sexual relations” (Bill Clinton asks..)? Should the value of the gift  depend on the sex act—its nature, complexity, duration, risk factor?  Surely a lap dance is worth a pittance compared to, say, the Tibetan Basket Merger.

I’m sure I could find even more wrong with the bill if it was worth my time to devote any more thought to it, but the following are plenty:

It is unethical to pass stupid laws. We have too many laws as it is. This is incompetent.

It is unethical to propose a bill that pretends to solve a problem it will have no effect on whatsoever. This is dishonest.

It is unethical to insult the intelligence of the public. This is disrespectful and unfair.

It is unethical to further degrade public trust in democracy by proposing worthless laws that won’t have any effect simply to appear to be “doing something.” This is irresponsible.

Let’s see how smart—and ethically astute— the Missouri Legislature is.

18 thoughts on “From Missouri: Good Ethics Theory, Dumb Bill

  1. It makes a certain amount of sense. They never got Al Capone on the big stuff, they got him on tax evasion. Basically because he did not report his illegally gotten money to the IRS. So you set a trap,and if it is proven that the lobbyist was having sex with the lawmaker, and didn’t report it (invariably), then you can punish them by bringing them up on perjury charges. Perhaps the thought of that might cool the ardor of some of the people involved?

    But at any rate, the bill does address one of your concerns. It specifically states that monetary valuation is supposed to be put on the sex they are supposed to be reporting. So at least there’s that.

    • It still doesn’t explain how that valuation will be determined, and since the gift rules are all based on monetery limits, there would be a circus defense, with “experts” in the sex trade testifying on “value.” What fun.

      Al was convicted of tax evasion because they couldn’t prove murder. If you can prove the sex to the extent necessary to prove the reporting sex breach, the reporting breach doesn’t matter. Your analogy is wrong: the correct analogy would be convicting Al of not reporting his murders, but if they could prove THAT, they wouldn’t need to bother with the reporting breach.

      It really doesn’t make sense.

  2. Maybe Bart Korman has a sense of humor. He’s a dead ringer for John “I am not a” Kruk. And Krukie has a pretty good sense of humor. Who knows, there many have been some pervasive shenanigans going on in the Missouri house or senate that he was trying to draw attention to. Maybe even his leadership?

  3. Missouri has the loosest ethics laws in the country. It’s the only state in the union that does not cap campaign contributions. There is no cap on gifts from lobbyists to the lawmakers in Jefferson City. Last summer two state senators (one Republican, one Democrat) were involved in sexual harassment scandals involving interns. The Republican dominated legislature’s solution? A more strict dress code for interns. There is no ethics in Jefferson City, as demonstrated by this proposed legislation.

  4. Reading your post regarding the North Carolina State Ethics committee ruling, wouldn’t giving sex to a legislator as a gift be illegal to start with?

  5. There is a reasonable rationale for a law like this:

    By forcing you to report it, failure to report becomes a crime, which means you can be put in jail for it.

    Having sex with a legislator is not presently illegal if you are a lobbyist. But having sex with one and failing to report it would be.

    This isn’t actually unreasonable; after all, by definition, all laws are being passed with the idea that some folks are going to break them and go to jail as a consequence. No law is going to prevent all illegal activity, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective in its own way.

    Note that you ARE actually legally required to claim illegal income on your taxes, and if you fail to do so and properly pay taxes on them, you can be (and should be!) charged with tax evasion. After all, you’re legally obligated to report all income. Why should criminals be any different?

    FYI, Turbotax even has instructions on their website as to how to properly report illegal income to the IRS.

    Some criminals actually do declare their income.

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