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Gov. Parson tightens lobbying rules

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed an executive order Tuesday to strengthen a previous order issued by former Governor Eric Greitens that covers lobbying by former staff.

The changes apply to an executive order which adopted a code of conduct for employees within the office of the governor and the executive branch.  The new document builds on an existing lobbyist gift ban for employees of the executive branch to include language in state law that stipulates what qualifies as a gift and who qualifies as a lobbyist.

The new order also modifies a rule that bans employees who leave the governor’s office from acting as lobbyists to the executive branch.  The previous order prohibited the lobbying practice during the Greitens administration while the new order bans the practice during any administration.  Parson’s directive further references language in state law that defines an executive lobbyist.

The governor’s staff says the rest of former Governor Greitens’ code of conduct order was largely left in place.

The new order could be partially aimed at addressing a lawsuit filed by a Virginia based libertarian law firm that alleges the gift ban illegally prevents it from distributing educational materials to members of the governor’s office.

The suit from the Institute for Justice claims the gift ban violates the organization’s First Amendment rights to free speech.  Staff members in Governor Parson’s office declined to comment on whether the state would seek to have the Institute for Justice drop its case in response to the new executive order.

The action by Governor Parson comes after he kept Greitens executive order in place after taking office when Greitens resigned in June amid a flurry of scandals.  Parson, as Lieutenant Governor, had previously been the only statewide office holder to report gifts.

Lawmakers for several years have attempted to restrict lobbyist gifts for themselves but have failed to push bills aimed at doing so across the finish line.